Mon, 17 Feb 2014
Barratt West Midlands and Taylor Wimpey UK Ltd have been successful in their appeal against the decision of Redditch Borough Council not to grant them outline planning permission for Webheath. Inspector Clive Kirkbride following the inquiry held on 21st and 22nd January 2014 allowed the appeal, led by Ian Dove QC.
The inspector, considered that the main issue was whether the proposed development would amount to a sustainable form of development, having regard to the following matters:
i) Consideration of the appeal sites ADR designation;
ii) The impact of traffic generated by the proposal on local roads; and
iii) Accessibility to a range of local services and facilities
Matter one: ADR designation
With respect to LP No.3 Policy CS7(iii), all other sustainable location options have been exhausted. The inspector drew particular attention to the word other because it was evident that the Council considered that the ADRs were all in sustainable locations. The Council also published its own study of Green Belt Land and ADRs as a Core Strategy Background Document in 2008. Confirming the suitability of the Webheath ADR for future development for housing considering that this would be relatively harmonious with existing development in Webheath, could be relatively well-contained and that its selection as an ADR was far more preferable than developing other land elsewhere in the designated Green Belt around Redditch. The Council also confirmed that it cannot demonstrate a five year supply of housing based on sites meeting LP No.3 Policy CS.7’s higher sequential (i) and (ii) tests and that is it reliant upon the appeal site for meeting its objectively assessed housing needs. Therefore the inspector stated that he was satisfied that there was no ‘in principle’ objection, be it in sustainability or policy terms, to the ADR being considered for development in the manner proposed.
Matter Two: Traffic Impacts
The appeal proposal was informed by a Transport Assessment (TA) and a Travel Plan (TP). Both were prepared in accordance with relevant Department for Transport guidance and the requirements of paragraphs 32 and 38 of the Framework, respectively, and their findings are not disputed by the CHA. The general aim of the TA is to demonstrate that the impact of the proposal on the local highway network would not be significant in capacity terms and, where it may have such an effect, to identify what would be required by way of future improvements. The TP aims to achieve what would be required by way of occupancy car trips over a three-year period, with continuing action to improve thereafter.
In conclusion and having regard to all the other matters raised in connection with this issue, the inspector was satisfied that the appellants’ evidence demonstrated that the appeal development would not have a significant impact on highway safety as a result of the traffic generated by it on the local road network, subject to the improvements proposed which can be secured either by conditions or by financial contributions towards the cost of off-site highway improvements. The Framework states that development should only be prevented or refused on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe and from the evidence before me him, the inspector concluded that this would not be the case.
Matter three: Accessibility
The inquiry heard a considerable amount of detailed evidence relating to these maters with WAG arguing at length that the appeal site is not in a sustainable location. It was claimed that the majority of the houses proposed would not be within convenient walking distance of most local services and amenities in Webheath, that the site is poorly located in respect of, and poorly connected to, the main employment opportunities in Redditch town centre and the industrial estates beyond or for community by rail to, for example, Birmingham. Consequently, WAG argued that the proposal would result in most journeys being made by car, contrary to the advice and guidance set out in the Framework.
To conclude on this issue, the inspector found that, in principle, the appeal site is accessible. The improvements provided by the proposal would further increase its accessibility to local services and facilities, Redditch town centre and beyond. Consequently there would be no conflict with LP No.3 Policies CS.6 and CS.7 or the relevant provisions of the framework in relation to this matter.
A number of other matters were raised by local residents, their elected representatives and local interest group including concerns about surface water drainage, increased risk of flooding downstream from the appeal site, sewage disposal, site contamination, landscape impact, impact on archaeology and designated heritage assets and the democratic deficit.
Flood risk – The inspector considered the concerns rose.
Sewage disposal – A pumping station to be provided as part of the appeal
Site contamination –The inspector was satisfied that this matter could be dealt with by means of an appropriate condition, as the Council acknowledges, and this would address one of the specific concerns raised.
Landscape impact – The inspector was satisfied that from the evidence before him that the potential impacts have been properly assessed and evaluated and found no reason to disagree with the Council that the proposal could be implemented without resulting in any material harm to the character of the area.
Ecology – The inspector found that these matters could be dealt with by way of conditions.
Archaeology and other heritage assets – The inspector recommended a condition requiring an initial programme of archaeological test pitting to identify potential artifacts scatters to be carried out.
One local resident suggested that the proposed development would adversely effect the setting of the recently Grade I listed Norgrove Court in views from the elevated bridleway situated south of the appeal site. The inspector was satisfied that the harm would be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal, including much needed new open market and affordable housing.
Democratic deficit – Elected representatives suggested that the original decision to refuse the application was democratically taken by locally elected representatives on sound planning grounds and that overturning it would create a democratic deficit. Inspector acknowledged that the Government might have raised expectations through its localism agenda that more decisions should and would be taken locally. However, the appeals process, including provision for local public inquiries, exists so that evidence can be rigorously tested and, where found wanting, decisions based on it can be overturned.
The inspector considered the list of 32 conditions suggested by the Council and largely agreed by the appellants in the light of the advice set out in Circular 11/95 and the discussions, which took place during the inquiry. The inspector amalgamated some of the suggested conditions and amended the wording of others, in the interests of clarity and precision. It was mentioned that given the outline nature of the proposal there are a number of agreed standard conditions which require the submission and approval of further details and phasing, in the interests of appearance and other matters will need to be submitted for approval.
In light of the above reasons and considering the matters and conditions the Inspector found that the appeal should be allowed and that outline planning permission should be granted.
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