Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Golf club’s homes victory dubbed ‘utterly appalling’

A DECISION to allow 13 new homes to be built at Sonning Golf Club has been branded “appalling”.

Wokingham Borough Council refused the club planning permission in November 2016, saying the development would result in loss of countryside and the plans were not in line with national or local policies.

However, the decision has now been overturned after the club appealed.

Planning inspector David Cliff said that while the development would result in moderate harm to the character and appearance of the area, it would make an important contribution to the supply of housing in the borough where there was a shortfall.

Stuart Munro, the council’s executive member for strategic planning, said: “This was an utterly appalling decision.

“It simply defies belief that a national planning inspector has overruled our local decision. We are particularly incensed by the reason given for the decision, which was effectively that not enough homes are being built fast enough in the borough.

“I think anybody who lives here would know that is poppycock.”

He said the council had allocated plenty of land to meet housing needs but Mr Cliff had decided that it couldn’t demonstrate a five-year housing land supply as required.

Councillor Munro said: “We know the Government has a target for the number of houses it wants to see built and we are prepared to shoulder our fair share and indeed have approved applications sufficient to provide around 11,000 new homes at the time of the appeal.

“It is galling to be treated unfairly and for our residents to lose out on the opinion of an inspector.” The council had hoped to challenge the inspector’s decision but its legal advisors said an appeal was unlikely to succeed.

The Duffield Road club sought permission for 13 homes, five of them “affordable”, as well as associated highway works, public open space and landscaping.

Mr Cliff said the land had been deemed “surplus to requirements” by the club.

He said the development would lead to “urbanisation” of the site and would “greatly diminish” its open character.

But he added: “Notwithstanding the impacts described above, the encroachment into the countryside would be fairly limited given the relatively small size of the site.

“The development would also extend an area of existing built development and so would not appear as being unduly incongruous in relation to the overall pattern and built development in the area.

“Taking account of the number of dwelling houses proposed, the size of the site and the location of neighbouring properties, I am satisfied that the scheme would be able to be laid out, designed and landscaped to satisfactorily safeguard the living conditions of the occupiers of neighbouring residential properties.

“I acknowledge that at least some journeys would be likely to be undertaken by car. Nevertheless, when taken as a whole, the site would be reasonably near and be reasonably accessible to local shops, services, employment and facilities by alternative means of transport.”

“I have found that, despite the conflict with the development plan, material considerations indicate that planning permission should be granted for the proposed development.”

An application made by the club for costs to be awarded against the borough council was refused by the inspector.

The club did not respond to requests for comment.

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