Skegby housing go-ahead due to policy lapse

Land off Gilcroft Street and St. Andrew's Street in Skegby.
Land off Gilcroft Street and St. Andrew's Street in Skegby.
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CHAD revealed last week that the building of a large-scale housing development in the Skegby area is a step closer following a Government ruling to grant it planning permission.

Ashfield District Council had refused the outline application because the site is within open countryside and because it considered it as contrary to other local planning policies.

But after a Planning Inspectorate inquiry, the council’s decision was over-turned by the Secretry of State - in the main because the authority has defied Government advice and does not have a five-year housing land supply or an up-to-date Local Plan.

Fears have now been raised about whether this could set a precedent for other housing development applications in the district.

Sutton North district councillor Jason Zadrozny said that this is a ‘very real worry’ for the residents of Ashfield.

“I don’t think anyone understands the full implications,” he said. “What does this mean for applications that are current or we have already turned down?

“What does it mean for what we are here for? The local council cannot determine anything because our policies are out of date and our policies don’t really mean anything.”

The Planning Inspector’s report on the appeal for the application to build housing on land off Gilcroft Street/St. Andrew’s Street in Skegby and Vere Avenue in Sutton is clear.

The development should be given permission because it ‘would bring substantial benefits in respect of the provision of housing and public open space with footpath links in a sustainable location.

“The adverse impacts of granting planning permission would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the Framework taken as a whole’.

But that conclusion comes because ADC’s Local Plan is ‘out of date’, having expired in 2011, and because the council does not have a five-year housing land supply, as required by the National Planning Policy Framework.

The 179 letters of objection to the application and petition of 336 signatures were not enough to persuade the inspector.

Though it was acknowledged even by the appellants, Mssrs Millward, Shaw and Webster, that building houses in the countryside has an ‘adverse impact’ on the landscape, the case turned on whether that impact outweighed the benefit of meeting the housing need and other benefits. The planning inspector found that the council’s undersupply of housing land is ‘significant and is of substantial weight in the consideration of this appeal’.

She also ruled that ‘limited’ weight can be given to ADC’s emerging Local Plan as responses to the preferred approach that has been consulted on are still being considered and the plan ‘has yet to be published, examined or found to be sound’.

The Secretary of State agreed with the inspector’s findings and concluded that ‘in the absence of a five year housing land supply in an up-to-date development plan, planning permission should be granted for the proposal’.

Coun Zadrozny said that this effectively leaves the council ‘impotent’ when it comes to determining planning applicatins for housing.

“To cock up such an enormous part of [what the district council does] is pretty catastrophic and raises more questins than answers,” he said.

“I am still going to speak up for my residents becasue that’s what I believe I should do, but I don’t know if it does any good anymore.”