Development News Part 4 – Judge slams door on beauty spot homes (given permission by Cornwall Unitary Authority)

“This judgment has far-reaching implications for the protection of AONBs in Cornwall and beyond. It means that private ‘need’ alone would not in itself justify developments inside an AONB. It re-asserts the critical importance of the protective umbrella that the AONB offers when it comes to developments.”

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

A farmer’s plan to build a dream home on Cornwall’s coast has been thwarted by a High Court ruling that could help to protect other scenic areas.

Mrs Justice Tipples quashed Cornwall council’s decision to grant Chris Wilton planning permission for the home with 27 windows, up to six bedrooms, three bathrooms, a wraparound balcony and detached double garage.

The Rame Protection Group, which challenged the approval of the home overlooking Whitsand Bay on Rame Head in the Cornwall area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), said the ruling would help to protect other AONBs across the country from similar development.

Wilton, who was chairman of the parish council when permission was granted but lost his seat this month, had argued that he needed to build an “agricultural worker’s dwelling”. The parish council expressed support for his application. Wilton denied being involved in gaining the support of the parish council, which said its decision had been “unbiased”. [Owl emphasis]

County councillors voted seven to six to approve the home despite the AONB officer and the council’s principal planning officer recommending refusal because of the negative impact on the protected landscape.

The group said Rame Head was “valued for its breathtaking scenery and tranquillity” and argued at the High Court that Cornwall council had breached its duty to provide adequate reasons for its decision not to follow officer recommendations. It also argued that the council had failed to consider the extent to which the development accorded with the AONB management plan. Mrs Justice Tipples said in her ruling: “This is a case where the defects in reasons go to the heart of the justification for permission and undermine its validity.”

She said that a planning policy that allowed development when there was “essential need” was insufficient to justify granting permission for building in an AONB. She added: “One is completely in the dark as to why the [planning] committee thought the social and economic benefits of the proposed development outweighed the landscape harm. No reasons at all are provided.”

The Rame Protection Group said: “This judgment has far-reaching implications for the protection of AONBs in Cornwall and beyond. It means that private ‘need’ alone would not in itself justify developments inside an AONB. It re-asserts the critical importance of the protective umbrella that the AONB offers when it comes to developments.

“It is the group’s hope that this will help prevent similar attempts to undermine protective legislation throughout the county and beyond.”

Cornwall council said it would review the judgment and consider its options.

Development News 3 – Development Row in South Hams

Kingsbridge development row: Council seeks court hearing

(Would this happen in EDDC? – Owl)

A council is taking a developer to court over claims it has breached a notice ordering site work to stop.

South Hams District Council in Devon claims work started “before it was allowed to” in Kingsbridge.

Police have been called to the site at Lock’s Hill as tensions between local residents and the developer have risen.

Housing developers Blakesley Estates said the stop notice was “redundant” because the work being done did “not represent” a start to construction.

Planning permission for 32 homes at Lock’s Hill was granted by South Hams District Council (SHDC) in December 2020.

The notice issued by SHDC on 14 May said “pre-commencement conditions include the requirement of a scheme for the protection of retained trees”.

Judy Pearce, leader of SHDC, said: “The temporary stop notice was issued because the developer had started work before it was allowed to do so under the planning permission.

“It was also the case that the works that it had carried out were causing significant environmental damage.”

Ms Pearce said the council was gathering evidence to “prosecute the developer and all those not complying with the notice”.

Development site

Blakesley Estates says it had advised the council trial pits and fencing work would be happening

Blakesley Estates said it had previously made SHDC aware of preliminary works that would be carried out that required temporary fencing.

In a statement the developer said the fencing had been vandalised and it was working to make the area safe “before this cessation can commence”.

The statement said: “Where building operations are stopped, allowance should be made for any work necessary to make the site safe.”

The developers also claimed some of their staff had been threatened.

The statement said: “Terms such as ‘ecocide’ and our lack of regard for the environment is a narrative being perpetuated in order to generate angst in the local community by those who wish work would not commence on the site.”

Stop notice

The council issued a temporary stop notice for 28 days

Dan Sathers who founded the Save Lock’s Hill group said he was feeling “emotional” seeing the hill being dug up.

“During lockdown people rediscovered it again…it became so important during a very difficult time.”

He told the BBC the site was full of birdsong, bats and slow worms and is calling for ecological surveys to be done again.

Lesley Hurrell who lives nearby said: “We never thought this would happen.”

She said she hoped action against the developers “will make them understand they cannot ride roughshod over us all”.

In a statement Kingsbridge Police said they were “very aware of the community feeling” but it was a civil matter and would not be dealt with by police.

A spokesman said officers attended the scene to gather evidence and “prevent any breach of the peace”.

