The Chairman introduced the second application of the meeting, application number 142855, for approval of an Automotive Research and Development Centre at Blyton Park Driving Centre, Kirton Road, Blyton. The Presenting Officer stated that there were no further updates for the Committee’s consideration. The Officer then gave a short presentation on the application, highlighting the proposed site plans, buildings, the height of the wind turbines, and photos looking at the existing site both on site, and from nearby public roads, including the A159 and the access point on Kirton Road.
The Chairman stated there were again two registered speakers for the application and invited the first, Mr Alistair Wood, Agent for the Applicant, to address the Committee. Mr Wood made the following statement:
“Good evening Chairman, Members of the Committee. My name is Alistair Wood and I am the agent for the application, here to speak on behalf of the applicants.
I am accompanied by Mr Alan Mugglestone, Director of Operations at the Blyton Park Driving Centre.
As reported - this application is seeking permission to proceed with the development of an ancillary Research & Development Facility, at the long-established driving centre.
The intention is to provide research and development facilities, principally in relation electric vehicle technology - necessary - in order to diversify the business in synergy with the automotive industry, in general.
At present there are no facilities at Blyton Park for electric vehicles but it is considered necessary to make EV provision, in order to diversify and sustain the business into the future.
The proposed development is being advanced as very much a concept — a concept based on sustainability - from which electric vehicles can be operated and within which they can be wholly charged from on-site renewable sources - the proposed wind turbines and solar panels.
This development will help to diversify the existing Driving Centre business; bolster the local economy by continuing to generate spin-off benefits in respect of other local businesses, and will also generate new employment opportunities within the local area.
I can advise that the existing Driving Centre is currently operating at capacity - within its constraints - with vehicles using the circuit almost every day - and on this basis must be considered a success, as far as the local economy is concerned.
The Driving Centre is also operated in a highly professional and responsible manner. Noise generation is strictly monitored on-site every day - and there are electronic logs that the Council’s Environmental Protection Officers of the Council - inspect periodically.
As a consequence of this open relationship, it is pointed out that there is no long list of formal complaint or actions in respect of the existing use - as the existing activities operate within self-imposed and agreed restrictions.
I have made this statement because a number of representations have been made about potential increased noise generation, as a consequence of the proposed development – This will not be the case.
By making provision for electric vehicle technology at the site, there is only likely to be a net reduction in noise, from a similar number of vehicles using the circuit. For every one electric vehicle using the circuit, there will in effect be one less combustion engine using it, hence the predicted noise reduction.
This has been demonstrated in full Noise Assessment Report, prepared by an independent and very experienced Noise Consultant, that proclaims the development acceptable – from all acoustic perspectives - the vehicle activity and wind turbines.
From a design perspective, ancillary viewing facilities and a singular management/control tower facility are proposed within the built form – these are important in relation to the research and development activities and driver training functions at the centre.
The proposed building is intended to be relatively low profile within the wider landscape - and by its design not to appear out of place in its context. Although of a contemporary appearance, the design has tried to be positive to reflect the former airfield control building.
To sum up, this development will diversify and improve an existing local business and will allow for the research, development of new automotive technologies at the site. It will result in a net reduction in noise generated at the site and will accord with all local planning policies intended to support established local businesses and the local economy.
On this basis, Chairman, Members of the Committee, we believe this proposal to be, on balance, agreeable - and respectfully request your support, to enable this important new development to proceed. Thank you for listening to me.”
The Chairman thanked Mr Wood, and invited the second speaker, Mr Gordon Tully, to address the Committee.
Mr Tully stated that he was the landowner next to the proposed site. He noted that the change of focus to electric cars would not help the issue of traffic and road traffic noise.
The speaker stated that the adjacent funeral operator could only operate between 12:45 pm and 1:15 pm due to the existing noise. At this point, the speaker raised several concerns with the lack of action by the West Lindsey District Council Environmental Health Team, who, in the words of the speaker, has not gotten back to the occupiers of his land, despite multiple attempts of contact.
The speaker also raised that the change of direction for the start of the circuit would increase the impact of the noise of the vehicles across his site, in comparison to the current direction, where the noise was somewhat directed away from his location. The speaker stated that the application would also affect his other tenants, citing noise concerns for the tenants' children’s health. The speaker also mentioned that the wind turbine aspect of the proposed application had followed the previously refused wind turbine proposed in the area. Later, the speaker stated that there was an extensive solar panel farm application that goes right to the edge of the site.
The speaker then spoke about the idea of using an existing building on the site due to its location nearby to the current start of the track, with units available there. The speaker also disagreed with the positive financial aspect of the application, as those visiting the driving centre would often stay in accommodation outside of the district. The speaker stated that previous meetings of the Planning Committee had turned down two and three-storey building applications on the proposed site.
The Chairman thanked Mr Tully for his comments and invited the Planning Officer to respond.
The Planning Officer responded to the concern about the current noise issue by stating that Environmental Health was aware of the situation but that any comment about the issue of noise was referred to the potential application. The Chairman then invited comments and questions from the Committee. During this section, the following statements and information were provided.
Members commented that noise pollution and general noises from the vehicles would be limited due to the electric nature of the vehicles, with one stating that the new venture would not cause any noise through the change of focus.
Another area of focus for Members was on the site plan and the proposed buildings. One Member specifically asked whether the proposed buildings would be on the already existing site of the old tower. The Officer stated that Lincolnshire County Council Archaeology had analysed the proposed application. The original control tower was on the eastern side of the runway, with the proposed buildings on a similar location, slightly further south of the footprint. Another Member commented that the proposed northern elevation site, with the facility not being just for the electric vehicles, would mean that this is application is not wholly a research and development diversification application.
The Vice-Chairman suggested a site visit to understand the area better. He stated he was unfamiliar with the area. He felt that it would allow both parties and speakers to make their cases better. The Legal Advisor said that a suitable reason was needed. This suggestion for a site visit was then advised to review the noise issue and hope for the Committee to better understand the current situation regarding the size, access, and the aspect of noise currently generated, specifically regarding the future noise making on the site.
Having been proposed, and seconded and, on taking the vote, it was
RESOLVED that the application be deferred for decision at the next available meeting, in order for a site visit to be undertaken.