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Public Inquiry Decision Issued for Residential Development in Elmbridge

Fuller Long are delighted to have worked as lead consultants on a planning appeal considered at a Public Inquiry. One of our consultants acted as the sole expert witness in support of a Surrey Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a residential development on privately owned, unused recreation space.

The application proposed the development of new market and affordable houses along with replacement recreation facilities to be made available to the public. During the process of preparing for the Public Inquiry, an amended scheme was submitted to the Council, reducing the number of houses proposed and increasing the amount of open space. This planning application was appealed on the grounds of non-determination, then co-joined to the first appeal.

The main reason for refusal related to the loss of open space, appropriateness of the proposed recreation facilities, impact on the character and appearance of the area and whether any harm was outweighed by other material considerations.

A key matter of disagreement between the parties related to paragraph 14 of the NPPF, which states that development proposals should be granted unless specific policies in the framework indicate otherwise. Significant evidence was provided by our consultants Juliet Heap and Tom Webster in support of the Council’s position in this regard.

The Inspector refused planning permission for the first appeal, agreeing with the evidence presented and the Council’s position that the loss of open space would not be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality. The scheme therefore conflicted with the Development Plan and paragraph 74 of the NPPF. The inspector stated in his decision:

The scheme’s conflict with the development plan and the NPPF, in respect of the provision of open space, sport and recreation facilities is sufficient in my view to weigh very heavily against it”.

Although the Inspector acknowledged that the scheme demonstrated a number of benefits, he concluded:

it is my conclusion that the identified conflicts significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the Framework as a whole”.

Whilst the inspector agreed with the Council’s position that the scheme would cause harm to the character and appearance of the area as a result of the appeal proposals, the Inspector considered that it would be less pronounced in comparison to the first scheme, and so, allowed the second appeal.

With the Council not able to demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply, there was an acknowledged housing shortage in the borough. It was also noted that house prices in this borough were amongst the highest in the country – almost double the national average. The Inspector, therefore, ultimately determined that the benefits of the second appeal scheme comprised material considerations that were sufficient to outweigh the development plan in this case as the scheme made

an important contribution to the provision of market and affordable housing in an area of clear need and with significant affordability issues, which carries very substantial weight. In my view, the contribution to housing is of such importance in [the borough] that it outweighs the permanent loss of part of the currently open site given that I have found there to be an acceptable balance between built development and enhanced open space”.

The team were pleased that Fuller Long was able to support the Council and local residents in defending the Council’s position at Inquiry and make the best possible case possible. Our team presented a robust, well argued and structured case supplying the facts of the case supported by evidence, both in our written work and under cross examination at the Public Inquiry.

Should you represent a Local Authority, Developer or a private landowner in search of the right consultants to help realise the potential of your schemes, Fuller Long would be happy to discuss your case. Our consultants have worked with a number of Local Authorities, Developers and Landowners across the UK in order to help achieve their goals and can do the same for you. Call 0845 565 0281 or email hello@fullerlong.com to speak with one of our Consultants today.

-Authors: Juliet Heap and Tom Webster

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