Brokenshire overrules inspector to block 200 Milton Keynes homes over low density concerns

The housing secretary has rejected an appeal seeking planning permission for 203 homes in Milton Keynes, against an inspector's recommendation for approval, citing concerns about the low density of the proposals.

An artist's impression of the plans for Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes
An artist's impression of the plans for Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes

Developer Wavendon Properties sought outline permission in July 2016 for a development in Woburn Sands comprising the homes, a doctor's surgery, open space, and landscaping.

The applicant appealed after Milton Keynes Council refused permission in December 2016 and the appeal was recovered by the secretary of state in October 2017.

A planning inspector recommended that the appeal be allowed and permission be granted.

However, according to a decision letter issued yesterday, the housing secretary disagreed and has ruled against the proposals.

James Brokenshire advised that the proposed scheme "conflicts with current and emerging policy" and concluded that "there are no material considerations" in favour of approval.

The inspector’s report notes that a low density approach to development had been endorsed in pre-application discussions with council officers and at a public consultation event held in 2016.

However, Brokenshire referred to policies in the 2005 Milton Keynes local plan which seek an average net density of 35 dwellings per hectare, more than twice the density of the 16 dwellings per hectare proposed.

The housing secretary also cited the fact that the proposed site has not been allocated in the council's emerging local plan, which was submitted for examination in March this year.

Brokenshire noted the scheme’s provision of housing, including 30 per cent affordable units, and economic benefits generated by the development.

However, the low density of the proposal was attributed "significant weight" and the location in unallocated open countryside was given moderate weight.

Overall, "there are no material considerations which indicate the proposal should be determined other than in accordance with the development plan," he said.

The housing secretary’s decision is the second this week to be made against a planning inspector’s advice.

On 3 December, Brokenshire ruled against plans for a 17-storey tower in Croydon on design grounds.

In July, he overruled an inspector to refuse plans for 120 homes in South Oxfordshire after giving "very significant weight" to a recently-made neighbourhood plan.

The following month, he approved plans for 800 homes in Kent, despite an inspector's concerns about lack of affordable housing and the scheme's greenfield location.

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