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PARISH COUNCIL ARRANGES SPECIAL MEETING
OFFICIALS EXPLAIN PLANNING POLICY TO RESIDENTS



The St Osyth Priory Development Plans

The Parish Council held an extraordinary meeting on Monday 8th March to hear reports from their invited guests, who were professionals in the fields of Town Planning, Historic Building Restoration and Historic Buildings in Tendring. The meeting, which was attended by 180 people, was a chance for residents to understand those rules and procedures that would govern the consideration of a formal application from the Sargeants’ to develop land to the rear of Mill Street, with another 190 properties, plus isolated properties within the listed parts of the Priory grounds, where Mr Sargeant claims buildings had once existed.

Sonia Grantham had called this as a meeting of the Parish Council, rather than just an ordinary public meeting, because once minutes of a Parish Council meeting have been endorsed by the Chairman, they automatically become legal documents and not just a note of some comments exchanged between the parties concerned.

A list of 22 questions had been prepared, originating from the Council itself and others, which was sent in advance to the speakers, so that they could be fully briefed of the evening’s business. The first speaker was Mr Phil Hornby, the Heritage Manager for TDC who spoke on the planning procedure known as an ‘Enabling Development’ that allows for development to take place, that would normally be refused, if the profit from the work was to raise funds to repair an Historic Building.

Mr Garry Pullan, TDC development control team leader spoke next, it is Mr Pullen who would ultimately be responsible for any recommendation made to the Development Control committee of the District Council when an application was submitted for the Priory development. He will undertake consultations with the Statutory Consultees whose responses will be recorded for the Committee.

Our last formal speaker was Mr John Neale, English Heritage Team Manager and Inspector of Historic Buildings in Essex and Hertfordshire. He spoke about the role of English Heritage in assuring itself firstly of the size of the Conservation Deficit, (the name given to the sum of money required to complete restoration works, after grants etc. have been taken into account), he will have to satisfy himself that the impact such enabling development work would not be unacceptably damaging to the village and the resident population, and to oversee the quality of the restoration work undertaken.



Mr John Neale, English Heritage Team Manager and Inspector of Historic Buildings in Essex and Hertfordshire.

Mr Garry Pullan, TDC development control team leader





A view from the back showing residents attentively listening to the expert from English Heritage



From the left - Phil Hornby, John Neale, Sonia Grantham, John White and Garry Pullan

Following the detailed explanations given to the meeting above by the experts, Sonia invited questions firstly from members of the Parish Council then questions from members of the public after which the meeting proceeded to an orderly close.
Our Chairman gave thanks to the experts attending and thanked them for giving up their evenings and special thanks to Tim Palmer school head teacher, for allowing this meeting in our school hall. These comments were greeted with a round of applause.

MJT.
20/3/10.



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EXTRACTS FROM THE NOTES OF THE ABOVE MEETING.(E&OE)
WITH THANKS TO MONICA HARVEY.

Council members present were: Chairman Sonia Grantham, Vice Chairman John White and Councillors Lesley Fuller, Jean Smith, Allan Rolfe, Michael Talbot, Simon Talbot, Graham Underwood, Julie Ward, and John Kemp, with apologies received from Cllrs George Gibbs, Colleen Peverell and Robert Clarke.

An update was then given by the Chairman on action taken by the Parish Council to date.

Following the recent Consultation Process conducted by the Sargeant family on the future of St. Osyth Priory and adjacent land, it was felt important that the Parish Council and residents should hear the views of the English Heritage and the Tendring District Council. During the past year the Parish Council had adopted a pro-active approach to proposed developments on Priory Land.

In March 2009 Parish Council replied to the Core Strategy document concerning development in the Tendring District. In answer to their question 'What is the Parish Council's attitude towards new development - our answer was that development needs to be small, discreet and sustainable and should not impinge on existing services. We also wrote a strong paragraph about the road capacity being poor particularly the village crossroads.

After our visit to the Priory Park in June at the invitation of the Sargeant family we wrote to Phil Hornby - Heritage Manager at Tendring District Council and we copied in John Neale of English Heritage and the Sargeant family.

The Parish Council requested that any restoration work was kept to the absolute minimum and that we would strongly oppose any Enabling Development on land behind Mill Street.

In September the Parish Council arranged a visit to Tendring District Council and Phil Hornby explained fully what an Enabling Development was, so Council had a very clear idea and understanding of what would be involved before any planning application.

In October the Parish Council decided that an appraisal should be carried out by Essex County Council requesting them to look at Conservation Areas in the village and whether it was felt at the time that there should be an extension of the Conservation Area. At the moment it would appear that Essex County Council are recommending that the land behind Mill Street should be included in the Conservation Area, if it is, that would be an added constraint on any development.

The Council visited the Priory on February 5th at the invitation of the Sargeant family. Subsequent to that visit and a feeling of concern about the lack of information from English Heritage and Tendring District Council, we enquired about their view of what the Conservation Deficit was. Resulting from this Phil Hornby and John Neale said they would be happy to meet the Parish Council. The Chairman asked that Gary Pullan the development control officer for this area should join us.

