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.
Hambleton Planning Committee unanimously voted to grant planning permission for up to 40 dwellings on Land to the Rear of Long Street, Thirsk, bringing to an end a 35 year saga concerning the development history of the site.
The site, which is laid to grass and located adjacent to Thirsk Community Primary School, had once been allocated for recreational development. However the funds for its development never materialised and a Local Plan Inspector required the recreational allocation to be struck out of the Local Plan unless it could be properly funded. Members of the Planning Committee recognised that the long term future of the site now lies with residential development and were happy to grant Prism Planning an outline consent for up to 40 dwellings on the site as a way of bringing the site back into beneficial use. The site is probably one of the most sustainable housing sites ever to come forward in Thirsk in recent years, lying just at the back of Long Street and within convenient walking distance to the town centre.
The permission was granted subject to a Section 106 Agreement being completed relating to the provision of affordable housing and financial contributions towards public open space.
In granting the planning permission, members recognised that Prism Planning and its partner consultants had worked hard at canvassing the views of local residents and responding to the positive criticism that had come forward. Members are looking forward to seeing the reserved matters application in due course so the hunt is now on for a development partner interesting in taking the site forward.
I’ve been back from planning committee for a few days now and am still reeling from the decision to refuse planning permission. Apparently the fact that no technical objections exist, the site is allocated for housing and the scheme provides for much needed affordable housing doesn’t really count for much when the local community don’t want it on their doorstep. The quality of the debate wasn’t the greatest I have seen although it was most spirited. However the committee thought it was high time they set aside all of these allocations that keep constraining their decision making! So much for the comfort of a plan led system. It remains to be seen whether the Inspectorate will remedy the situation and overule the local planning authority but you will be unsurprised to know that the appeal is ongoing.
We are running up to the demise of our RDA’s in just a few weeks time and one of the last grants they will issue in the North East has been awarded to a major manufacturer we are representing. The proposals need to be rushed through as quickly as the system allows so that a start can be made on site before the end of the year: No start = no grant and the loss of the inward investment to another part of the European Union.
An SCI event has been undertaken with overwhelming community support and the planning officer has also been broadly supportive, noting that the site is allocated for industry in the Local Plan. Everything seems to be going in the right direction and even the Highways Agency are being supportive -all that is apart from the possibility of newts getting onto the site.
A formal objection has been received from our national ecological team on the basis that we might have newts present and need to survey for their presence. There are newts in the area so there is a kernel of legitimacey to their objection. But the catch 22 to the situation is that we can’t survey for the newts until the weather warms the land in April/May, by which time the opportunity to attract the grant and the business it supports will be gone. Two impartial sets of ecologist have looked at the site and pointed out that any newt on the site would have had to cross a busy main road to get there and would probably not have the best of genetic material to extend the newt gene pool. However its a classic dilema to the LPA as to whether they go for the certainty of securing inward investment or the possibility, however unlikely, of a protected species being present.
I’ve blogged before about the pre-eminence we give to protected species and I’m in danger of apearing like the dodgy developer on Corrie who persuaded his bats to leave in a manner not approved by Natural England. I’m not really authoring a book with Gordon Ramsey on 101 ways to cook newts but have to admit that it is becoming increasingly challenging getting the balance right between reconciling new forms of development and investment with the ecological issues. By way of example; we recently had a decision from a planning authority that prevented us from working on the site between November and April because of the possibility of bats being present. Subsequently they then went on to restrict work in the summer between May and September because of the possibility of swallows being present. Not too many weeks of available construction time in that permission yet the planner’s couldn’t see anything wrong with their decision.
Rather than wasting time trying to get Localism to work in a positive manner, I would rather the boffins put some serious effort into sensible guidance on how we can more properly consider the integration of development with the protection of any said species. At the moment we have a very blunt and unwieldy system that gives far greater weight into the possibility of protected species being present than it does job creation and inward investment.
Now, who is for pickled newts on toast…?
In the good old days, if you were building your new house and wanted to move your bathroom window a couple of feet from where it was shown on the approved plans, you simply wrote to the planners, politely requested a change to the plans and a few days later got a letter back telling you to go ahead, it was being treated as a minor amendment.
Since such straightforward times, case law has radically overturned such a relaxed approach and has triggered the need for the submission of revised applications for a host of trivial and non-contentious amendments to plans that had already been approved. The current approach is clumsy, time consuming and expensive, with fees for revised applications being the same as the original application fee. Small wonder that respondents to the recent ‘Killian Pretty review’ cited this area of planning as one of the most frustrating subjects, leading the review to conclude that urgent action was needed in this area.
At long last changes are going to take place to allow minor modifications to take place. However, as always, its not quite so straightforward as it might be and the government are currently consulting on how the necessary changes are going to work.
Firstly the Government are drawing a distinction between non-material amendments and minor material amendments with different routes being proposed under each heading.
A non-material amendment is a new option, introduced under Section 96A of the 1990 Planning Act. It won’t be a planning application in the conventional sense so won’t require extensive consultation statutory consultees although interested parties look like getting 14 days to comment. There isn’t going to be a definition of what is encompassed by the meaning of ‘non-material’ –each council will have to form its own view on this point. (Hurrah -I hear the lawyers cry!) The current approach looks like giving the LPA’s 28 days to turn around requests and a suggested flat rate fee of £170. The fee might be reduced to £25 for householders. However, it is likely that the new provisions will come into effect in October of this year but the ability to charge for them won’t be in place until sometime after this date. During this period, all applications will be free!
A minor material amendment is likely to be one whose scale and nature results in a development which is not substantially different from the one which has been approved. At present the government seem to think that this area will be deal with by means of an application under S73 of the Planning Act –the same facility we currently use to try and modify a condition on a plan. In this case, the condition we will be trying to modify is the condition which either lists the approved plans or which requires compliance with the approved plans. Its not yet clear what additional information might form the basis of an application and the government are going to be carrying out further consultations over the summer on this particular point. At present we are reminded that an application under Section 73 results in a new permission being granted so consultees are entitled to view and comment in the normal way. This seems to suggest that not a lots going to change!
Its not likely that the last option will result in a fast track route to fine tuning an existing permission although it will be relatively cheap at £170 a go. Its also helpful to have clarified that this route is open to practitioners as there has been some doubt in the minds of a few LPA’s. Of course, if the LPA in question haven’t helpfully recited all of the approved plans in a condition in the first place, this approach isn’t going to be of any particular use. We can therefore expect all LPA’s to start to list all of the approved plans forming the basis of their decision from here on in. If they don’t, you need to challenge them to do so !
From a practitioners viewpoint, it seems as if the minor material route is likely to be the one we need to use most frequently and its clearly going to be a cumbersome beast taking around 8 weeks a time to deal with. Still, on the up side its clearly going to be helpful to have something that we don’t currently have in place.
It’s not immediately apparent that it’s going to save a great deal of paperwork either as it will be applied for on the national forms with seemingly all of the normal application requirements. Cynics might still suspect that an application to move a bathroom window will still need to have a bat survey to validate the application! The days of the letter requesting a minor amendment seem to have firmly vanished with no immediate prospect of return!