Overturned decision 'calls into question' Neighbourhood Plan

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A decision to turn down planning permission for a housing development in Newick has been overturned following an appeal.

The application, to build up to 50 houses at Mitchelswood Farm in Allington Road, was originally turned down by planners at Lewes District Council in February 2015 due to concerns it did not fit with the Newick Neighbourhood Plan (NNP). Original proposals were for 63 houses but this was revised down to 50 during the appeal.

The Neighbourhood Plan, which was supported by 90 per cent of voters at a referendum in February 2015, is intended to act as a document which sets out where residents would – and would not – like development to take place in the village and surrounding area.

However after a public inquiry the local government secretary Sajid Jarvid overturned the decision after a planning inspector said the neighbourhood plan could not be used to refuse ‘suitable applications’.

The decision has been criticised by Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, who said it 'seriously calls into question the validity of Local and Neighbourhood Plans.'

Ms Caulfield said: “The decision reached by the Secretary of State on this matter flies in the face of this Governments commitment to local decision making.”

“During the formation of a neighbourhood plan, local communities are asked to select areas of land that they feel are suitable for development. This was adhered to within Newick’s Plan, and the Mitchelswood Site – to which this decision relates - was not felt to be appropriate and as a result was not included within that Plan.”

“I am therefore hugely disappointed with the Secretary of State’s decision, which I feel seriously calls into question the validity of Local & Neighbourhood Plans right across the UK. I will not stand by and let our green spaces be concreted over especially when local communities have identified sites for housing without destroying our greenfields.”

In his report to Mr Jarvid, the planning inspector said the plan only laid out sites for the minimum number of required houses and does not limit housing elsewhere.

He wrote: “There is no policy in the NNP seeking to impose a cap on development. To impose a cap retrospectively would be wrong. If such a policy was intended – one which seeks to prevent development beyond the settlement boundary other than on allocated sites – then it needed to be clear and explicit in the submission version of the NPP.”

During the appeal process, Newick Parish Council disagreed with this assessment, saying development of the site would ‘clearly conflict’ with the plan and be ‘a severe disservice’ to residents.

Writing to planning inspector on behalf of the parish council last year, chairman Christopher Armitage said: “Neighbourhood planning is a right for communities introduced through the Localism Act 2011. It allows communities to shape development in their areas through the production of Neighbourhood Development Plans

“To allow this appeal would be going against the spirit of The Localism Act 2011 and would erode confidence in the principles of local democracy. It would be a mockery of all that the Act sought to achieve if this appeal were successful.”

In response to the decision a spokesperson for Lewes District Council said: “[The council] is obviously disappointed with the decision and is currently considering future options that may be available.”

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