Mr Phil Hornby, Heritage Manager TDC

Mr Hornby gave a summary of the composition of an Enabling Development. He referred to ‘English Heritage’ publication 2008 (which replaced an earlier 2001 guidance document which was used as basis for TDC Local Plan policies) He also referred to the TDC Adopted Local Plan which contains an explanation of Enabling Development and specifically includes planning policies on Enabling Development and St. Osyth’s Priory.
“Enabling Development is development that would be unacceptable in planning terms but for the fact that it would bring public benefits sufficient to justify it being carried out, and which could not otherwise be achieved. While normally a last resort, it is an established and useful planning tool by which a community may be able to secure the long-term future of a place of heritage significance, and sometimes other public benefits, provided it is satisfied that the balance of public advantage lies in doing so. The public benefits are paid for by the value added to land as a result of the granting of planning permission for its development.”
• The Enabling Development policy is set out in the English Heritage guidance – it is quite onerous and contains various tests that are to be applied when considering such developments including;
• It will not materially harm the heritage values of the place or setting
• It avoids detrimental fragmentation of management of the place
• It will secure the long term future of the place
• It is necessary to resolve problems arising from the inherent needs of the place, rather than the circumstances of the present owner, or purchase price paid
• Sufficient subsidy is not available from any other source
• It is demonstrated that the amount of enabling development is the minimum necessary to secure the future of the place, and its form minimises harm to other public interests
• The public benefit of securing the future of the significant place through enabling development decisively outweighs the benefits of breaching other public policies.
• If it meets all these criteria planning permission should only be granted if;
• Impact of the development is precisely defined at the outset, by granting full, not outline permission
• It is securely and enforceably linked by a Planning Obligation (Section 106)
• The place is repaired to an agreed standard and funds to do so are made available as early as possible.
• The Planning Authority closely monitors implementation and if necessary acts promptly to ensure the obligations are fulfilled.
• Local Plan policies EN27 and EN 27A will also apply as will all other relevant policies
• Other material considerations include PPG 15 or PPS 15 when issued
• English Heritage “Conservation Principles: Policies & Guidance” 2008

The St.Osyth Conservation Area Character Appraisal 2005 and the emerging new Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan, will be available at an exhibition in the Parish Church during April, for consultation with the public .

Mr Hornby said a Conservation deficit is when ‘the existing value of a significant place [often taken as zero] plus the development cost exceeds the value of the place after development, i.e. on completion of repair and conversion.

He then spoke of the Conservation Area Appraisal/Management Plan. This up to date appraisal of the Conservation Area and Management Proposals has been jointly commissioned by TDC and Parish Council.

Mr Hornby answered questions by Council members – summarised below.
• An Enabling Development is a complex process and requires public consultation. No application had yet been received and therefore no notice had been given of any consultation period.
• A Conservation Deficit occurs when the cost of repairs exceeds the market value of the property.
• It was not possible to quantify any Conservation Deficit without detailed information and any proposals to build houses to offset this could not be commented on at the present time.
• Mr Hornby confirmed that the Priory buildings were on the ‘at risk’ register of Tendring District and Essex County Council. Statutory powers were available to limit their deterioration
• A planning agreement would be drawn up to ensure the outcome of any Enabling Development. It would contain detailed phasing with the possibility of a Financial Bond being required. Any agreements would transfer from one owner to any succeeding owners.

Mr Gary Pullan, Development Control Officer for this area.

Mr Gary Pullan then addressed the meeting and answer pre-submitted questions from Councillors.
• He stated that the issue of an Enabling Development arises when essential repairs are needed to listed buildings that cannot be funded by the property owner. He was unable to comment on the ability or otherwise of the Sargeant family to fund these repairs. It might be possible for the applicant to build houses on a ‘brown field’ site owned by them for the benefit of restoring the Priory.
• An Enabling Development did not have to be a full planning application and could be submitted as an ‘outline’ application. The Parish Council and Tendring District Council could approve or reject any part of the proposals.
• According to an e-mail, Mr Pullan ‘had repeatedly sought details of repairs that were needed and the cost of such repairs’.
• The Conservation Deficit would need to be agreed between the three parties. Mr Pullan stated he had advised that details were in the post and should be received by Tendring District Council the following day.
• It would be necessary for TDC to commission an external specialist to assist them.
• An Enabling Development did not have a limited life span and was ‘alive for ever’. It would be necessary to commence works within three years of granting of planning permission, although there might be the possibility of a legal agreement to agree a time scale.
• Many of the additional infrastructure costs would be borne by the developer, although the provision of additional school places and policing would be the responsibilities of Essex County Council. The provision of medical facilities would most probably be the responsibility of the Primary Care Trust or Essex Council.

