Essex councillors defy officers' NPPF warnings

Councillors in Essex ignored officers' advice and refused three major applications, which would deliver more than 600 homes, despite their authority lacking an up-to-date local plan and being unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply.

Clacton: homes refused against officers' advice (Picture credit: Martin Pettit)
Clacton: homes refused against officers' advice (Picture credit: Martin Pettit)

In a five-hour session last night, Tendring District Council's planning committee considered applications relating to more than 1,000 new homes, all but 60 of which were recommended for approval.

Rejected schemes that had the support of officers included 237 new homes on the site of a caravan park in Walton-on-the-Naze, up to 240 homes on a "green gap" site at Rush Green Road, in Clacton, and a mixed-use scheme including 150 homes in the village of Great Bentley.

In all cases, Tendring planning officers said that the district’s lack of a local plan and ability to demonstrate a supply of land for new homes meant that the National Planning Policy Framework’s (NPPF’s) presumption in favour of sustainable development entailed approval of the scheme.

In their report on the Great Bentley application, officers warned that a policy in Tendring’s out-of-date 2007 local plan calling for development to be concentrated in urban areas and in development boundaries was not a solid basis for rejection. "This view has also been supported by the Planning Inspectorate in a number of recent appeal decisions for similar outline schemes," they said.

Planning committee members approved hybrid plans for a mixed-use development in Harwich featuring shops, 297 homes, warehousing and start-up space, a cinema, cafés and restaurants. The approval was an administrative move, extending the time period for the agreement of conditions.

Plans for 60 homes on land at Alresford were refused in line with officers’ recommendations that the scheme was unsustainable.

After the meeting, committee chair John White said Tendring was being deluged with speculative housing applications because of its vulnerability to the NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development.

"Last night we had 1,156 dwelling applications," he said. "The previous month it was 450."

Tendring published a Local Plan Proposed Submission draft in 2012, but the plan has yet to be submitted to the communities secretary for examination.

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