Clark dismisses odour concerns over 54-home Oxfordshire scheme

The communities secretary has dismissed a council's concerns about odour from a nearby dairy farm and approved plans for 54 homes at a site near Banbury in Oxfordshire, despite finding that the council could demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

Dairy farming: council raised concerns about impact on Hook Norton homes
Dairy farming: council raised concerns about impact on Hook Norton homes

Cherwell District Council had refused to grant outline planning permission to developer Gladman for up to 54 homes at the site at Sibford Road, Hook Norton.

According to a planning inspector’s report, among other issues, the council argued that "significant odour and insect nuisance that would arise would prevent the existing farm and the proposed residential development from happily co-existing".

But a decision letter issued this week said that the secretary of state Greg Clark agreed with the inspector’s conclusion that the scheme should be approved.

On the issue of odour, the letter said that Clark found it would be "likely that the future occupiers of the proposed residential development will be subjected to a slight adverse effect as a result of odours generated by the adjacent Redlands Dairy Farm, but there is an absence of empirical evidence which supports the council’s contention that the appeal site is subjected to a level of odours that would be unacceptable to residents".

The letter said that secretary of state took the view that the council could demonstrate a five-year housing land supply consistent with the relevant policies in the council’s recently adopted local plan "and he gives those policies full weight."

However, it added, "notwithstanding the secretary of state’s finding that there is at present at least five years’ housing land supply in Cherwell District, a significant benefit of the proposal is that it will contribute to boosting housing supply, including a 35 per cent proportion of affordable housing, in line with the [local plan]. The secretary of state considers that this factor weighs heavily in favour of the appeal."

The decision letter also said that Clark took the view that it "would be acceptable for Hook Norton to provide a relatively larger share of the 750 dwellings than other villages" listed in a policy in the local plan.

The letter added that Clark found that there was confusion over the wording in a local neighbourhood plan policy which had been adopted since the inquiry closed.

It said that the policy stated "that proposals for up to 20 dwellings may be permitted where this does not result in more than 20 dwellings being built in any location at any time."

The letter said that the examiner who examined the neighbourhood plan concluded that it is not entirely clear what is meant by "no more than 20 dwellings being built in any location at any time".

"Like the examiner, the secretary of state’s understanding is that this policy wording could be taken to mean that there may be locations where more than 20 dwellings would be acceptable over a period of time, but that no more than 20 dwellings should be built in any one discrete phase of development.

"In the secretary of state’s view, development of the whole appeal site would not necessarily conflict with [the neighbourhood plan], providing construction were to proceed incrementally in the form of three or more separate phases, each of no more than 20 dwellings built at say five year intervals. In view of this, the secretary of state considers that the degree of conflict between the proposal and [the neighbourhood plan] is limited and he finds no evidence that any significant material harm would ensue if this", the letter said.

Overall, the letter said that Clark considered that the benefits of the development "would clearly outweigh the harm in terms of the limited conflict with the [neighbourhood plan] and the slight adverse effect on future occupiers as a result of odours generated by the adjacent Redlands Dairy Farm. He therefore concludes that the material circumstances in this case indicate that the appeal should be allowed and outline planning permission granted."


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