Plans for one of the largest housing developments proposed for Stafford in recent years have been passed by just one vote.
That's despite concerns about the impact they will have on nearby roads and health services.
Up to 2,000 new homes are set to be built on land north of Beaconside, alongside a primary school, secondary school and two “local centres” to provide space for shops, restaurants and takeaways. Space is also set to be provided for a health centre.
But the proposals – put forward by Maximus Strategic Stafford LLP as part of a masterplan for north Stafford – have sparked concerns the extra homes will make existing flooding problems in the area worse – and put additional strain on existing services.
Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee was due to make a decision on the outline application in November, but deferred it so that representatives from the county’s highways authority, Environment Agency, lead local flood authority and Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which commissions health services, could attend a meeting to answer members’ concerns.
Highways, CCG and flood authority members attended a special meeting of the planning committee to speak to councillors. But there was no-one from the Environment Agency present.
Resident Ian Roscoe, who lives near the proposed development site, also attended to speak against the application and highlighted the area’s existing flooding issues whenever there is heavy rain.
He said: “We have seen in November and December it has started again – Stafford town floods, Sandon Road floods, misery for residents and roads impassable,
“Sandon Road has flooded ever since I came to Stafford in 1971 – and probably a long time before that.”
But Chris May, who spoke in support of the proposals, said: “All the proposals intend to address the existing problems.
“This proposal is part of a plan for Stafford Borough accepted two and a half years ago. There are 1,200 (new homes) this committee has already granted consent for.
“This application includes very substantial parts of infrastructure to support that wider strategic location, for example the secondary school the county council will require by 2024.”
The application is also going to bring more than £8m towards road improvements off-site, which are set to include a new “four-arm” roundabout on the A513 Beaconside at its junctions with Common Road and Marston Lane. In total seven vehicle access points are proposed for the new development.
But Councillor Bryan Cross, who represents the nearby Holmcroft ward, raised concerns about the affect of extra traffic on roads already facing congestion. He said: “Beaconside doesn’t move already at certain times of the day. With all these extra entrances, traffic lights there and more proposed, it is going to be a nightmare.”
But Simon Hawe from Staffordshire County Council, the area’s highways authority, said there were plans to improve Beaconside, including dual lanes along sections.
“It’s not to say there won’t be congestion, but we feel it will be at levels that are acceptable and manageable,” he said.
Councillor Andrew Harp asked if proposed measures to tackle flooding had taken into account the future affects of climate change.
Flood officer Chris Archer responded: “There is an allowance made for climate change in the future that follows guidelines, for a 30% increase in rainfall intensity.”
Councillor Ann Edgeller asked: “What health facilities will be put on that site? You know as well as I do doctors in Stafford are very few and people are ringing up for appointments who can’t get in.”
Laura Bird from the CCG said: “We would look to see if we can put something on site. There are five GP practices that would potentially cover that location.
“We have a shortage of GPs out there and it’s about educating patients that they do not always need to see a GP – they could see another healthcare professional.”
The application had been recommended for approval by the council’s planning officers – and committee members went on give it the green light, with five members voting in favour. But four voted against the plans and two abstained.
Councillor Marnie Philips said: “We’re still not 100% happy. We have seen Stafford grow and grow and grow and we have seen the effect of housing and how that’s impacting on local roads, without what appears to people to be much forward thinking from Highways.”
Councillor Jill Hood said: “I have grave concerns about flooding. Climate change is definitely impacting on us here in Staffordshire and it really worries me.”
Councillor Jack Kemp, who represents the Coton ward in Stafford, said: “Since Parkside the flooding in my area has got worse. I spoke to a lady in Oxford Gardens and asked when it floods – she said every time it rains because the brooks are not cleared out.”