Planning Inspectorate allows appeal against East Cambs refusal of 77 homes - and awards costs to developer for council's 'unreasonable' behaviour
PUBLISHED: 19:56 28 October 2018 | UPDATED: 19:56 28 October 2018
A costs award against East Cambridgeshire District Council has been made by the Planning Inspectorate after he upheld an appeal for 77 homes to be built at Sutton.
Cullum Parker, the inspector who heard the appeal by Linden Homes against the refusal, said an award of partial costs is allowed.
The planning committee, when they met in July last year, voted 5-4 to refuse the application – there was one abstention.
Mr Parker said: “In considering the four main areas the applicant seeks a partial award of costs; I find that the council did act unreasonably on all matters.
“These are matters which could have been potentially resolved prior to the hearing, and would have negated the need for certain witnesses to attend.
“The unreasonable behaviour of the council meant that the applicant had to bring along specialists to address these matters at the hearing and to provide additional reports/surveys. This resulted in wasted expense for the applicant.
“I therefore conclude that the partial award of costs is justified and should therefore be allowed in relation to the appeal process.”
Linden Homes are now in talks with the council to settle the issue of costs.
He determined that the council fell short of what was required to refuse the application on the mix of houses that were proposed and no updated information was offer other than “a short email from the council’s housing officer relating to preferences rather than need.”
Mr Parker said there were no objections from the council’s own affordable housing team with regard to the housing mix.
When taken as a whole he found the council’s evidence to support its housing mix position in 2018 “without any further substantive evidence was unreasonable in this case”.
In terms of housing density, mix and layout, Linden Homes had proposed 77 homes, 23 of which were affordable units (30 per cent).
The application site currently comprised an open field in agricultural use between the A142 and Sutton; council officers accepted the proposal would alter the character of the area, creating a more urban environment and extending the village of Sutton to the north
But on balance they felt it complied with policies in respect of highway safety and parking provision,
And they told the planning committee the county council had confirmed that the expansion of the primary school would accommodate the current proposal for 77 homes but the development of the wider site would require further consideration
Their arguments of overdevelopment; use of unadopted roads, drainage, unacceptable traffic pressures, insufficient open space and housing mix have been dismissed by the appeal decision.
Ward councillor Lorna Dupré fought against the application pointing out that although it was for 77 homes another 350 could come forward and that would be in excess of what was in the current local plan;
She said Sutton was the fifth largest conurbation in East Cambridgeshire and the surgery was stretched and the secondary school was pressured;
And she argued that the junction with the A142 already had capacity issues.
Mr Parker felt these objections could be overcome, and also pointed out that East Cambs Council had referred to there being no self-build provision which was a breach in policy terms.
“Whilst technically correct, the council did not seek to pursue this in any great depth at the hearing nor provide any evidence that there was a local demand in Sutton for self-build plots,” he said.
“Its late introduction at the hearing by the council was unreasonable in this instance.”
He also felt the council had not provided sufficient evidence about highway surface fears “and the council’s fears over future maintenance and its layout in terms of visitor spaces are noted.
“But there is no substantial evidence provided by the council that it would not work or could be adapted in the future if the local highways authority wished to adopt the roads. In sustaining an objection to this matter, the council acted unreasonably.”
Highway safety and capacity fears were only raised by the district and not the highway authority, he said.
Mr Parker said: “The council pointed me to the ‘local knowledge’ of elected members and the parish council.
“However, whilst this could form the nebulous of a reason for refusal, it needs to be able to withstand scrutiny. In this respect, the council provided little evidence to substantiate its concerns.”
“The council’s lack of evidence to support its stance on this matter was unreasonable”
On overcoming drainage issues he also found the council had acted unreasonably.