70-flats plan approved for Telford site after last minute vote switch

Plans for an apartment complex in Telford have been approved just minutes after initially being refused - after a committee member said he had changed his mind and asked to vote again.

The site off Canongate, Oakengates. Photo: Google StreetView.
The site off Canongate, Oakengates. Photo: Google StreetView.

Telford Developments Ltd applied to knock down the former Eden Complex, on Canongate, Oakengates, and build the 70-home block.

A report by council officers recommended that the Telford & Wrekin Planning Committee approved the bid, but councillors voted 4-3 against it, with concerns including a “lack of provision of parking”.

But, as councillors and officers were discussing the implication of the first decision, committee member Raj Mehta told chairman Charles Smith he had read over the report and wanted to switch. The committee agreed to re-run the vote.

The officers’ report said the existing two-storey building, between the Royal Mail sorting office and the A442 Queensway, was last used as a nightclub, sports bar and snooker centre, but was making “significant annual losses” leaving the site “in need of redevelopment”.

Blueprints submitted to the council on behalf of Telford Developments director Rajinder Pandher show a parking garage and cycle storage room on the ground floor with 53 one-bedroom and 17 two-bedroom apartments and a gymnasium on the floors above.

Oakengates mayor Stephen Reynolds spoke against the application on behalf of the town council.

He said: “This six-storey structure will completely overwhelm the area and is certainly not in keeping with the current street scene.”

He pointed out that Telford & Wrekin Council’s highways department objected to the plans because Local Plan parking standards recommend 95 parking spaces for a building that size. Telford Development’s application was 28 short of this.

“Visitors to this development will undoubtedly park on Canongate, where there are already safety issues,” Councillor Reynolds said.

'Overdevelopment'

The officers’ report said the applicant had agreed to “contribute £25,000 towards a bicycle voucher scheme for future residents”, and Area Team Planning Manager Mark Turner said this would encourage people to use cars less and mitigate the 40 per cent parking underprovision.

Councillor Janice Jones said she had family in an area where a similar scheme operated.

“It eliminates a lot of people; people with children, older people, people with low mobility,” she said.

She added that she was “totally against” the plan, as it would be “total overdevelopment”.

But Councillor Chris Turley said: “It’s the sort of building that we need and that would assist first-time buyers. It’s a place some people would like to live in rather than an HMO [house in multiple occupation].

“I think, once it’s built all the concern will disappear.”

One the first vote, the seven eligible members voted 4-3 to refuse permission.

In cases where members vote against officers’ recommendation, official written reasons need to be given. Councillor Dugmore suggested these should include overdevelopment, the design standards and the impact on the area.

During this discussion, Councillor Mehta, who previously voted to refuse, said: “I’ve just been reading all through this. Can I change my stance on this, please?”

Councillors voted 4-3 to allow a fresh vote, then the application was approved 4-3, with Councillor Mehta the only one to change.

Councillor Dugmore criticised the process that led to the final decision, saying: “It’s like a South American country, this. ‘Keep asking the question until you get the right answer’.”

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