Sunley Homes brought forward some plans in December 2013 to develop two fields off Blendworth Lane in Blendworth. This was a difficult one to call as the development would have brought some accommodation for disabled servicemen and women, and also rebuilt Napier Hall. This new building was to house the Parish Council and also create new hall space replacing the tired and asbestos riddled building. In doing so it would reduce costs for the community by eliminating rent on the current offices and also the financial burden of rebuilding Napier Hall at some point. Remember, HPC is our community asset. On the down side it would add traffic along the narrow Blendworth Lane, significantly affect the character of the village and also set a dangerous precedence of building on a field in the conservation area.
The plans went to a planning committee in October with a recommendation for Approval, but the planning committee overturned the decision and recommended refusal. EHDC had just approved the draft allocation plan at Cabinet, and this SHLAA site was not in the plan, so this gave the balance of opposition that was needed to refuse. A difficult decision but the right one.
Sunley Homes have submitted an appeal in the last few weeks which is not unusual, but the approach they have taken is of concern and worth setting out in this blog, but I’ll warn you now, it is a bit technical…
Typically a planning appeal is a ‘second bite at the cherry’ with the identical plans being submitted to a planning inspector from the Planning Inspectorate who will then review the Districts local plan, the submission and make a decision as to whether the case has been decided correctly under planning law. EHDC have a near 90% success rate at defending appeals so the expectation based on track record and merit is that this will not be successful, especially as the allocation plan has been out to consultation, and a five year land supply has been achieved since the application was refused.
This appeal is interesting though as Sunley have submitted documents using something called ‘The Wheatcroft Principle’. This allows a planning inspector to consider the original scheme and another slightly different scheme providing it does not differ to greatly from the original one. In the statement of common ground (a statement that cuts through the issues and identifies items that the planning authority and applicant agree with) Sunley propose not just one, but two alternative schemes. These significantly reduce the scheme size and one version omits building on the conservation field altogether which, if in the original application, may have been considered more suitable. To better explain this, and also note why EHDC are rejecting this position Sunley have as ‘not common ground’, one of our senior planning officers, Jon Holmes, has provided some useful clarity on this unusual and complicated approach.
“The Statement of Common Ground is due in early March and is only in draft form having been prepared by the appellant, but it will not be common ground in the final version sent to the Inspector that we should consider these alternative schemes. Sunley Estates and their agent, Ian Ellis, have appealed the refusal of 40 dwellings but have presented in their appeal submission alternative schemes for 30 and 35 units. In so doing they are currently seeking consultation responses from the statutory consultees on these alternative schemes and will be (if not already) seeking comments from third parties as well (ie those we received representations from during the consultation on the original application). They believe this can be done under the ‘Wheatcroft’ principle. Our view is that the changes are too materially different to be considered under this provision which allows, in exceptional circumstances, minor alterations to schemes to be put before an Inspector. I have alerted them to our position on this but they are nevertheless pressing ahead with their argument to the Inspectorate.
This will be confusing for the Parish Council/public etc and we will doubtless get queries about it. Alternative schemes should be submitted as revised planning applications to us and we will not be commenting on the revised proposals but will naturally be defending the refusal decision made my Members. I think it highly unlikely that other appellants would follow this avenue, precisely because it is not generally accepted practice. We will have to see whether the Inspectorate accept these alternatives, but I would reiterate that it will not be in the final version of the Statement of Common Ground.
For information, the alternative schemes pull dwellings away from the listed building to address the key issue in the decision notice of impact on the setting of the listed Cadlington House. If, in the event the Inspector accepts that these alternatives can be considered, we will have to react accordingly but it will also be necessary for us to comment on the appropriateness of accepting such amendments (see para 16 of the link attached).
I hope this helps – clearly it is muddying matters and this is why appeals are based on the details as determined by the planning authority and why applicants are encouraged to submit alternative schemes as new planning applications. The link to the Inspectorate’s practice note may assist you and it confirms to us why alternative schemes should not be accepted in this case and explains (paras 12 and 13) why the appellant rather than the Council is undertaking the consultation.” Inspectorate’s practice note
Here is the link to the original article on HORNDEANMATTERS about the application and you can view the applea documents on the planning portal on this link: https://horndeanmatters.com/2013/12/10/blendworth-lane-sunley-plans/