Council ordered to pay costs after losing Crowborough planning appeal

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A Planning Inspector has granted permission to build 26 homes on land east of Hadlow Down Road following an appeal.

The scheme had been considered by Wealden District Council’s Planning Committee North in October last year, where it was refused on the grounds it fell outside of the town’s development boundary and would have a visual impact on the area.

The Councillors said that while the development would provide much needed new homes that the Council has an obligation to support, the disadvantages of the scheme outweighed the benefits.

This view was not shared by the Planning Inspector, however, who said that the Council’s lack of a five-year supply of housing land meant that the conflict with the development boundary should be given reduced weight. She said:

The scheme would increase the supply and choice of housing providing a mix of housing sizes and types, including affordable housing.

There is no evidence the proposal would give rise to unacceptable pressure on local services and facilities. However, it would bring with it proportional demands on infrastructure which would be met through CIL payments.

Rachael Pipkin, Planning Inspector

CIL – Community Infrastructure Levy – payments is a charge that local authorities can set on new development in order to raise funds to help fund the infrastructure, facilities and services – such as schools or transport improvements – needed to support new homes and businesses.

She also took issue with the visual impact argument, finding that the proposal would cause very limited harm to the setting of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The Inspector concluded the Council had failed to provide “substantive evidence” of the visual impact. As a result of this, she concluded the Council’s decision was ‘unreasonable’ and ordered it to pay the developer’s appeal costs.

Drawing the above together, I find that the council’s decision is based on vague and generalised assertions about the proposal’s impact which are unsupported by objective analysis.

It has failed to produce evidence to substantiate its reasons for refusal and has not determined similar cases in a consistent manner.

I have allowed the appeal. In the light of the Council’s decision and evidence submitted in respect of the appeal, the Council has prevented and delayed development which should clearly be permitted, having regard to the development plan, national policy and other material considerations.

In these circumstances, the refusal of planning permission constitutes unreasonable behaviour contrary to the basic guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework and the applicant has been faced with the unnecessary expense of lodging the appeal.

Rachael Pipkin, Planning Inspector

Wealden District Council’s Deputy Leader and Planning and Development Portfolio Holder Councillor Ann Newton said:

This was a controversial case in an area of Crowborough which has already seen significant growth.

Members of Planning Committee North were not persuaded the case should be approved.  Western Road is extremely busy and the site access is very close to the junction with the school.

The land also borders a sensitive part of the AONB.  The inspector has decided there will be no harm to the character of the area and that local roads can accommodate more development. 

Even with the appeal being allowed, in my mind it was right to refuse the application.  We are not anti-development but this site was regarded as a step too far.  I am disappointed to see appeal costs have been awarded against the Council.  That does seem unfair in the circumstances.

As a result of the Planning Inspector’s decision, the developer Millwood Designer Homes now has planning permission to build out the scheme, which is to be made up of houses and two apartment blocks arranged around a cul-de-sac accessed from Hadlow Down Road via Tubwell Lane.

See the original article about the planning application and appeal.

The original article was amended on Wednesday 18th as soon as the Council responded to the reporter’s request for an official response to the appeal decision.

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