Housing go-ahead for former Wellbrae school?

PLANS for the redevelopment of the former Wellbrae Primary School were due to go before Angus Council’s development standards committee on Tuesday (yesterday) as the Forfar Dispatch went to press.

And whilst the director of infrastructure services has recommended conditional approval which could see the school turned into ten houses, he has recommended plans for the erection of eight flats and garages and the erection of four houses be refused.

Councillors will be asked to consider two applications from Taylor Shepherd Homes for the conversion of the former school to ten dwellings, erection of eight flats and garages and erection of four houses - this is recommended for refusal.

The second is a listed building consent application for the alteration of the building to allow the conversion of the school to 10 dwellings, and in this instance the director Eric Lowson recommends conditional approval.

The applicant had previously applied for listed building consent to demolish the school, which is a Category C (S) listed building, but this application was refused at the Development Standards Committee in July 2010.

An application to change the use of the former primary school to a church complex with ancillary community rooms was received. However, it was established such a change of use did not require planning permission given that both the existing and proposed uses were in the same use class. The application was returned.

At its meeting on January 28, 2010. the Corporate Services Committee agreed to sell the site to the applicant. The missives for the sale are conditional on the developer securing planning permission/listed building consent for redevelopment.

In their application Taylor Shepherd Homes propose to remove the access from Victoria Street and remove the access paths/steps that lead into either side of the site.

They also propose to remove the brick wall and gate on the south boundary but, whilst listed building consent would be required to these works, they are not included within the application for Listed Building Consent that has been submitted.

As part of the alterations to the listed building the applicant proposes to remove the roof of the central atrium in order to form an internal courtyard to provide light into the proposed dwellings. They also propose to split the building horizontally in order to provide first floor level accommodation, as well as 59 new velux windows in the existing roof.

The applications require to be determined by the committee because the council is the owner of the land, and because of the number of representations received.

The head of roads has no objection to the planning application, subject to conditions requiring details and drawings of the new access roads and the widening of the public footway,

Whilst Scottish Water has no objection to the planning application they cannot guarantee connections to their infrastructure. They state that, due to the scale of the development proposed, the developer will require to provide a Development Impact Assessment to assess the impact on the water and wastewater systems.

Forfar Community Council has objected to both applications, raising concerns about the quality of the plans, the design, the loss of the lantern style roof, access/traffic/parking, refuse collection, over development, noise/impact on privacy and amenity, health and safety and disruption.

They also state that the building would be better utilised for a much needed community centre and that some public consultation would have been beneficial.

Six letters of representation were also received raising a number of concerns including noise, nuisance and smell, road safety, traffic access and parking, the opinion that the school should be utilised for community use, damage and inconvenience due to construction, lack of details, impact on privacy and amenity.

In his report Mr Lowson points out the proposed development would bring a vacant listed building back into use.

He said: “The site is surrounded by residential uses on all sides and I therefore consider the proposed use to be compatible with those in the surrounding area.”

He states a contribution of at least 15% would be required for affordable housing and this could be secured by a legal agreement if the planning application was to be approved.

However, with regard to the proposal to erect three and four storey flats and two to three storey houses to the north of the listed building, he states that whilst these buildings may have some similarity with housing development to the east and west of the site, they bear no affinity to the listed building in terms of scale, massing, height, proportions or design.

Overall he considered the proposed development would be “inappropriate” given its design and impact on the setting of the listed building.

“I also do not consider that the development would be consistent with the statutory requirement to preserve the setting of the listed building.”

In conclusion Mr Lowson found the application was contrary to development plan policy as it provides an “unacceptable design solution” within the curtilage of a listed building.

“The scale and height of the proposed buildings would dominate the listed building and would largely obscure views of the north elevation of the listed building from Victoria Street.”

He also found the proposal to remove listed features including the steps leading from the site to Victoria Street unacceptable.

He recommended the first planning application be refused as, by virtue of the mass, scale, height, proportions and the design of the proposed building and the resultant adverse impact on the setting; the failure to provide adequate private amenity space; and the adverse impact the over-development of the site would have on a listed building, were contrary to the Angus Local Plan Review.

Another reason was the removal of listed structures, in particular the steps to Victoria Street.

He recommended the listed building consent be approved subject to a number of conditions.