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MONT ROSE: Controversial plans backed to build flats on disabled parking

MONT ROSE: Controversial plans backed to build flats on disabled parking

Image: LDRS

Redbridge councillors backed controversial plans to build two blocks of flats on disabled parking at a college – despite previously turning down almost identical plans.

The last application to build 15 flats on Mont Rose College car park in Eastern Avenue, Ilford, was rejected in November because it would reduce parking for disabled students.

Council officers told the planning committee last night that students’ use of the car park for the last decade was “unlawful” and they are considering enforcement action against the college.

The planning committee voted to approve the updated plans but is unable to grant formal permission yet because the development has been referred to the Secretary of State.

Cllr Paul Canal (Con, Bridge), who voted against the plans, said it was “to all intents and purposes” the same application that was rejected by the committee.

He said: “This college is the only higher education institution in the borough and its success is fundamentally threatened by this development.

“I won’t comment on the curiously-timed enforcement on the car park or question why we have decided to take enforcement against a car park that has been shut for months.”

The students’ union for Mont Rose College has objected repeatedly to the development, arguing parking for disabled students will be reduced from 10 spaces to just two.

It wrote to the committee that there are 75 disabled students enrolled at the college and 15 with “severe mobility issues”.

Council officers and the applicant insist there are only 50 students with a known disability enrolled and that the 10 spaces are too small and equivalent to six adequate disabled spaces.

The new plans still provide only two disabled spaces on-site but offer to create a further on-street bay after the blocks are built, if the college can show it is needed.

The applicant also plans to install a chair lift at the rear of the college to improve disabled access to this side of the building.

Cllr Daniel Morgan-Thomas (Lab, Wanstead Village) said: “It does seem, despite what objectors have said, that there’s a net gain to disabled parking.”

The council’s head of planning Brett Leahy told councillors there is “a live enforcement case” against the college because its own planning permission, granted in 2009, states “parking should only be used for members of staff”.

He said: “We have identified that the college is in breach of that particular condition. We are working with them collaboratively to resolve this planning breach.”

He also told councillors a third party had asked the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to “call in” the application and make a decision on the council’s behalf.

The committee heard the Secretary of State is “duty bound to consider” the request but that officers felt it was unlikely to agree to call in the application. However, Redbridge Council cannot issue a decision notice confirming planning permission was granted until this is confirmed.

During the meeting, Cllr Canal noted two committee members, who both represent the college’s ward and abstained on the vote in November, were absent from the meeting last night.

Cllr Muhammed Javed (Lab, Clementswood), who was substituting for one of the absent members, objected to what he viewed as an implication he was “part of some conspiracy”.

The chair stated that Cllr Varinder Singh Bola (Lab, Cranbrook) had excused himself due to a “conflict of interest”, while Cllr Shamshia Ali was ill with Covid-19.

Member substitution on the committee is historically a fraught issue, having formed a small part of complaints about the council’s handling of planning decisions, investigated in 2018.

According to the investigation report, leaked to the Ilford Recorder last year, the previous committee chairman felt councillors were withdrawn from meetings they could attend to “protect them” from voting on controversial applications in their ward.

Developer Tareem Ltd hopes to build 15 flats in two towers on the site, one of which will be eight storeys tall and one of which will be three storeys tall.

Words: Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

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