Persimmon win appeal for 175 homes - and awarded costs

Persimmon Homes produced this to show their new Soham housing estate

Persimmon Homes produced this to show their new Soham housing estate - Credit: Persimmon

Persimmon Homes has won its appeal to build 175 homes in Soham.  

It has also won a partial costs award against East Cambridgeshire District Council that refused the application.  

A counter application for costs by the council was described by planning inspector Michael Boniface as being “without merit”. 

He said it should not have been necessary for Persimmon to “deal with the unreasonable costs application” by the council. 

His decision means Persimmon can go ahead with building the homes north east of Broad Piece, Soham. 

Both parties had argued over the council’s insistence it had a five-year-supply of land for housing and how Persimmon’s bid squared with that.  

Persimmon was refused permission last March after first submitting their application in May, 2019. 

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The planning inspector said that even before the inquiry had begun, the council had confirmed it no longer had concerns about transport and highways; flooding and drainage. 

Nor did it have concerns over the effect on the character and appearance of the area.  

“As such, it did not provide evidence on these topics and opted not to defend its second, third and fourth reasons for refusal,” said Mr Boniface. 

He said: “The main issue is whether the site is a suitable location for the proposed residential development, having regard to planning policy”.  

Mr Boniface said current regional plans focused on providing additional housing in Ely, Soham and Littleport. 

The East Cambs Local Plan (ECLP) required some 1,800 homes to be built in these ‘broad’ locations. 

Outline of new housing estate for Soham

First produced in 2017, outline of the new estate Persimmon can now go ahead with in Soham - Credit: Persimmon

He said “there has been a significant shortfall against the ECLP housing requirement to date,” said Mr Boniface. 

This meant that the plan “cannot be said to have been effective in delivering the anticipated housing need to date”.  

Mr Boniface challenged the way “hefty shortfalls” were being addressed. 

He said the ECLP had not been effective in meeting housing needs  

And it casts doubts on whether the council’s ‘locational strategy’ can be relied upon to boost housing delivery in line with national requirements.  

Although the situation was improving, there was evidence that sufficient housing has not been delivered over the past three years.  

Site location for 175 homes Persimmon can now build at Soham

Site location for 175 homes Persimmon can now build at Soham - Credit: Google

"The past shortfalls in delivery against the plan requirement are indicative that the allocations are not meeting housing needs and may be insufficient,” he said.  

“Even if the council can currently demonstrate a deliverable housing land supply in the region it suggests against its Local Housing Need, that does not make the long-term strategy of the ECLP any more reliable when it comes to housing delivery.” 

Specifically on the Persimmon application “the real question in this case is whether the proposed housing development is acceptable in principle”.  

He said: “It has been demonstrated that the scheme can be accommodated without material harm to highway safety or capacity”, 

Highway improvements were proposed and a section of Broad Piece would be widened within the highway boundary. 

A small strip of land used for parking would be lost but he felt residents would not been unduly affected. 

Mr Boniface said that even if the council can currently demonstrate a housing land supply in the region it suggests (more than 6.5 years), there has been significant under delivery against the development plan requirement to date. 

“And there can be no certainty that the strategy contained in the ECLP will deliver sufficient housing in the long-term of the plan period,” he said. 

“In fact, the evidence before me suggests that it will not.” 

Mr Boniface said there has a “persistent failure” to meeting housing requirements.  

He said: “Overall, I find that the appeal proposal would be in accordance with the development plan taken as a whole and material considerations indicate firmly in favour of the proposal.  

“There would be very few adverse impacts arising from the development.” 

“But so far as harm would result, for example from the loss of agricultural land or changes to the character of this previously undeveloped countryside, it is far outweighed by the significant benefits of the scheme.” 

View from the Shade, Soham

View from The Shade looking out to where Persimmon can now build 175 homes - Credit: Persimmon

Mr Boniface added: “The council itself accepts that planning permission should be granted if the tilted balance applies, as I have determined to be the case. 

“The appeal is allowed.”