All posts in Housing

A long running saga relating to housebuilding in Ingleby Barwick has been brought to an end today with a government appointed planning Inspector allowing the development of 200 homes on farm land at Ingleby Barwick, close to the controversial new Free School.

Darlington based Prism Planning represented the landowner and farmer of the land, Ian Snowdon at a public inquiry in March of this year and it has taken the Planning Inspector nearly 9 months to decide that the scheme was acceptable. The inspector found for the appellant on all counts, noting “The social and economic benefits of the new housing would be very significant indeed and would make an important contribution to the Borough’s housing supply. The scheme would include a useful and much needed contribution to the stock of affordable housing in Stockton-on-Tees.”

He went on to note that “The site forms part of a wide area south of Ingleby Barwick as far as Low Lane that is being comprehensively redeveloped to provide much needed housing and other facilities. The appeal result comes at a time when there is a significant national focus on the need for new houses to be built with significant concerns that not enough housing is being built. A new Housing white paper is promised by the government just next month.

Responding to the decision, Steve Barker of Prism Planning, who gave evidence at the inquiry said; “Stockton have recognised that they haven’t been able to demonstrate a 5 year housing supply for some time now and the debates over development in this corner of Ingleby have used up a lot of time and resources for landowners and the Council alike. I hope that now this final decision has been made all parties can start to move forward positively and work in partnership to make things happen on the ground. A lot of time has been spent arguing when we could have been focusing on improving the area and meeting our housing and leisure needs.” It is likely that a detailed application for reserved matters will now be submitted to the Council in 2017.
Prism Planning are celebrating two important new wins at appeal, following an Inspector’s ruling that converting two separate outbuildings, one a garage and one a barn to provide two new dwellings is sustainable development. The buildings in question were a former barn and a new garage associated with a large farmhouse in Cowpen Bewley. The scheme required full planning permission rather than prior notification, in part because the main house on the site is listed. Despite being refused, both sites were within the limits to development. Although the Council were in housing shortfall, they had previously refused consent for the two conversions because they decided the village was not a sustainable location for new housing. At an informal hearing in June, Prism, assisted by David Hardy of Squire Patton Boggs, had argued before an Inspector that the Council’s approach to sustainability was too narrow and failed to look at the range of services and employment opportunities around the village, both in Billingham and the nearby Industrial Estate. The Inspector agreed, finding both schemes to be of good design, sympathetic to the character of the area and in sustainable locations. The Inspector accepted that people in such locations were likely to have a degree of reliance upon private cars but clearly felt that sustainability was a wider concept than just about how people get their weekly shopping back from the supermarket! It’s a very good win for the applicant and Prism Planning and a vindication of our approach and hard work. Our satisfaction at the positive outcome is however tinged with a note of regret that we had to have the matter considered at appeal in the first place when the case for approval was so overwhelmingly positive, as the Inspector recognised.
Some readers may recall that we reported back in March of this year our success at appeal in having the decision by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council to refuse outline planning permission for a development of 4 houses within the grounds of a care home in Redmarshall over-turned and permission granted. We have now secured outline planning permission for the redevelopment of the care home itself to provide up to 6 houses. Although the application was submitted in outline with all matters reserved, the indicative layout showed the development being integrated with the previous permission for 4 houses. The Council had previously resisted any further residential development within Redmarshall on the basis that they believed Redmarshall to be an unsustainable village. We had successfully argued at appeal, the Inspector accepting our arguments entirely, that their reasoning was flawed and that for a host of reasons the village should be regarded as a sustainable settlement where new housing development could be accommodated. We were delighted that Stockton’s planners dealt with the second application much more favourably, granting permission under delegated powers in a timely fashion. Our client will now advertise the entire site as a development opportunity for up to 10 houses. If you have a housing development in mind and would like some professional planning consultancy assistance, whether or not sustainability might be an issue, we are only a phone call or an e-mail away.
Durham Planning Committee voted unanimously today to support the demolition of St Anne’s School, next to the cricket ground in Bishop Auckland. The scheme involves 18 new houses on the site. Prism Planning led the team that were behind the scheme which was described as a bitter-sweet moment by a member of the committee. Bitter because the town was losing an old building which had been part of the town heritage for many years but sweet because it was going to be replaced by a new set of quality buildings made from materials salvaged from the old structure. The owner had bought the buildings after they were severely damaged by an arson attack. He wanted to convert the existing structure but this proved to be financially un-viable. The scheme approved had been carefully worked up by Prism and the design team over many months of close partnership working with the Council. It was supported by the local councillors, the Town Council and the local Cricket Club who abut the site. It’s not very often that a planning committee commend you for a scheme that involves losing an old building in a Conservation Area but the fact that they did is testament to all of the hard work we put into the proving it was the only way forward, as well as having an excellent scheme to go back on the site. Work can now start on relocating bats from the site, subject to the separate go-ahead from Natural England.