Mr John Neale, Team Manager for English Heritage

Mr John Neale then addressed the meeting, firstly answering pre-submitted questions from Councillors.
• He told the meeting that English Heritage had been set up by Parliament to advise ministers and to give advice locally.
• Parts of the Priory were of significant importance, but sadly, there had been a complex history of bad maintenance and very major repairs were now necessary.
• Up to 20 years ago, historic buildings had been allowed to fall into disrepair and be demolished. The policy now existing was to preserve historic buildings as far as possible. The future of many historic buildings was now in private ownership. Mr Neale said that English Heritage had provided the funding for the repairs to the Wall in Colchester Road and had provided £400,000 to repair the Abbots Tower.
• An Enabling Development was a recognised means of securing the future of a historic building and could be used towards a Conservation Deficit. It would be necessary to undertake a detailed financial evaluation using consultants with expertise in the property market.
• Mr Neale stated that English Heritage existed to secure the preservation of Historic Places and was a possible source of Grant Aid and St. Osyth Priory was one of the ‘most at risk’ sites in the East of England and the Priory Gatehouse and that of St. John’s Abbey in Colchester were two of the finest examples in the East of England. There was however a need for cyclical repairs to be carried out.
• The Abbots Tower at the Priory had received Grant Aid for restoration, but public access of 28 days per annum could not be allowed because of Health and Safety issues.
• English Heritage had had discussions with the Sargeant family over the last ten years and was working on agreements to bring the buildings back into use.
• The commitments to open the Priory to the public had to agree a balance between public access and private ownership and would be the subject of an agreement between the parties concerned.
• English Heritage would take full responsibility for the standard of workmanship, whilst TDC would undertake local responsibility for the quality of workmanship.
• The primary purpose of an Enabling Development would be to find capital repairs to restore the property to a usable state. Any agreement on part of the Enabling Development being used on the refurbishment of the interior of the Priory would depend on costs.
• English Heritage might support a proposal to allow an Enabling Development to be used to allow houses being built on the actual grounds of the Priory as long as there was no excessive detriment to the Priory.
• Mr Neale agreed that some compromises might be necessary by all parties concerned to minimise the impact on the village.
• Alternative sources of grant subsidy should be sought before an application for an Enabling Development was made.

Questions from the Floor
Relevant answers are summarised as follows;
• The houses in the grounds of the Priory Park could form part of the application for the Enabling Development.
• The fact that the property was bought as a family residence would not affect an Enabling Development. The criteria was satisfied when building repairs would cost more than the value of the property and this was evidenced in the policy document.
• Gary Pullan said the TDC were aware that the area from Mill Street to Howland’s Marsh was a flood area.
• Gary Pullan said that the volume of public opinion does not count. The important point is the validity of the argument by getting the planning issues correct.
• English Heritage might have different views to the Parish Council. English Heritage would oppose development on Colchester Road or the historic parkland. The Chairman asked Mr Neale to consider a compromise.
• An Environmental Impact Assessment would be based on Ecological surveys. The Environmental Impact assessment would give weight to Natural England. It was not thought that the surveys would be available in advance. Conservation bodies were taking a very active role in assessing these proposals. TDC had no expertise in judging this.
• The length of time taken to make decisions was difficult to answer. The shortest possible time would be eight weeks after submission, but a guess would probably be in the region of sixteen weeks.
• An explanation of planning procedure was given by Gary Pullan with details of time scales and comments. Notices would be placed in the Press and neighbours would be advised. There would be the usual 21 day time scale and all comments would be taken into account. These would be accepted at any stage of the process, including the committee or report stage.
• There is no legal deadline in which TDC has to make a decision, but if the applicant feels the process is taking too long, they have the option of taking their application to a Planning Inspector.
• The composition and membership of English Heritage was questioned, English Heritage is an Executive Non-departmental Public Body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. There is a board of up to sixteen Commissioners selected by the Government. The public are free to make comments to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
• TDC accepted that the views of the public were relevant to decision making.
• The planning system was a democratic system, and the local policy was democratic. English Heritage adopted the role of specialist advisors.
• On a site visit to the Priory by Council Officers conducting an Information Exercise on 29th January 2010, great care was taken to ensure that the officers were not compromised in any way, and notes exist to this effect. In answer to a question Gary Pullan said the following Senior Councillors were also present:
• Cllr Neil Stock – Leader of the Council;
• Cllr Sarah Candy – Planning Portfolio Holder
• Cllr Rosemary Heaney – Chairman of the Planning Committee
• Cllr Vivien Chapman – Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee.
Phil Hornby stated it was necessary for seven criteria to be met for Enabling Development to take place.
In conclusion it was stated the Priory was an exceptionally important historic site. Securing its’ future was of national importance and for the public benefit.
It was also said that any proposals were at a very preliminary stage and much discussion was needed before the application stage.
Mr Gary Pullan said it was important to maintain an active dialogue with the developer to protect the views of the village.

The Chairman thanked Tim Palmer very much for his hospitality and the guests of the Parish Council for their input and to the residents for attending the meeting.

The Meeting closed at 9.15 pm.

 

 


MJT.
27/3/10.

 



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