Hall and Woodhouse had submitted an application (ref 2/2017/2022) a year ago, and it was only in the last week or so that we were told it would be decided at North Dorset District Council's Planning Committee on Tuesday 29th January - yesterday! On the advice of the consultant who helped with the Neighbourhood Plan, Jo Witherden, we were able to prepare a detailed verbal objection, which is reproduced below. Given the advanced progress of the N Plan, with the referendum next Thursday, 7th February, the Committee decided unanimously to reject the application. This is great news and shows the value of the Neighbourhood Plan and voting positively in the referendum next week.
Introduction: Good morning, I am Malcolm Wilson, the parish clerk in Hazelbury Bryan and I speak on behalf of the parish council. To be blunt, the case officers report recommending approval is seriously flawed , indeed so flawed that our advice is that we have a very good case to seek a judicial review if this application is agreed.
1. The full, up-to-date picture: Much is made of the tilted balance in planning decisions. However for the Cttee to make the correct decision based on the tilted balance then you all need to have the full position, and the officers report is completely silent on many vital issues in relation to the Neighbourhood Plan. Indeed it is immediately striking that there are absolutely no references to any of the Policies in the Plan – there are 23 in total and yet none are referenced for you.
Our objection statement is from February last year. We have not been offered the chance to update this. The first we knew matters had reached this advanced stage was when the notification of this Committee meeting was received on 21st January.
2. The site: In the village context this will be a huge development, almost a self-contained suburb. This proposal would destroy a green lung in the centre of the community. The community’s clearly expressed desire is for brown field site developments and our Plan matches this expectation. This site is a defined Gap between Partway and Pidney and outside the Settlement Boundary of the Plan, which will be a valid Settlement boundary immediately the Plan receives a “yes” vote in the referendum on 7th February. Part 1, section 3, of the Neighbourhood Plan Act 2017 gives it that status even if the Plan is not actually “made” until the next full Council meeting on 19th February.
3. The NPPF and Prematurity: The committee report reflects North Dorset’s Planning Policy team’s comments on the Neighbourhood Plan that were written in May 2018. Mr Ed Gerry, the Planning Policy team leader has confirmed to me that neither he nor his team were asked to update their advice. Surely paragraphs 48 and 49 of the NPPF should now have been taken into account. Having passed its examination and with a referendum in 9 days, it is clear that the plan is at a very advanced stage, there are no unresolved objections and the plan is consistent with national policies. Great weight should be applied to it. The critical point here is that the committee report gives no analysis of any of the relevant Neighbourhood Plan policies, and therefore the committee are not given any advice as to what are relevant policies in the Plan that should be given great weight and whether the application does or does not conflict with these policies. The Neighbourhood Plan Act of 2017 imposes a clear duty on planning authorities to have regard to post-examination neighbourhood development plans.
4. HB Neighbourhood Plan Policies: This application is contrary to, or at odds with, policies HB 5, 7, 9,13 and 15; it will kill development proposed under policies 17, 18 and 21 ; there will be a hugely negative impact on the school as covered in Policy HB14; it is silent on matters covered in Appendix 3. How can you make a decision to approve this application without a full understanding of these policies and what they mean to the community?
5 Housing numbers: The report has confusing statements on housing numbers. It says “the local needs quantity……will not be exceeded by this increase of 35 dwellings, although it would be in addition to the 45 proposed in the Neighbourhood Plan elsewhere”. In fact the housing need established in the Plan, and approved by NDDC Cabinet, is 56 homes, of which there are existing approvals for 30, so the Plan envisages a further 26 homes until 2031. If these 35 are approved then either the sites in the Plan will be scuppered or the new homes will rise to 61, an increase of 135%.
The Planning Policy team also said in its historic advice that the case officer should consider, given the number of opportunistic applications currently being processed, that on spatial grounds that the scale of the growth that would result from these applications being granted planning permission would be inappropriate at Hazelbury Bryan.
6. Precedent: It seems bizarre that the precedent set in two recent planning decisions – 2/2017/2016 and 2/2018/0339 have not been referenced or considered by the case officer. As Mr Justice Lindblom said in the High Court in the Butterworth case of 2015, “Consistency in decision-making is a well -established principle in planning, which has been supported in many decisions of the court”. This Committee refused these applications, one key reason being, and I quote from the Minutes “The proposed development, which would be on a greenfield site outside the settlement boundary of Hazelbury Bryan, would conflict with Policy HB13 (settlement Boundaries and important gaps) and Policy 15 (Meeting housing needs) in the emerging Neighbourhood Plan. The emerging Neighbourhood Plan housing allocations fully meet the identified housing need in Hazelbury Bryan. The development would significantly undermine the plan-making process by predetermining the location of development that is central to the emerging Neighbourhood Plan at its advanced stage, in accordance with Paragraphs 48 and 49 of the NPPF.” – This application is no different, except it is significantly larger.
7. Referendum: Our referendum is set for next Thursday. Can you imagine the communities’ response if this application is approved?
– “why should I bother to vote when North Dorset has decided to completely ignore the Policies in the Plan?”; “I always said it was a waste of time and money”; these are two of the more polite responses I can think of; the local planning conspiracy theorists will have a field day.
What will other communities in North Dorset think – those with Plans will be worried they are worthless; those preparing them or thinking about preparing them might well conclude it’s not worth the effort and give up or not start – is that what NDDC really wants?
8. Conclusion: The parish council respectfully asks that the Committee refuses this application and allows the Neighbourhood Plan to hold sway over opportunistic and speculative development