Clark approves Northamptonshire homes despite conflict with neighbourhood plan

Communities secretary Greg Clark has approved 39 homes on a site not allocated for development in a Northamptonshire village's neighbourhood plan on the same day as residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of the document in a local referendum.

Earls Barton (picture by Humphrey Bolton, Geograph)
Earls Barton (picture by Humphrey Bolton, Geograph)

In a decision issued last week, Clark allowed appellant Bowbridge Land’s appeal against the decision of Wellingborough Council to refuse its application for 39 homes on an agricultural site on the edge of Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, ruling that a five-year housing land supply shortfall should trump policies in an emerging neighbourhood plan.

In allowing the appeal, Clark agreed with the conclusions of inspector Wenda Fabian, who recommended that the appeal be allowed and planning permission granted, subject to conditions.

Clark’s decision letter said that the Earls Barton Neighbourhood Plan is "an important material consideration in this case".

The plan was approved in a referendum held on 29 October - the same day that Clark’s decision letter was issued - with 92.9 per cent voting in favour on a turnout of 28 per cent.

Clark’s decision letter said that the secretary of state agreed with the conclusions of the inspector that the proposal "conflicts with the emerging neighbourhood plan". The decision letter explained that the appeal site is "outside the limits for development" set in the emerging plan and is "not allocated for development", adding that the size and type of proposal does not comply with one of the plan’s policies.

Clark’s decision note said that the conflict with the emerging neighbourhood plan should be given "significant weight … in view of the very advanced stage that the plan has reached and the evident high degree of local support for it".

However, the letter said that the plan is "not yet made and therefore does not carry full statutory weight". It added that, as there is not a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites, "the relevant policies for the supply of housing in the emerging neighbourhood plan, including the proposed village development boundary, should not be considered up to date".

The note said that the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that the scale of the proposed development "is sufficiently small not to be premature in terms of jeopardising future development" within the neighbourhood plan.

In a statement today, the Department for Communities and Local Government said that so far more than 100 areas have voted yes in neighbourhood planning referendums. The statement said that "latest figures show that plans for housebuilding are more than 10 per cent higher in the first areas with a neighbourhood plan as opposed to only the council’s local plan".

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