Bombshell for couple who bought plot but planning consent had run out 

Cllr Anna Bailey

Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambs Council, who tried, unsuccessfully, to help a couple who bought a building plot in Pymoor. They thought it had planning permission, It once did. But it expired. - Credit: Archant

A couple bought a building plot believing it had planning permission for a house but lost everything after East Cambs Council said consent had expired and refused to re-instate it.  

Council leader Anna Bailey unsuccessfully intervened to try and persuade her planning committee to overturn an officers’ recommendation for refusal. 

It means the couple – who borrowed the money from their parents to buy the land at Pymoor – are trapped in a legal quagmire.  

“They understood that they could take legal action against the estate agent and solicitors involved in their purchase, but that would take time and they currently owed their parents £150,000,” councillors were told.  

Cllr Bailey, who is also the local councillor for Pymoor, accepted permission had expired and was outside the development envelopment. 

However, she said she had visited the site south of 25 Pymoor Lane, Pymoor, and “considered the situation carefully and on its own individual merits. 

She said “Although it is not a material planning consideration, the applicant purchased the site believing it to have the benefit of planning permission in place.” 

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“Planning committee exists for a reason – it can make decisions officers cannot. It can give consideration that officers cannot.” 

Nearby plots have either been built on or started but the couple have not started their self-build. 

"All of the planning consents had been granted when the council could not demonstrate a 5-year land supply,” officers reported. 

“The only permission relating to the site currently under consideration was the approval granted in 2016 that had expired on October 18, 2019. 

The couple asked their agent Greb Saberton to address the committee. 

He explained that the couple lived in Littleport and had worked in Pymoor for four years; they were keen to move there.  

They used a loan from their parents to buy the land and intended to repay them with the proceeds of their Littleport home. 

He said construction of their new home would have been funded with a self-build mortgage.  

They learnt after buying the plot that the planning permission had expired. 

Cllr Lisa Stubbs questioned whether approval of the current application would go against the Local Plan and the planning manager confirmed that it would be against policy. 

Cllr Alec Jones questioned whether refusal of planning permission could be referred to the Planning Inspectorate. 

He was told that officers would not recommending refusal if they felt that couldn’t be justified at appeal.  

Cllr Stubbs supported refusal. 

She expressed her great empathy for the owners, but said the committee’s responsibility was to consider the wider planning implications and act consistently.  

Cllr Bill Hunt seconded the motion.  

Cllrs Julia Huffer, David Brown and Jones all expressed their deep sympathy for the owners of the land but agreed that the 5-year land supply had been hard-fought. 

There were no reasons to go against the officer’s recommendation.  

Cllr Downey suggested that the application could be approved on the basis of fairness and good sense.  

Although he recognised that the site was just outside the development envelope, he believed that it should be within it, particularly since there were now houses either side of the plot.  

Cllr Gareth Wilson indicated that he would abstain on the voting since he felt that the reasonable outcome would not be compliant in planning terms. 

 Cllr Hunt reminded members that the council had worked hard to establish a five- year land supply and that the site in question, and its two neighbours, had only received planning permission when that land supply could not be demonstrated.  

He had the utmost sympathy for the applicants, but the planning consent had lapsed in 2019 and an exception could not be made purely on the basis that they had been mis-sold the land.  

Upon being put to the vote the motion was declared to be carried with 5 votes in favour, 1 against, and 2 abstentions.  

It was resolved to refuse permission.