Friday, 15 February 2019

Developer criticised by ministry lawyer

Developer criticised by ministry lawyer

A DEVELOPER has suffered another setback in its bid to build 245 new homes.

Gladman Homes has applied to the High Court to challenge a planning inspector’s decision to uphold the decision of South Oxfordshire District Council to refuse permission for the development on three fields north of Emmer Green.

But now a government lawyer has condemned this company’s move, saying it is “totally without merit”.

The land between Peppard Road and Kiln Road is part of the Phillimore estate and in Eye and Dunsden parish.

Gladman’s application was turned down amid objections from residents and several neighbouring parish councils, which claimed the development would put nearby villages at risk of being engulfed by the urban boundary of Reading.

The company appealed but planning inspector Nick Palmer backed the council’s decision.

Gladman argues that Mr Palmer underestimated the district’s future housing requirements by not considering the extra homes it will have to take from Oxford, which is behind on its housing quotas.

It says the need to meet this demand outweighs any concerns about the development’s impact on views of the neighbouring Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

But now the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government has said the company’s argument is “academic” as the site wasn’t earmarked for development in the district’s local plan and the council could show a housing land supply of more than three years.

Barrister Emma Dring said: “On any view, even if the inspector made the errors asserted by the claimant, they made no difference whatsoever to the outcome. It was inevitable that planning permission would be refused.”

“For the purposes of decision making, ‘local housing need’ should not include any allowance for unmet need [from neighbouring areas].

“Unmet need is recognised as being different from, and additional to, local housing need. It is relevant to the assessment of how much housing should be ‘planned for’ in a local plan and, as such, is an aspect of plan-making and not decision-taking.

“For this reason, unmet need should not be included in the assessment of local housing need and so the inspector was right to refer to land supply figures reached without consideration of unmet need.

“The court is respectfully invited to refuse permission and to certify this claim as being totally without merit.”

The High Court can’t grant planning permission but can quash the inspector’s decision and order a fresh hearing if it finds the correct procedures weren’t followed.

Sonning Common parish councillor Leigh Rawlins, who is also a member of Campaign Against Gladman in Eye and Dunsden pressure group, said: “I am advised that it is exceptionally rare for the Secretary of State’s barrister to conclude in such ringing terms.

“This would suggest that the Secretary of State expects this matter to be viewed by the court to be vexatious and thus denied court time for a substantive hearing.

“It is being pushed because of the scale and value of land at stake. When agricultural land in this area gets planning permission it multiplies in value about 100 times from about £25,000 per hectare to £2.5 million.”

David Woodward, chairman of Eye and Dunsden Parish Council, said: “It’s apparently pretty unusual for a Government barrister to issue such a strong condemnation so we are very encouraged by that.

“We haven’t been given a timeframe for the court to decide whether it will allow a hearing so we can only wait and see.”

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