Five secretary of state decisions announced before pre-election purdah restrictions

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick issued five decision letters over three working days [Thur 31 Oct - Mon 4 Nov] just before the start of pre-election purdah restrictions, allowing a school expansion but refusing a total of almost 1,500 homes. Below, we summarise the decisions.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pic: Getty)
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pic: Getty)

1. APPROVED IN LINE WITH INSPECTOR’S RECOMMENDATION. SCHOOL EXPANSION, HARROW, LONDON

On Thursday 31 October, Jenrick overturned a direction by London mayor Sadiq Khan and approved new sports and science facilities at Harrow School in north London, much of which would be on metropolitan open land. The application by the school proposes the demolition of existing sports facilities and other buildings and the construction of a 7,269 square metre, three-storey sports building, a 3,675 square metre science building, plus new car parking and landscape changes. Much of the development site, some 4,600 square metres, would be built on designated metropolitan open land (MOL), which has the same protected status in planning policy as green belt. The London Borough of Harrow originally approved the plans in January last year, but reversed the decision the next month following a direction from Khan to refuse them. However, Jenrick approved the application in line with the recommendation of a planning inspector, who found that the necessary "very special circumstances" do apply. Jenrick concluded that the benefits of the proposals would outweigh adverse impacts on the MOL, as well as a conflict with the council's heritage policies.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL DECISION LETTER HERE. 

2. REFUSED IN LINE WITH INSPECTOR’S RECOMMENDATION. 75-HOME DEVELOPMENT, NUNEATON, WARWICKSHIRE

Housebuilder Bellway Homes West Midlands had appealed against the decision of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council in May 2018 to refuse its application which would have seen the homes built on 2.7-hectares of former agricultural land at Greendale Road on the eastern edge of Nuneaton. The secretary of state’s decision letter noted that, although the 75 homes would be in addition to the number of homes proposed for the site during consultation into the local plan, the extra 75 homes "would not result in development that would be out of scale with the overall allocation or be inconsistent with [local planning policy] and would not overheat the local housing market". However, the minister also agreed with the inspector that the appellant's unilateral undertaking (UU), the legal document that commits an applicant to making planning gain payments upon implementation of the development, was "flawed". The inspector’s report said said that the UU did not properly identify the site, as required by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. "As it does not meet all the formal requirements of UUs, it does not have the status of a planning obligation and therefore I consider that no weight should be attached to it," the inspector said. The minister agreed and refused the appeal. 

DOWNLOAD THE FULL DECISION LETTER HERE. 

3. REFUSED AGAINST INSPECTOR’S RECOMMENDATION TO APPROVE. 184-HOME DEVELOPMENT, WINSFORD, CHESHIRE

Applicant Darnhall Estate has been battling for the right to develop the 6.5-hectare site off Darnhall School Lane in Winsford since 2013. It has been subject to three public inquiries and was refused by former communities secretary Greg Clark in 2016. The scheme would provide a local planning policy-compliant 40 per cent affordable housing, ten per cent of the homes would be self build, with the remaining 50 per cent of the homes to be built by small- and medium-sized house builders. But, issuing the second refusal of the scheme by a secretary of state against an inspector’s recommendation, Jenrick concluded that it would be a "clear breach" of up-to-date policies in Vale Royal Borough Council’s new local plan in relation to development boundaries. The minister also gave the scheme’s conflict with an adopted neighbourhood plan "significant weight", while the inspector had attached only "moderate weight" to it. 

DOWNLOAD THE FULL DECISION LETTER HERE. 

4. REFUSED IN LINE WITH INSPECTOR’S RECOMMENDATION: 700-HOME DEVELOPMENT, FLEET, HAMPSHIRE

Jenrick refused housebuilder Wates Developments’ appeal for a 700-home development in Hampshire after concluding that "protective" heritage policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) "disapplied" the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Jenrick’s letter said that, in the light of the council’s "healthy" 9.2-year housing land supply position, "and the fact that there is no need to deliver an additional 700 houses in this location at this time … the public benefits of the proposals … do not outweigh this heritage harm". The minister added that "the heritage test in paragraph 196 of the framework is therefore not favourable to the proposal." 

DOWNLOAD THE FULL DECISION LETTER HERE. 

5. REFUSED AGAINST INSPECTOR’S RECOMMENDATION TO APPROVE: 500-HOME DEVELOPMENT, BURLEY-IN-WHARFEDALE, WEST YORKSHIRE

Developer CEG Land Promotions proposed to build up to 500 homes plus an education facility on 25.6 hectares of farmland to the west of the village of Burley-in-Wharfedale. Following a planning inquiry, inspector David Wildsmith recommended approval, but Jenrick decided to refuse the application. A decision letter said that Jenrick had concluded that the benefits of the scheme "do not outweigh the harm to the green belt by reason of inappropriateness and the further harm arising from conflict with three of the five purposes of the green belt". The letter said that the proposal would conflict with the purposes of the green belt in the National Planning Policy Framework because it would merge the built edge of Burley-in-Wharfedale with another nearby development. It also said the proposal would lead to encroachment into the countryside, and would result in the sprawl of the Burley-in-Wharfedale built up area, both of which would conflict with green belt purposes as set out in the framework. 

DOWNLOAD THE FULL DECISION LETTER HERE. 


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