No adverse impact from 70 homes plan claim

planning inquiry
planning inquiry

BUILDING homes on Muggeridge Field would have no ‘adverse impact on the amenity of local residents or users of the public rights of way network’.

That was the view of Graeme Keen, counsel for West Sussex County Council, at a resumed appeal against Horsham District Council’s refusal of outline plans for up to 70 homes on the land south of Athelstan Way at Roffey Millennium Hall last week.

Horsham District Council’s side of the appeal was heard in October.

He said although people crossed the site they did so without permission and a new area of public space at the top of Picts Hill would provide ‘new opportunities for the enjoyment’ of the panoramic views.

Although there was concern about the impact on skylarks nesting there, the county ecologist said the development ‘would not give rise to any significant effects’ and could be controlled using planning conditions.

“The appeal scheme would result in a high quality, sustainable and deliverable residential development which would provide much needed market and affordable homes and would assist the district to meet the significant housing land supply shortfall that exists, in a way that is entirely consistent with its emerging policy framework,” he said.

There was a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ where relevant policies were out of date and the new National Planning Policy Framework was seeking to increase housing, requiring a further 20 per cent of deliverable sites in the five year supply.

Counsel for Horsham District Council, David Lintott said: “Given the harm that is likely to arise if the development proceeds, the question is whether the need for housing outweighs it.

“In the council’s view it does not.

“This type of suburban development intruding into the countryside is exactly the type of development the character area guidance warns against.”

The district council accepted there was a ‘significant shortfall’ in housing land supply when set against the South East Plan but this could be affected by its ‘imminent revocation’.

Mr Lintott said the district council could not insist on fewer houses if outline plans for 70 were approved.

The development was on an unallocated site outside the settlement of Horsham, contrary to the development plan and would cause harm.

Within the strategic gap between Horsham and Southwater, it would result in coalescence and was deemed by a previous planning inspector to be ‘an integral part of the wider rural area which forms part of the strategic gap and makes a very important contribution to the pleasant setting of the town’.

That inspector said there was an absence of a natural physical boundary to the south of the site, the dome of Picts Hill made the site prominent and it was ‘attractive in its own right as open countryside’.

He called the previous development an ‘intrusive and uncontained sprawl into open countryside’.

There were ‘fundamental difficulties’ with planting trees on the ‘exposed hillside’ and the district council’s view was contrary to that of Stephen Kirkpatrick, giving evidence for the county council.

Screening the site would have a ‘harmful effect’ as it would prevent users of the right of way obtaining the ‘dramatic panoramic views of the surrounding countryside’.

Mr Kirkpatrick told the hearing the housing would not give rise to coalescence and Kerves Lane extended further south.

He maintained there would be limited views of the site and views would be conserved by existing and new vegetation and said the views of footpath users should be taken into account.

Proposed woodland planting would take up to five years to be effective and not 40 years and topsoil would be brought in.

He said woodland was appropriate when questioned by ecologist Tim Thomas as to why the meadow was being replaced.

There could be housing but still a rural character, he said.

Planning consultant Paul Collins said the need for housing was ‘acute’ in the district and worsening year on year.

The district council recognised development beyond the built-up areas was needed.

Mr Keen criticised the district council moving to a strategy of ‘no planned growth’ and abandoning its site options.

“That abdication of responsibility by HDC has been made, in the face of clear advice from officers that the consequence would be several years of providing housing by ad hoc applications and planning by appeal, some of which would be lost and developed against HDC and the community’s wishes,” he said.

Planning inspector Tim Wood said his decision on the appeal would be published in mid-January.