Inspector blocks 370 Gloucestershire homes over heritage impacts

Permission for 370 homes in the open countryside near Thornbury in Gloucestershire has been refused by an inspector who ruled that likely harm to nearby listed buildings put the development at odds with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

An artist's impression of plans for 370 homes near Thornbury. Image: Bovis Homes
An artist's impression of plans for 370 homes near Thornbury. Image: Bovis Homes

Housebuilder Bovis Homes submitted outline plans to South Gloucestershire Council in April 2017 for the demolition of agricultural buildings and the development of the homes plus a 460 square metre community facility, public open space and associated infrastructure.

The developer subsequently lodged an appeal against non-determination by the local authority.

South Gloucestershire Council has since indicated to planning inspector George Baird that the application would have been refused.

Reasons included conflict with the council’s core strategy, the scheme’s potential to undermine growth proposed by the draft West of England joint spatial plan, impact on heritage assets, landscape character and visual amenity, and the walking distance to local facilities.

Bovis argued that the NPPF’s ‘tilted balance’ in favour of sustainable development applied because the council’s strategic housing policies were out of date and the NPPF’s policies on protecting heritage assets do not provide a reason for refusal.

However, the inspector advised that if harm to a designated heritage asset outweighs the benefits of an application, the NPPF states that its tilted balance would not be engaged, and that "relevant judgements reiterate that a finding of harm to the setting of a listed building gives rise to a strong presumption against planning permission being granted".

South Gloucestershire Council had raised concerns about impact on the significance of four listed buildings. The inspector found the scheme would result in varying degrees of less than substantial harm to these buildings and "would materially and significantly alter the relationship of these buildings" with the surrounding area.

The inspector acknowledged the proposal "would provide public benefits, particularly in the provision of market and affordable housing, to which I attach significant weight".

However, the inspector concluded that, "on balance, the weight that attaches to those benefits does not outweigh the strong presumption against permission being granted and the great weight afforded to the conservation of Morton Grange, Yew Tree Farmhouse, Old Malthouse, Malt Cottage and Manor Farmhouse. Thus, as this scheme fails the Framework paragraph 196 test this disengages the  ... tilted balance.".

Earlier this month, the High Court paved the way for a judicial review of an inspector's decision to refuse plans for the conversion of a Grade I-listed mansion and its grounds into various alternative uses. 

In April, councillors rejected land promoter Gladman Development's plans for 115 homes on a site in Warwickshire after officers advised the proposed scheme would cause harm to Roman archaeological sites.


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