Great Torrington appeal decision raises the question: do Local Planning Authorities have any authority over planning?

Authored by sharon goble
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2020 - 15:49

Outline planning permission has been granted for a major development of new homes on farmland at Great Torrington following a Planning Inspector’s decision to allow an appeal by developer Beechcroft Land Ltd.

The developer had sought permission in 2018 for 181 homes in three fields to the south of the town, next to the existing settlement boundary and urban area. The eastern field of the plan already has planning permission for 60 homes.

The Town Council had strongly objected to the additional homes as had an overwhelming number of local residents, whose opposition was supported by the Devon branch of the countryside charity CPRE. The case went to a public inquiry after Torridge District Council refused planning permission.

In allowing the appeal, the Planning Inspector gives weight to his apparent conclusion that the Local Planning Authority (LPA) can no longer demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable land for housing.

Commenting on the decision to grant permission, Penny Mills, CPRE Devon’s Director, said, “This is an extremely disappointing decision which flies in the face of the strong and valid objections put forward by local people and by us, and makes a mockery of the Local Plan that has been adopted. The inspector not only overruled Torridge District Council’s decision to refuse the scheme, but he also appears to have undertaken a detailed assessment of housing requirement and supply as part of the Section 78 appeal. Was this within his remit?  It will be interesting to see whether the council challenges the decision at the High Court.  

“From CPRE Devon’s perspective, the rush for new housebuilding based on questionable figures now seems to override all other considerations. What happened to local people and local authorities having a say in how their communities are shaped? The government makes big promises, but the reality is very different.”

In June 2019 CPRE Devon had submitted a strong objection on a number of grounds, claiming that granting permission would conflict with national and local planning policy (see attachment). In summary:

  • The majority of the site was within open countryside and under the recently adopted North Devon and Torridge Local Plan 2011 - 2031 there was no demonstrated need for new housing to be built on green fields outside of the identified development area.
  • With no verified details of the type, price and tenure of housing to address identified local market demand and to support a mixed community – the proposal failed to meet the requirements of local and national planning policy.
  • The site had not been assessed to establish its agricultural land classification, as such a full consideration of how the scheme could contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment cannot be carried out.
  • A failure to carry out effective engagement: the submitted Planning Statement failed to identify how the proposal had been reviewed in light of the community response to the previously refused scheme and explain how these comments have directed the decisions made by the applicant in the resubmission.
  • A failure to demonstrate how the proposal would secure ‘net gain” in terms of economic, social and environmental benefits.

 

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