Agenda item

22/00284/FUL - Retrospective application for planning consent for the installation of a car park management system on existing car park comprising 4 no. pole mounted ANPR cameras and 6 no. park and display machines AND 22/00285/ADV - Application for advertising consent for the installation of 74 no. pole mounted non illuminated signs for car park management system on existing car park


The consultation procedure undertaken for both applications was outlined in the report together with background information in respect of the site.


Officers advised the Committee that since the publication of the agenda a further seven letters of objection had been received, outlining issues already reported.  They also advised that the principle planning consideration for the proposals were the scale and design of the proposed infrastructure and signage.  It was noted that although concerns had been raised regarding the displacement of parking related to the introduction of a maximum stay period on the car park, it was important to note that planning permission is not required for the owners of the land to introduce a maximum stay period or car parking charges.  The land is owned privately so it was at the owner’s discretion as to how the parking was managed on their car park and the Council could not intervene in this.


Objections had been received regarding the charging for car parking and the impact on the Town Centre.  Whilst the Council was opposed to the principle of charging for parking and sympathetic to the reported impacts on local business and the community, the amount of parking charge was not a material consideration for the Committee or was it within the control of the Planning Authority. 


Members were advised that no objections had been received based on the appearance of the cameras and poles or the park and display machines.  Officers’ advised that it was considered that the design and appearance of the proposed ANPR cameras, associated structures and pay machines would not result in harmful impact on the visual amenity of the area and no conflict with current local or national policy had been identified.  Regarding the impacts of advertisements on amenity and public safety, these were not considered to be inappropriate in scale and location to the area in which they are situated.  Officers advised therefore, that they considered that refusal of planning permission for either of the applications could not be sustained on these grounds.


In summary the proposals for the ANPR cameras and poles were considered appropriate in terms of their design and appearance and were appropriate to their surroundings.  The application for retrospective permission for their retention was acceptable and the application for the advertisements were considered acceptable in accordance with the relative DALP policies.


The Committee was addressed by Mr McLoughlin, who objected to the applications on behalf of the Widnes Market Traders Committee, citing the following:


·         He has been a trader for 20 years and since the introduction of the parking charges, has seen footfall fall by 25% initially, to down by 50% now;

·         The retail trade was just picking up after suffering two years of the impacts of Covid and now it was worse than ever;

·         Customer parking has dispersed into the Town Centre and surrounding roads and the car park is hardly used even at peak times of the day;

·         There is no provision for disabled badge users;

·         Local businesses were struggling and their livelihoods were at risk; and

·         Shoppers from surrounding towns were avoiding Widnes as a shopping destination since the introduction of the parking charges.


Councillor Jones, one of the local Ward Councillors then addressed the Committee, objecting to the applications.  He argued that:


·         The applications were contrary to Council policies and detrimental to the reputation of the Council;

·         Halton has a free parking policy and the Council did not support these applications;

·         Both were retrospective applications;

·         Vehicles were being dispersed onto surrounding roads;

·         This would be a reversal of historical precedence in relation to free parking policy and have an adverse effect on communities;

·         The Council has the responsibility for the wellbeing of the people of the Borough and should encourage footfall into the Town centre not decrease it;

·         He supported the Market Traders whose businesses and  livelihoods were in jeopardy; and

·         The same reduced footfall was being felt in Greenoaks Mall as well.


In summary Councillor Jones stated that Widnes has always been attractive to local and out of town shoppers because of the free parking.  People did not come anymore because of the parking charges and the risk of being fined.


Councillor Teeling, another Ward Councillor, then addressed the Committee.  She argued that if local traders and retailers had to comply with rules regarding signage then why did companies at a corporate level get away with breaching the rules.  She stated that both applications were discriminatory – people with disabilities, especially those with partial sight, were discriminated against because the pay machines were small and signs were difficult to read.  She also stated that they discriminated against residents without smart devices and internet access.   She said the whole physical aspect of the applications were in question and should not be allowed.


The Planning Officer provided clarity on the principle planning considerations to be applied to these proposals, those being scale and design of the proposed infrastructure and signage.  He reiterated that there was no conflict with current local or national policies identified and it was not considered that refusal of planning permission could be sustained on these grounds. 


Further, Officers read out the outcome of an appeal made against a refusal of a similar application in another authority, where the appeal was upheld and the applicant was awarded full costs.

Committee Members discussed the applications in detail, taking into consideration the comments made by the speaker, local Ward Councillors and the responses and advice provided by Officers.  


In response to questions over the retrospective nature of the application for planning permission, it was noted that legislation did allow retrospective applications to be made to local authorities. 


The Legal Advisor advised that the applications must be determined in accordance with the Development Plan and clarified what was a material condition and what was not a material condition.  She also reiterated that if the applications were refused and the applicant submitted an appeal, which was highly likely, this would be lost – this was also the opinion of the Planning Officers.  Some information on the appeal procedure of the Planning Inspectorate was provided by the Operational Director for the benefit of the members of the public seated in the public gallery.


Upon conclusion to the debate one Member moved a motion to depart from the officer recommendation and refuse the applications due to the lack of provision for free parking to accommodate shoppers in Widnes, and because the signage was detrimental to the amenity area and has an adverse impact upon the Town Centre.  This was seconded and the motion was carried.  Members voted by a show of hands and both applications were refused.


RESOLVED: That both applications are refused for the following reasons:


Full application


1.    the lack of provision of free car parking spaces and the wider impact on the Town Centre and businesses in Widnes; and


Advert application


2.    the signage is detrimental to the amenity of the area and the adverse impact on the Town Centre.




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