A controversial scheme to build 110 new homes near Bishops Lane north of Ringmer has been approved on appeal.
The application was passed to Secretary of State Greg Clark as it would conflict with the village’s Neighbourhood Plan, recently approved by a village referendum. The appeal relates to LDC’s refusal to grant outline planning permission for the homes. In last week’s decision letter, Greg Clark agreed with the inspector that the appeal should be approved. The letter said a successful referendum was held on the draft Neighbourhood Plan in November and: “The Secretary of State gives it substantial weight even though, until it is formally ‘made’ by the council, it does not form part of the development plan.”
It added that Clark ‘acknowledges the proposal conflicts with the Neighbourhood Plan-making body’s intention for the site in terms of numbers of homes proposed.’ However, it explained the site is allocated for housing in the draft plan. He is satisfied the extra 24 homes proposed ‘do not represent a substantial uplift’ over that plan’s smaller numbers ‘and would not present any greater adverse effect upon the area’s character, appearance, protected species, highway issues or drainage.’
The letter also said Clark agreed with the inspector that ‘there is no evidence to suggest that early delivery of the site would give rise to any substantive harm.’ He accepts ‘the proposed development is so substantial that to grant planning permission would prejudice the neighbourhood plan-making process by predetermining decisions about the scale, location and phasing of new residential development.’
The decision disappointed Ringmer Parish Council. Chair John Kay said: “I understand why the Secretary of State took this view but the decision will delay providing new homes in Ringmer rather than speed it up as he envisaged. The Neighbourhood Plan allocated 86 homes in two phases to Bishops Lane but also other smaller sites that have now progressed to approval or application. We expected these sites to be delivered in 2016 or 2017. They would have given us desperately needed affordable homes quickly. Now there is a risk they will be delayed as builders will not want to compete with a large site like Bishops Lane. The Government wants to speed applications to maximise the new housing flow but this decision risks the opposite effect. Gleesons will sell on the site. Whoever buys it must lodge a reserved matters application and could prefer a new plan or add the site to their land bank causing two or three years’ further delays.”
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