Reading Street residents celebrate appeal dismissal of Club Union development for second time

Reading Street residents celebrate the news

The Planning Inspectorate has rejected an appeal to build houses at the former Club Union site in St Peter’s for a second time.

Initially plans from the developer were for 30 properties at the Reading Street site, next to a conservation area, but these were rejected by Thanet council in March 2017.

Thanet District Council planning officers had advised councillors to accept the developer’s plan but residents mounted a campaign to protest. They said they were concerned about the impact of modern houses close to the many listed buildings in Reading Street and persuaded the council’s planning committee to back them and reject the plan.

An appeal against the decision was dismissed in August of that year with the Inspector saying that in the western area, by Convent Road, the density of the development would be more than twice that of the remainder of the site.  Most of the parking would be communal and this part of the site would be dominated by road and parking space.

The Inspector branded the plans cramped and contrived in layout, dominated by parked vehicles and with very limited space available for landscaping. The Inspector concluded it would be a poor design that would fail to respect or enhance the character of the area.

The latest proposal for the site reduced housing to 25, made lay out and building height changes and added a pedestrian and cycle path.

But this was again refused by Thanet council planning committee members in September 2018, who said: “The proposed development, by virtue of the location, design and scale of the development, would result in a poor quality development unrelated to and out of keeping with the local distinctiveness of surrounding development.”

An appeal was launched but has been dismissed. A decision report from the Inspector was published this month.

In it he says the impact on the Grade II listed Convent Cottages would still be unacceptable. He adds: “Despite the reduction in height of units 9 and 10, the position of the new dwellings on plots 9, 10, 11 and 14 would stand very prominently within the otherwise open setting of Convent Cottages. I consider that the bulk and height of these dwellings, would be over scaled in comparison to the smaller Convent Cottages, which are set on lower ground, making them more sensitive to change.

“Therefore, whilst the distance from the listed buildings would be greater under the current scheme, the new development would still dominate and overcrowd these adjoining listed cottages. In this respect, it would not be sympathetic to local character and history, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting.”

The Inspector concluded: “The proposed development would harm the character and appearance of the area and would therefore be an inappropriate development.”

Community effort

Reading Street residents who have campaigned against the development since it was first proposed have celebrated the appeal dismissal.

Brenda Boniface, the treasurer of the Club Union Action Group set up to co-ordinate the villagers’ campaign, said: “We are delighted with the outcome, the result of a combined community effort. The campaign has lasted almost three years and has led to two planning application refusals at Thanet District Council and two planning inspectors’ appeals being dismissed.

“As a group we would like to thank Cllrs Ros Binks and Jenny Matterface for their support, dedication and diligence shown to this cause.”

‘Delighted’

The Thanet branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) also expressed delight.

Spokesman Craig Solly said: “We are delighted the Planning Inspectorate has taken on the comments from the long list of objectors on this case. CPRE Thanet objected to this proposal understanding that the site is by the conservation area and provides a heritage setting which is unique and should be preserved.

“Unfortunately, the planning system does not support communities and generally developers have the resources to overcome valid objections from communities.

“This, however, does show that good design and protection of assets are not to be undermined. May I congratulate Councillor Jenny Matterface on the hard work, herself and community in St Peters have achieved on this.”

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