Development News Part 2 – They do things differently in Bolton

Five £1m luxury mansions to be demolished after long-running planning dispute

Ellen Manning 

Five million pound mansions will have to be demolished after a lengthy planning wrangle. (SWNS)

Five luxury mansions worth over £1m each have been ordered to be demolished following a long-running planning row about their size and location.

The six-bedroomed properties built in the West Pennine moors, Great Manchester were found to have been built up to a third bigger and in different locations than they were given permission for, a planning inquiry heard.

Owners had appealed against an order to demolish the houses but their claims were rejected and a planning inspector has now given them 12 months to demolish the structures and return the site to its previous state.

Four of the properties have been built up to a third bigger than planning permission allowed. (SWNS)

Building work on the development started in 2014 when planning permission was granted for the conversion of a former farmhouse and four new homes around a central courtyard near Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Work was put on hold after a complaint was filed in October 2016 and Bolton Council found the houses were not being built in line with planning permission.

The inquiry heard that found of the plots were up to a third bigger than were allowed and some were also in different places than the permission allowed.

The local authority first issued an enforcement notice to developers Sparkle Developments to tear down the houses in 2018.

Developers had appealed against the order to demolish the properties. (SWNS)

They appealed, saying the order to demolish the homes was excessive and too harsh to remedy any breach in planning regulations.

But their appeals were dismissed this week, with planning bosses ordering that the houses be demolished.

The owners now have 12 months to demolish the properties – extended from six months due to the “hardship” that the decision will bring to them.

At the inquiry, Bolton Council argued that the location of the houses represented a “significant departure away from the clear design intentions of the 2014 scheme” and that harm had been caused to green belt land.

The council’s barrister Ian Ponter said: “The appeal schemes generate a very substantial loss of openness.

“The character of the area is scattered farms, individual rural houses and groups of houses clustered into small villages located below the uplands.

“The original plans were expressly designed to be compatible with that settlement pattern.

“They were sensitively sited in a hamlet form of development.”

Development News Part 1 – Profit before planet

Profit before planet – developers duck opportunity to reduce carbon footprint

Councils serving the South West Exeter area have been forced to shelve an innovative district heating system designed to cut carbon emissions and reduce heating costs for future residents because most developers are unwilling to absorb any of the additional costs.

Although house prices have risen by £25,000 per plot in Teignbridge over the past year, the majority of housebuilders involved in the proposed development to the South West of Exeter were not prepared to contemplate an additional £2,000 a plot in potential development costs, despite the scheme benefits of a 70% cut in carbon emissions compared with natural gas fired boilers.

Announced earlier this year, the carbon cutting heating system which would have used heat already being generated from waste, was supported by a consortium including Teignbridge District Council, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council. Due to the benefits of tackling climate change, the £23 million project would have been backed by the three councils with up to £7.3 million capital investment funding – the equivalent to £3,000 a plot.

In addition, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) offered an additional £9 million through a mixture of loans and grants to support the scheme.

The scheme for 2,500 new homes, shops, community facilities and a new school campus near Exminster would have taken heat from the nearby Viridor Exeter Energy Recovery Facility at Marsh Barton and was supported by BEIS.

Annual carbon savings of 2,500 tonnes would have been secured by the scheme as well as lower energy costs for those who bought the new homes. The scheme was in line with the Government’s commitment to ending the use of fossil fuel heating systems.

In addition to the £7.3m contribution, Teignbridge was prepared to make a £50,000 advance payment for preliminary infrastructure.

Although smaller developers such as locally based Cavanna Homes demonstrated its green credentials by being prepared to support the scheme, the lack of sufficient housebuilder support means that the development, which has historic planning permission, is likely to go ahead with less energy efficient heating systems.

Teignbridge will continue to apply its approved carbon reduction policies and will need to approve plans prepared by the developers but the resulting emissions savings will not come close to the benefits of the district heating network.

Teignbridge Council leader and local County Councillor, Cllr Alan Connett said he was deeply disappointed that an impasse had been reached. “It seems to me that the developers are out of step with the public mood which understands the importance of doing everything we can to tackle climate change. Their actions do not seem to reflect the commitments in their annual reports to deliver low carbon developments.

“Sadly it seems that despite huge increases in returns over the past year due to the housing boom, many developers have taken a short sighted view, preferring to maximise profit before cutting carbon emissions and protecting the planet for future generations.

“We would have invested £3,000 a plot to achieve this fantastic carbon cutting scheme but the developers will not meet us even part way. Their decision makes it worse for the climate and future residents will also likely face higher heating bills as a result of this decision.”

Cllr Connett praised the organisations who had been involved in the project for their support of a common cause of providing high quality housing with low carbon, efficient heating.

Cllr John Hart, Leader Elect of Devon County Council, which is responsible for the Energy Recovery Facility site, said: “It is very disappointing that this scheme, to include the district heating system, is not going ahead because it would so clearly help address the Devon climate emergency. I am extremely keen to make use of the surplus heat from the waste to energy plant, and hope to see it being used in future housing projects.”