Proposals for a housing development in Plumpton have been given the go ahead by Lewes planners despite objectors arguing the decision conflicts with the village’s neighbourhood plan.
On Wednesday (April 24), Lewes District Council’s planning committee approved an outline application to build up to 20 homes on a greenfield site off Riddens Lane in Plumpton.
The site had originally been allocated for 16 houses within the Plumpton Neighbourhood Plan – a document intended to guide development within the village, which was adopted after a local referendum last year.
While the committee heard the housing numbers within the neighbourhood plan could not be regarded as a ‘cap’ on development, objectors said the increased number of homes went against what residents had voted for.
Speaking on behalf of Plumpton Parish Council Nick Beaumont said: “I find myself in this chamber again trying to defend the Plumpton Parish Neighbourhood Plan.
“The application site here is included in the neighbourhood plan and is included for 16 units not 20. That is a 25 per cent increase, according to my mathematics.
“Sixteen units for the site was the policy on which people voted for at the referendum last March and the plan was made in this chamber last May.
“Our neighbourhood plan in total allows for a total of 68 homes, well in excess of the 50 we were asked to find.
“We did this, rather naively perhaps, in good faith in the hope Lewes District Council would give us some protection against exactly this kind of speculative increase.”
These concerns were shared by committee member Tony Rowell (Green. – Ouse Valley and Ringmer) and Vic Ient (Ind. – Kingston).
Cllr Rowell said: “I think we should give significant weight to the neighbourhood plan.
“What is the point of the neighbourhood plan and people going through a whole democratic process if it can just be ignored by the planning committee or planning authority?
“It seems to be quite absurd to me. It is sort of an abrogation of responsibility towards a democratic process.
“I don’t see how we can go ahead with this and give any sort of respect to the people who have gone through this neighbourhood plan.”
However other committee members did not share these views, arguing that planning policy does not allow for the development of sites to be capped to a certain number.
This argument was also raised by Mark Best, a spokesman for the developer who said they had taken legal advice on this point.
Tom Jones (Con. – Ditchling and Westmeston) said: “Within Lewes District neighbourhood plans have to be in conformity with the Lewes District Local Plan.
“The Lewes district plan clearly states that all our figures are a minimum, not a maximum.
“If it says 16 in the neighbourhood plan and in the local plan, then it is 16 minimum. You should bear that in mind for the whole of Lewes district.”
Cllr Jones, however, asked for reassurance from officers about access to the site as number of concerns were also raised about vehicles travelling down Riddens Lane.
Objectors had said the access road would be inadequate and unsafe, requiring a landowner to take responsibility for its maintenance.
These issues would be exacerbated by the increased number of residents in a 20 home scheme, objectors said.
However these concerns were not shared by East Sussex Highways, which offered no objection to the scheme as long as road improvements were carried out by the developer.
The committee also heard from officers that the site layout would be little different for a 16 home scheme or a 20 home scheme, meaning visual impact would not be strong grounds for objection.
Following further discussion the committee narrowly approved the outline application, with three votes in favour, one against and two abstentions.
A motion to refuse the application on the grounds of a conflict with the neighbourhood plan had been defeated earlier in the meeting.
As an outline application, further details of the proposals will need to be approved in a reserved matters application before building work begins.