Proposals to increase the number of children able to use a Calderdale nursery were rejected on the chairman’s casting vote.
Hipperholme Private Day Nursery had asked to vary a condition of the nursery’s planning permission to increase the roll from 67 children up to 98.
But residents had expressed concerns about noise created by the youngsters when they were playing outside, and were backed by officers who recommended the plans be refused on grounds of overintensification of use.
After hearing from officers, objectors and an agent for the applicants, the six-strong committee split down the middle, with an amendment to reject officers’ recommendation proposed by Councillor Carol Machell (Lab, Todmorden), seconded by Councillor Paul Bellinger (Liberal Democrat, Greetland and Stainland) and supported by Councillor Colin Peel (Con, Sowerby Bridge).
But it was defeated on the casting vote of committee chairman Councillor Steve Sweeney (Lab, Todmorden) whose backing for the motion proposed by Councillor Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) and seconded by Councillor David Kirton (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) supporting refusal then carried the day.
Councillor George Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) had asked for the application to be put before councillors and wrote in support of it, praising the nursery, in Denholme Gate Road, Hipperholme, which offered “unique experiences” for youngsters in a forest school type environment.
It did not confine children to the bedroom with their X-Boxes and they were often taken off-site to explore nature rather than kept on the spot.
He had said there were two key changes to a previously unsuccessful application two years ago in that an independent noise impact assessment cast doubt as to whether more children would mean more impact and a management plan would ensure the privacy and amenity of neighbours was respected.
Officers said the key issue was an increase in the number of children had the potential for increased noise and ultimately had not changed their mind since the previous application.
A spokesman for objectors outlined some residents’ feelings. “Our concerns are unchanged and our objection is purely to the loud noise experienced daily for a long period and our feeling is this will only worsen as child numbers increase.
“We have been as tolerant as we can without complaining but it’s a step too far,” he said.
A spokesman for the nursery said it was supported by a number of educational establishments and many parents from the local area used it. He stressed that whether it had 67 or 96, the children would not be using the nursery’s play area all at once.
“I have to say we are not proposing using the play area for 97 children. We are proposing that the number of children in the play area is no more than 40 at any one time between 9am and 6pm,” he said.
But Councillor Baines asked him: “If you lived next to something like this, would you be happy with that?”
The spokesman said under its existing permission the nursery could have 67 children there but it would not be feasible to do so. He added that acoustic barriers could be looked into if required.
Hipperholme Private Day Nursery offered an education that taught children resilience and teamwork, a kind of learning that enhanced their confidence and physical well-being, he said.
Councillor Peel said that if conditions limiting the number of children at any one time could be imposed and acoustic solutions found he was leaning to the idea.
But an environmental health officer said the basic problems still remained and doubted whether an acoustic barrier was feasible.
“If you’re going to have a large number of children, potentially at exhuberant play, then you have to assume there can be a noise impact. Unless you are going to have a very substantial barrier of substantial dimensions – which might well be then an issue of visual disamenity – I can’t see how you are going to get round this problem. I simply can’t,” he said.
Councillor Kirton said that the nursery was well respected and well run was not doubted – but the increase was just unacceptable for residents in neighbouring Wellcroft Gardens and nearby.