Four-hour open planning meeting called a shambles
FURIOUS residents who live near a former vinery in St Sampson's slammed an open planning meeting as a shambles today [Wednesday], when the political panel deferred a decision after four hours of representations and discussion.
The meeting was called by the Development & Planning Authority to discuss an application by Mr and Mrs B Slattery to create 15 storage units and two open yards at Domarie and Avondale Vineries in Oatlands Lane, St Sampson's.
This was the fourth revision of an application, which was first placed two-and-a-half years ago.
But despite hearing from 12 representors and questioning planning and traffic officers, the three DPA representatives – president Dawn Tindall and members Lester Queripel and Alex Snowdon – ended up voting two to one to defer making a decision.
The two members who originally voted against the application – Alderney Representative Snowdon and Deputy Queripel – had concerns that may now be addressed by the applicants ahead of the DPA making a final decision.
There was a total of 12 representations on behalf of 13 individuals or groups, and the major concerns were the amount of dust the site would generate, the noise and the impact of the anticipated amount of traffic on the area, particularly with the likelihood of St Sampson's High School being expanded and the continued popularity of Oatlands.
Several representors referred to the fact that the site was already being used by a number of users without planning permission. In the meeting's paperwork there was reference to this, saying that an enforcement case was active but would not be progressed until after the application was dealt with.
Planners had set a total of 20 conditions on the developers, which included restricting the maximum wheel base of vehicles using the site and its opening hours – from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am to 1.30pm on Saturdays – as well as conditions involving landscaping and the installation of fencing to mitigate noise.
Deputy Queripel won the backing of his colleagues for amending two of the conditions as well as adding two more – for the applicant to consult Guernsey Water about possibly in-filling a stream that ran through the site and also make it necessary for landscaping to include a request that the landowner consider the biodiversity of the area.
Under the plans, two-thirds of the area would be left as an open space, with the proposed storage site occupying only the north-eastern section, and Deputy Queripel said this was an ideal opportunity to increase biodiversity.
Deputy Queripel also wanted the applicant to talk to the owners of Guernsey Clematis, who own adjoining land, about perhaps sharing their entrance in Military Road, thus doing away with the need for there to be vehicular access from Oatlands Lane.
It was the Oatlands Lane access that gave Mr Snowdon major concerns, specifically relating to the fact that a skip lorry would be allowed to use the site once a week, despite there being a restriction on the maximum wheel base of all other vehicles.
He made it clear he would have preferred the skip lorry to be denied all access, particularly when he learned of the problems that Highway and Traffic Services had experienced in trying to get access to the site modified. Without a change to the access, the lorry would cross over the cycle contraflow section of Oatlands Lane as it emerged from the site and this was too much for Mr Snowdon.
Only Deputy Tindall voted to approve the development.
The voting procedure came in for criticism from some of those who had made representations.
Initially, Deputy Queripel voted against the application, but, after casting his vote, he asked a further question and, based on the response from senior planning officer Jim Rowles, asked if he could change his mind.
That led to loud murmurs of consternation from some members of the audience which brought Deputy Tindall to her feet, warning that if this happened again she would tell the public to leave.
After the decision was made, a lot of people were angry at the lack of finality. 'That was supposed to be a vote at the end but they went on to further discussion and they changed one person's mind,' said Mark Neville, who lives near the vinery and had been the first person to make a representation to the panel. 'That was a joke. A total fiasco.'
'I can't believe it – I'm absolutely speechless,' added fellow representor Ginny Heaume.
'I think there was a bias [in the panel] and I think that's wrong,' said douzenier and nearby resident Leonie Le Tissier.
'I think our government is a shambles,' said St Sampson's Douzenier Rob Gill, who had made a representation on behalf of the constables and the douzaine.
'If this is how government runs its meetings then there's no future. It's as if none of us got up and said anything.'
He criticised figures used by Traffic and Highway Services in considering the likely impact of the site on Oatlands Lane. It had used information provided by Guernsey Clematis, which used to operate from the site: 'But they've not been there for years,' said Mr Gill.
He said that the multitude of conditions set to be imposed on the applicant could not have been policed, despite assurances given by planning officers when quizzed by Deputy Tindall.