Since the new General Permitted Development Order was published in April 2015 there has been a number of areas that have been open to interpretation by councils, leading to appeals and new guidance published by the Planning Guidance Suite as clarification. Such occurrences increase costs and timeframes for clients.

One such issue is the matter of repairs and internal alterations made to a barn and if they would be considered to be new structural elements of the building. The barn in question had a recent new internal wall (part of room used for lambing) which would become external once existing parts of the barn were demolished. We expertly navigated this complex issue gaining permission for our Client for the conversion of a barn to a dwelling.

We argued that this wall should not fall outside of permitted development as the works had already been carried out under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act as part of maintenance, improvement or other alteration. Our argument was successful resulting in an early approval ahead of the usual 56 day window.

Prism Planning has considerable experience with Prior Notifications with a strong success rate under the Class Q conversions. If you are planning a barn conversion and think that you might have an issue or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact use for an initial informal discussion on the subject.

Not content with having just seen the Housing & Planning Bill being passed into law (Royal Assent gained on 12th May), the Government announced more changes to world of town and country planning. The Queen’s speech this morning has announced legislation “to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow”, a key element of which will be a Neighbourhood Planning & Infrastructure Bill. The Government hopes that the Bill will curtail councils’ ability to attach planning conditions which delay development. The Government has previously expressed concerns that some councils misuse conditions in an attempt to halt or delay developments from proceeding. The Bill will prevent councils from attaching pre-commencement conditions to planning permissions other than when absolutely necessary. The same Bill will aim to provide a fillip to the neighbourhood planning system, making the neighbourhood plans more easy to review and update and requiring planning authorities to support neighbourhood forums. It is also intended to reform the compulsory purchase regime. Planning, a world of constant change at present!
The latest standing on the matter of the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government wanting to reduce affordable housing contributions on small scale housing developments in the face of opposition from some Local Planning Authorities sees the Secretary of State one step ahead following the recent decision of the Court of Appeal. Some may remember that following the publication of a written ministerial statement in November 2014, which set out revised policy on affordable housing provision, the Government’s online Planning Practice Guidance on the subject was amended. The new policy proposed that: (1) Developments of no more than 10 homes (with a gross floorspace not exceeding 1,000m²) would be exempted from levies for affordable housing and tariff-based contributions; (2) In designated rural areas, National Parks and AONBs, however, the exemptions would apply only to developments not exceeding 5 new homes but developments of 6 – 10 homes could pay a commuted sum, either at or after completion of the development; and (3) Redevelopment of a vacant building, or its demolition for redevelopment, would give rise to a credit (calculated in terms of floorspace) that could be off-set against any affordable housing contribution. The Government’s hope was that this would improve the commercial viability of small housing schemes and assist in the aim of boosting the numbers of new houses being built. However, two Local Planning Authorities (West Berkshire DC and Reading BC), were so concerned that this new policy would reduce the amount of new affordable housing being provided within their areas that they challenged it in the High Court. In July 2015 the High Court ruled in favour of the two Councils and quashed the new policy. Subsequently, the Secretary of State sought to appeal through the Court of Appeal. The Court’s decision was issued on 11th May 2016. The Court allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal against the quashing order, the result of which is that the policy introduced in November 2014 is extant once again. Whether the decision of the Court of Appeal is subject to further challenge is a moot point and we will have to wait and see. Until such a time however, many small scale housing developments will no longer be required to provide affordable housing. If you are considering a small scale housing development talk to Prism planning, we just might be able to help.
