Hop Garden Road Planning Inquiry – Developer’s Appeal Refused!!!

The decision from the Hop Garden Road Planning Inquiry arrived 2 weeks earlier than expected and it was absolutely brilliant news. The Planning Inspector comprehensively rejected the developer’s appeal on multiple grounds. We won!​​

As a reminder, Hart’s planning officers rejected the application to build 48 houses accessed via Hop Garden Road. The developer lodged an appeal of that decision and also submitted a second amended application to try to eliminate some of the grounds for the original refusal. By the time the Planning Inquiry started, the reasons remaining for rejection and in dispute between Hart and the developer were:

  • whether Hart was able to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites;
  • whether Hart’s development plan was absent, silent or out-of-date on relevant matters;
  • the effect of the proposed development on the Local Gap between Hook and Newnham;
  • whether the site would represent a sustainable form of development.

In addition as a result of representations by members of Hook Action Against Overdevelopment during the appeal process, the Inspector added two further matters for consideration:

  • the effect of the proposed development on a protected species (bats);
  • the effect of the proposed development on the living conditions of the occupiers of neighbouring dwellings.

The Inquiry sat for 5 days in total and the Inspector allowed many representations to be made by HAAO members, Hook Parish Council and other interested parties. The Inspector visited the site a number of times, both alone and accompanied by representatives of the developer and Hart District Council.

The Inspector concluded that:

  • Hart was able to demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply and the underlying methodology determining housing need was appropriate;
  • Hart’s development plan was not absent, silent or out of date on relevant policy matters;
  • the development would cause significant harm to the Local Gap between Hook and Newnham;
  • there was a high risk that the development would cause harm to a protected species and that the developer’s surveys in this regard were inadequate;
  • the development would have a significant adverse effect on the living conditions of neighbouring dwellings with regard to outlook, privacy, noise and disturbance.

The Inspector did find that the development would represent “sustainable development” under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework, but mainly because of the provision of any housing as a contributor to the overall need for housing across the district. The Inspector did not afford a great deal of weight to the sustainability factors (“economic, social and environmental”) in relation to the specific site.

The Inspector concluded:

Placing these factors and all of the relevant material considerations in the balance, I find that the adverse impacts of the proposed development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. In the circumstances I conclude that the proposal would not represent a sustainable form of development. Thus, for the reasons given above, and taking all other matters into consideration, I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.

The developer had made an application for an award of costs in relation to the Planning Inquiry on the grounds that Hart had acted improperly in refusal of the original application. Unsurprisingly the application for an award of costs was refused.

If you would like to read the full Appeal Decision you can find it here: http://hookdevaction.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Land-at-Owens-Farm-appeal-decision.pdf.

There are three reasons why as Hook residents we should welcome this appeal decision.

Firstly, of course, Hook has already been allocated a large number of houses through recent planning decisions at Brown Croft, Reading Road and North East Hook. When those applications were made there was no “5 year housing land supply” and this meant that as long as it met basic technical criteria any site adjacent to Hook’s existing boundary was practically impossible to refuse. The avoidance of a further 48 houses on top of the 700 already approved is in itself welcome. Housing is needed in Hart, but Hook needs time to build and absorb the already approved developments (a 25% increase in the size of the village) before any more are considered.

Secondly, this specific development was a poor one in itself. It was a high density development on the very edge of the village and eroding the gap to Newnham.

Finally, had this decision gone the other way, Hart’s new Local Plan would have been derailed once more and only a confirmed Local Plan will give us any degree of certainty over where housing developments will be located. Of course as we have seen just this week with further announcements of easing of planning controls, Government policy can change so nothing is certain.

We believe that community involvement played a very significant role in getting this appeal refused and we would like to thank the many people who wrote or attended meetings to express their opposition through the long planning application and appeal procedure. Your support is very much appreciated.