Thursday evening saw an Extra Ordinary meeting of Lydiard Millicent Parish Council.
Councillors met to discuss Custom Land’s appeal against the refusal of their application for outline planning permission. Local residents also attended, and offered their thoughts on Custom Land’s proposal to build four houses on land off the Mews.
Parking and bin storage is already an issue at the Mews, residents said. Building more homes on the land, with a narrow access way would make things worse.
They also voiced concern that Lydiard is “quite a special place” and that the appeal, if successful, could have a domino-effect. Custom Land have also recently taken informal soundings on plans to build up to 60 homes on land bordering the application site, whilst Taylor Wimpey have applied for permission to build 48 houses off Tewkesbury Way. Residents, therefore, fear a potential pincher movement from developers threatens the green fields, which separate Lydiard from Swindon.
Residents urged the Parish Council to do anything they could to support Wiltshire’s case for refusing the application.
Whether Custom Land’s plans go ahead will now be determined by a planning inspector at an Appeal. A Planning Inspector will consider written representations from the developer, Wiltshire Council and others, and reach a decision. They will consider all the previous information submitted, and any new submissions. In reaching their decision, the Inspector can only take into account information that is relevant to the Appeal. In most cases, the arguments will hinge upon the grounds for refusal set out in the planning authority’s decision letter.
The deadline for new submissions is 20 September. There is no set date by which the Inspector must make a decision. However, the average time taken to determine appeals of this nature is 18 weeks from start to finish.
Unanimously, the Parish Council decided to reiterate their original objections to the proposals, and to draft a new letter to send to the planning inspector. The letter will cover the same grounds, but with a different order of emphasis. In addition, Councillor Sharp suggested that lack of sustainability should be added. Although Lydiard has some facilities, these are limited and stretched. The school is rumoured to be oversubscribed. There is a lack of parking and traffic congestion. The bus service is limited, and under threat. There are better, more sustainable locations, to build the type of homes Custom Land are proposing.
The Parish Council’s original objections include-
- Access to the site is via a shared driveway with The Mews, extra traffic would be detrimental to the already congested area.
- Refuse Lorries are not currently able to access the road at The Mews (where it is anticipated that the
entrance to the new site would be). Residents have to take bins from their houses to a designated area
along the road, any new buildings would add to this already unsatisfactory situation.
- A recently commissioned Housing Needs Survey for the Parish identified that starter homes and small bungalows for “downsizing” were required within the village and not larger detached family homes.
- Surface and flood water currently flows into the field, there is a concern that building works would inhibit this and exacerbate flooding in the area.
- The application states it is an infill site; Core Strategy Policy 2 refers to infill as “the filling of a small gap within the village that is only large enough for not more than a few dwellings”. Two suggested layout options show four houses on this site; again reference to the Core Strategy gives a meaning of infill as “generally only one dwelling”.
- Building on this side of the village should be discouraged so an Open Space is kept along the border between the Parish and Swindon Borough Council, to stop coalescence of the two.
Out of the council and residents’ original objections, only one is referred to as a grounds for refusal in the planning officer’s decision letter, that the site is not infill.
Wiltshire Council, the planning authority, were bound to determine the application in accordance with National and Local Planning Policies. It based its refusal on more narrow grounds than the wide spectrum of residents’ concerns, maintaining that the proposal was contrary to a number of its Core Policies. In particular, under Core Policy 2, it maintained that development in small villages, like Lydiard Millicent, should be limited to within the existing built area.
In reaching their decision, the planning officer at Wiltshire Council also took the view that the site was not The term infill is defined in the Core Strategy as the filling of a small gap within the village that is only large enough for not more than a few dwellings, generally only one dwelling.
Perhaps not the tightest of definitions. But then planning terms, which must bear application across a wide range of contexts, rarely are. In any case, the meaning of a few remains open to conjecture. In their appeal statement, Custom Land argue that four houses fall within any objective definition of a few and so should be classed as infill. This would then place their proposed development within Core Policy 2, as one suitable for a small village like Lydiard.
Custom Land also argue that the development should be permitted in any case because it would make a contribution to the area’s housing need. The benefit, they argue, would outweigh any potential harm, which the Core Policies are designed to prevent. The legal and planning arguments are complex. However, where a local authority fails to show a sufficient rolling five-year housing supply, less weight can be attached to its Core Policies which may restrict development. In those cases, it is harder to argue against the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in national planning policy. Elsewhere in the county, and nationally, developers have succeeded at appeal using similar arguments where the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a deliverable five-year housing supply.
Custom Land say that Wiltshire cannot show a five-year housing supply so that the presumption in favour of development should prevail.
In their original decision letter, the planning officer for Wiltshire argued that any housing shortfall was slight. In their view, this means sufficient weight should still attach to its Core Policies, and that the harm in deviating from them would outweigh the potential good.
However, Custom Land think otherwise, and Wiltshire Council’s reply on this point should be interesting.
In May of this year, Wiltshire Council withdrew a number of its objections to an appeal by Beechcroft over proposals to build 70 new homes at the Forty in Cricklade. It acknowledged that it was then unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply. Critics argue that this failure to show an adequate housing supply leaves Wiltshire’s towns and villages vulnerable to inappropriate development, contrary to its own planning policies.
On-street parking and where to put their wheelie bins may be the issues that most concern residents. However, Custom Land’s success or failure, may ultimately depend upon Wiltshire’s ability to show enough homes are being built elsewhere.
Any submissions on Custom Land’s appeal can be made on-line at the planning inspectorate’s website or sent in triplicate to the planning inspector at 2 The Square, Temple Quay House, Bristol, BS1 6PN, quoting reference APP/Y3940/W/3154507.