Reserved Matters Allowed on Appeal in Uttlesford District

Increasingly, Local Plans are allocating large, strategic sites to deliver the majority of their housing requirement, through Garden Towns and strategic extension to existing settlements. However, due to the scale of proposals and the level of infrastructure required, a greater level of opposition, reinforced by support of Local members or MP’s, there are often delays in the delivery of such sites. In Uttlesford District’s case, examination of the emerging plan concluded that the proposed Garden Community was not deliverable, resulting in the whole emerging plan being found to be unsound.  Uttlesford District were therefore unable to demonstrate a 5 years supply of deliverable housing land. This placed even greater emphasis on the need to deliver sites small to medium scale sites to meet the immediate housing shortfall.

Increasingly Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) are conceding a housing land supply shortfall due to delays in the delivery of housing commitments and the approval of reserved matters as a result of resistance from local objectors and political members. Often the objectors attempt to re-visit (as a form of “rear guard action”), the principle of development which is established at the Outline stage, delaying delivery and then causing a protracted housing land supply shortfall. This presents the opportunity for sites not allocated or included in commitments to be brought forward with as paragraph 11 of the NPPF applies the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. This then causes another local scheme to be heavily opposed and the land supply situation worsen. Local groups must become involved with positively planning for site allocations and shape proposals at outline stage to avoid creating a cycle of land supply shortfall. These issues were experienced in the following case IPS were involved in recently.

In May 2020 IPS were delighted to receive reserved matters approval, via appeal for up to 85 dwellings in Saffron Walden, Essex for our Clients Abbey Developments Ltd. The site benefited from outline permission for up to 85 dwellings and a 5-year housing land supply shortfall within the Uttlesford District applied a presumption in favour of development to the reserved matters proposals.

The Reserved Matters application was submitted on 26th October 2018. This application sought approval of details such as infrastructure, landscaping, appearance, layout and scale. This scheme, following a number of revisions responding to issues that arose during consultation, was refused by the Planning Committee on the 18th September 2019.

IPS was instructed to assist with the project, following the refusal of the Reserved Matters application. IPS set about producing a case which comprehensively addressed the reasons for refusal. The decision to refuse the application was against the officers’ recommendation to the Committee and was primarily focused on objections raised by Saffron Walden Town Council.

The reasons for refusal were concerned with: a reduction in public open space from the approved outline site layout, the residential amenity and living conditions of new occupants, the provision of broadband on site and whether appropriate energy efficiency measures had been designed into the proposals.

IPS prepared a case against the conclusions drawn by the Planning Committee, which heavily relied upon the emerging Local Plan and the policies within it for justification. For instance, the Inspector in his report (when allowing the appeal) concluded that emerging Policies may not be accorded sufficient weight to be used as a reason for refusal without the support of adopted local or national policy. This concurred with the findings of IPS.

Concerns were raised by local objectors and the Town Council against the modest reduction in open space from the approved outline illustrative framework. The Inspector concluded that the outline layout was within ‘broad accordance’ with the outline permission.

In allowing the appeal, the Inspector’s findings reflected IPS’s conclusion, in that the Nationally Described Space Standards were not adopted within Uttlesford District. Therefore, a 1sqm shortcoming of internal space on 1 dwelling type could not be considered contrary to adopted policy, nor compromise the amenity of future occupants. The Inspector concluded that this minor impact of development would not outweigh the benefits the scheme would deliver.

The failing housing land supply further consolidated the case against Uttlesford District Council and (in accordance with the NPPF) the presumption in favour of development applied. The allocation of the site as a commitment, following the approval of outline permission and subsequent adjustment of the settlement boundary to incorporate the site within the settlement framework, further assisted IPS’s case that the site was a suitable location for residential development and a deliverable and achievable location to provide housing, contributing to the current housing shortfall.

Notably, the emerging Local Plan policies relied upon within in the reasons for refusal were subsequently not adopted due to the emerging Local Plan being withdrawn following the examination Inspector’s recommendation. This demonstrates why planning decisions must not be made in anticipation of adopting a Local Plan and form reasons for refusal with justification from policies that do not make up the development plan.

The Inspector found the Appellant’s case so compelling that a partial award of costs was also granted due to the unreasonable behaviour of Uttlesford District Council throughout the planning application and appeal process.

IPS is delighted to have achieved a positive outcome for the Client. We look forward to seeing the scheme commence development soon.

Image courtesy of CMYK Planning and Design