Government policy to give residents more power in planning decisions is to be put to the test after developers Primegate Properties (Hook North) lodged an appeal against Swindon Council’s decision to reject a plan to build 175 homes on the last field between Grange Park and Lydiard Park.
Primegate believe Swindon Council is breaking government requirements that local planning authorities should have a five year house building land bank available and have taken legal opinion to show that Swindon has about half that amount.
In mid-October, after intensive lobbying by councillors representing Freshbrook and Grange Park and over 200 letters of objection, over 100 residents attended the committee meeting in the council chamber and came away jubilent that councillors had supported planning officer’s recommendation to refuse the application. Click to read the report of the meeting.
The officer’s report described the site as outside the agreed defined Swindon urban area whilst the scale, layout and density of the Primegate proposal was deemed inappropriate to the site. Councillors spoke out against the application saying approval would encourage further proposals for development on unallocated greenfield sites across the borough.
The reasons for refusal are:
1. The proposed development occupies a greenfield site within the countryside. The proposal is therefore contrary to local and national policy which seek to locate new housing development within the Swindon urban area, as identified in the adopted Swindon Borough Council Local Plan 2011 (2006) Policies DS1, ENV9 and the proposals map and the emerging Core Strategy Policy SSP1.?
2. The grant of planning permission for the proposed development would be harmful and detrimental to the Council’s strategy for housing growth, and would set a precedent for the release of further unallocated greenfield sites to the overall detriment of the Council’s strategy as set out in the adopted and emerging development plan. The proposal does not comply with national planning policies in PPS1 and PPS3; it is contrary to policies DS1, H4 and ENV9 of the Swindon Borough Local Plan 2011 (2006), policies SSP1 and SSP2 of the emerging Core Strategy, and policies DP3 and DP4 of the Wiltshire and Swindon Structure Plan 2016.?
3. The scale, layout and density of the development fail to take account of its natural surroundings and topography by extending beyond the ridge which bisects the site, forming a natural edge to the urban boundary. As such the development is considered harmful to the visual amenity of the Lydiard Ridge Character Area and the rural approach and setting of Lydiard Park, a Grade II Registered Park and Garden of Historic Interest. Furthermore, the proposal would harm the transition between the urban edge of Swindon to the rural character of the countryside. The proposal fails to comply with policy PPS5 policies HE6, HE7, HE9 and HE10 and ENV4, ENV10, DS6, DS7 of the Swindon Borough Local Plan 2011 (2006) and policies DMP1, DMP6 and DMP8 of the emerging Core Strategy.
Les Durrant, managing director of Swindon planning consultants DPDS confirmed that his firm’s clients intend to appeal the decision of Swindon Council. "After taking considered advice of a top QC at the Planning Bar, as well as our professional team, an appeal is being lodged. We do not accept any of the reasons for refusal as being valid."
The DPDS press release: Proposed Residential Development on land north of Hook Street Swindon
Application S/10/1153, submitted by Primegate Properties (Hooknorth) for residential development on land north of Hook Street, was refused by Swindon Borough Council on 20 October 2010, following consideration at Planning Committee on 12 October 2010.
Having sought legal advice from Leading Counsel, Primegate has decided to appeal this decision to the Secretary of State and the necessary documentation was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on 15 November 2010 and subsequently copied to the Local Planning Authority Swindon Borough Council.
In essence, the grounds for the appeal are that:
– the in principle reasons for refusal (Reasons 1 and 2) are without foundation in that they, and their justification in the officer’s report, represent a misinterpretation and misuse of National Planning Policy guidance and prevailing (saved) Development Plan policy;
– the site specific reason for refusal (Reason 3) is not sufficiently justified in that, in its outline context, the proposal meets design policy requirements or in terms of refuting the substantial evidence submitted with the application that landscape and visual impact and cultural heritage interests will not be unacceptably harmed.
Primegate has requested the appeal be heard as an Inquiry and this will take place early in 2011, at a date to be confirmed by the Planning Inspectorate
A council planning spokeswoman said that the planning enquiry – to take place in public in the Spring – would be an opportunity for the borough council to defend its policy that the Grange Park site is outside the defined Swindon urban boundary in front of an independent planning inspector and for the developers to argue their case for building on the Hook Street site. Everybody involved involved in the original decision would be contacted in due course and the inspector will be able to read all letter’s sent to the council.
Commenting on Primegate North’s appeal against the planning decision, South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said, "Swindon Council’s reasons for turning down this application were clear and persuasive – it was local democracy in action. I very much hope that the Planning Inspectorate refuses this appeal."
Freshbrook and Grange Park councillor Mick Bray added, "it is only to be expected that the prospective developers would be intent on throwing their money away. However people living in the ward and our neighbours must once again be prepared to deliver our views on such ridiculous venture. The planners report rejecting the Hook North application appears to me a document that should stand up to intense scrutiny by any honest inspectorate."
Planning officers at Swindon Borough Council are drawing up a new planning Core Strategy to guide decisions for the long term on how many houses should be built and where future development should take place. The draft document will be put to Swindon’s cabinet in early December. A forward planning officer at the council said the Hook North site has never been part of a land allocation for housing and will not be as it is not a preffered site for an urban extension of the town.
Given that the previous Government’s Regional Spatial Strategy planning system has been scrapped, local council’s are using the calculations for housing numbers in each area from the Wiltshire Structure Plan agreed in 2006. However the information for this was drawn up in 1998 at a time of booming economic growth. Whether the idea of a 5 year land supply is still valid in the present climate will be at the crux of the argument in front of the planning inspector.
Click to find out more about the planning inspectorate.
Below, celebrating success after the planning committee meeting on 12 October, from left, coun Mick Bray, Tim Swinyard, Barrie Brocks, coun Peter Greehalgh, coun Michael Dickinson, Glynn Stevens, Troy Wilson