How we did it: Winning local support for new homes

Forging strong community relationships proved key to winning local approval for housing in a Hampshire village. Jim Dunton reports.

Supportive approach on village homes: Linden Homes senior land manager Sharon Eckford, WYG senior planner Jacob Goodenough, WYG director Martin Hawthorne and Broughton Parish Council vice-chairman Graham Cowley
Supportive approach on village homes: Linden Homes senior land manager Sharon Eckford, WYG senior planner Jacob Goodenough, WYG director Martin Hawthorne and Broughton Parish Council vice-chairman Graham Cowley

Project: Village extension in Broughton, Hampshire

Organisations involved: Linden Homes, WYG, Broughton Parish Council, Test Valley Borough Council, ESHA Architects, landowners the Hinwood family

In October 2015, consultancy WYG obtained full planning permission for a Linden Homes development of 32 new homes on the edge of the Hampshire village of Broughton.

The application, which proposed the development of 2.7 hectares of farmland just outside Broughton’s settlement boundary, is thought to be the first to get past Test Valley Borough Council’s stringent policy requirements for rural developments. It also had to overcome opposition from a local campaign group and more than 200 letters calling for its refusal.

However, the scheme did have the backing of Broughton Parish Council, a significant portion of the village’s residents and borough council planning officers. District officers considered it compliant with the rigorous requirements of local plan policy ESN06, which only permits mixed tenure residential schemes in the countryside if certain conditions - such as meeting local affordable housing need - are fulfilled.

Twelve of the new homes, representing 40 per cent of the total, are affordable. The scheme also includes additional car parking for a neighbouring GP’s surgery and school, a multi-use games area and new community open space.

WYG became involved in the project when it promoted the site as a sustainable location for meeting affordable housing need identified in the 2010 Broughton Parish Plan, a community-made, non-statutory document. After the site was selected as the parish council’s preferred option for new housing following a consultation exercise in 2014, WYG started work with Linden Homes on detailed plans.

WYG participated in early consultation work and then began working even more closely with villagers and the parish council, organising a community design workshop that brought residents together with the project architect, landscape architect and borough council officers to feed into the proposals. It held informal meetings with local stakeholders and hosted a further design session with the parish council.

WYG director Martin Hawthorne says that the result of this work was a scheme that was "completely changed" by the community. The number of homes proposed increased from 28 to 32, with a shift from larger family homes to smaller ones, as well as the introduction of four non-traditional bungalows to meet demand from current villagers keen to "downsize". Proposals for a public tennis court were replaced with the games area and paths for the open space were amended.

Jacob Goodenough, senior planner on the scheme, says that this work allowed the proposal to garner a high level of community backing: "In the end, 91 people wrote letters to the borough council in support of the application. To have people bothering to do that is a strong indication of positive sentiment."

Demonstrating compliance with Test Valley’s ESN06 policy on affordable provision was crucial to securing planning permission. WYG’s Hawthorne says that this had never been done before. "Lots of people had tried, but none had succeeded," he says. "It was hard work to demonstrate that we met the criteria: saying that new homes would lead to sustainability for the village was not going to be enough."

The policy allows development in or on the edge of villages only if there is a demonstrable need to "maintain and enhance the sustainability of the community". It requires evidence that existing facilities will be sustained or new ones provided, and that affordable housing needs will be met.

Hawthorne says that WYG worked closely with Test Valley’s housing officer to help ensure that the Broughton scheme contained all the necessary elements. As required by the policy, it then encouraged input from members of the community, which it used to demonstrate how the scheme would improve the sustainability of the village.

"We had detailed letters from the person who ran the village shop, outlining the impact of the new homes on his business," Hawthorne says. "We had letters of support from the head teacher of the village school and the GP’s practice. We also talked to clubs in the village, such as the local football team, which were desperate for new members." WYG’s submission also included input from the landlady of one of the village’s two pubs.

Objectors challenged the sustainability arguments, saying that the development was not needed and did not meet policy ESN06. Just over 200 wrote letters of opposition. However, planning officers were satisfied with the evidence provided, as were members of the council’s southern area planning committee, which gave the scheme the green light.

In June, the project won the Stakeholder Engagement of the Year Award at this year’s Planning Awards. Work began on site this summer.

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