Stockton Council have just decided to grant consent for a scheme submitted by Prism Planning which sought consent for 40 one and two bedroom apartments on a site in the centre of Ingleby Barwick. Consent had previously been granted at appeal for a scheme on the same site that was restricted by a planning condition to only be occupied by the over 55’s. Because of the conditions imposed, the scheme was not attractive to the market and lending institutions during these challenging times. Prism Planning presented an alternative scheme to the Council which provided for a mix of one and two bedroomed apartments for sale, based upon a different financial model and argued against the imposition of any restrictive occupancy condition. Accurate information on scheme build cost and viability was also submitted, to demonstrate to the authority that the scheme could not afford to contribute towards all the off-site affordable housing that the Council sought. The scheme was passed by a majority vote on the planning committee, subject to a legal agreement relating to the transfer of land for public open space and a reduced commuted sum towards the provision of affordable housing elsewhere in the borough. It is increasingly the case that viability assessments are becoming a key component of any planning application of significance and this scheme showed the value in presenting a clear business case to the planning authority. Without this, the scheme would have been subject to punitive costs that would have held the scheme back. If you have a scheme where viability is an issue, talk to Prism to see whether we might be able to help.
Planning permission has just been granted by a local planning authority for a new house in the open countryside – without any form of occupancy condition. Normally such permissions would be viewed as being contrary to established national and local planning policies for the protection of the countryside. However in this instance our client already lived on the site in a caravan that had been on site for more than 10 years. Prism had already established the legality of this by obtaining a Certificate of Lawful Development or CLEUD. This certificate became a material consideration in the determination of a recent planning application for a new dwelling on the site. Prism Planning presented a comprehensive planning statement with the submission, supported by appeal precedents relating to how CLEUDs had been taken on board in similar situations around the country. As a result, the LPA were convinced the case was robust and granted planning permission for a permanent dwelling. A very nice outcome for the client and a successful win for Prism!
We recently succeeded in winning an appeal against the non-determination of an application that had been submitted to Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council for a small residential development within the grounds of a care home at Redmarshall. We had been advised by the case officer that it was likely that the application would be refused on the grounds that the proposed site is in an unsustainable location for additional residential development, in view of the settlement having limited services and provisions, thereby requiring occupants to travel for employment, education, retail and recreational uses. To save time for our client we submitted the appeal ahead of waiting for the Council to refuse planning permission. Prism Planning had been engaged to project manage the planning application and sought to work constructively with officers of the Council for what was acknowledged to be a proposal that the Council would be unlikely to welcome with open arms. Having worked with planning officers for a considerable period of time, revising plans to accord with officer advice/requests, it was galling to see the application heading towards being refused for an ‘in principle’ reason. Furthermore, we had submitted a comprehensive argument why the proposal should be accepted as constituting sustainable development. We also argued that due to their proximity, Redmarshall and the nearby village of Carlton, should be considered as one settlement when determining planning applications (Stockton regard Carlton as a sustainable settlement). It became clear that the planning officer had a closed mind to our arguments and therefore submitting the appeal was the only sensible option. It was pleasing to read in the decision from The Planning Inspectorate that the Inspector accepted the strength of our case, to the extent that he agreed with us on every relevant planning issue. In particular, he agreed with us that Redmarshall and Carlton should be considered as a single entity for planning purposes. He also agreed that the Council’s Villages Study (Planning the Future or Rural Villages in Stockton, 2014) should only be afforded very limited weight in his decision as it is not an adopted planning document, having been prepared as part of the evidence base for the Council’s Regeneration & Environment Local Plan, itself not yet adopted. Another factor in the decision was that the Council cannot demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply, as required by central government, and the proposed development would make an important, albeit limited, contribution towards meeting the deficit. We might not win every planning appeal, and wouldn’t expect to, but we have a good feel on the prospects of success when clients seek our assistance to contest a refusal of planning permission and can advise accordingly. If you have been refused planning permission recently and would like to discuss how best to proceed, we are only a phone call or an e-mail away.