A planning inquiry into Bloor Homes’ plan to build on land close to Stansted concluded this week. What follows is some background to the appeal and an outline of the key arguments raised by opposing sides.

The planning inquiry into Bloor Homes’ plan to build 168 homes on land west of Pennington Lane began virtually on July 13.

Four days were set aside for witness testimony, one day for a site visit by the planning inspector, and the final day devoted to closing statements.

The planning inspector is now considering the submitted evidence and a decision is due by September 2.

BACKGROUND:

The inquiry is the latest of 3 planning appeals relating to Pennington Lane — previous appeals (2009, 2014) ruled against development.

Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has no local plan nor a 5-year supply of land for housing, so ‘tilted balance’ is used to reach a decision.

Where this occurs, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that the application should be approved unless it is in a protected area (as defined by the NPPF) or the harms caused by the application significantly outweigh its benefits.

The benefits being mainly the contribution of new and affordable homes, the harms being damage to the landscape, heritage (listed buildings/conservation areas) or other criteria. Without a local plan in place, this can be a high bar indeed.

CASE FOR APPROVAL

Bloor Homes, Bower Croft Ltd, Oaks Croft Ltd

Decision-making should be tilted in favour of developmentAs there is no local plan in place and desperate need for affordable housing

Key Points:

  • UDC’s local plan is ‘painfully out of date’
  • UDC has just 3.1 years of housing land supply
  • Supreme Court ruling in 2018 clarified law in favour of developers in such cases
  • 40% of the new development is affordable housing — a major public benefit
  •  previous appeal decisions should be ignored (Bloor’s plan is materially different)
  • harm to heritage and landscape is minimal
  •  the 47acre field at the centre of the dispute isn’t designated ‘valued landscape’
  • extensive mitigation efforts — improved bus service & red-route, money for extra school provision, landscaping that improves, not degrades the area.

CASE AGAINST DEVELOPMENT

UDC:
The project poses a harm to landscape and heritage in the area

Key Points:

  • Pennington Lane & Bentfield Green earn protection from harm caused to landscape and heritage (Section 7, 1990 Planning Act, and NPPF 2012)
  • Over-estimation of project’s economic benefits
  • the housing crisis isn’t reason alone to grant all housing applications

Rule 6 Party — The Parish Council / Save Stansted Village:

Shared a similar argument to UDC centring round harm to landscape and heritage in the area

Key Points

  • The scheme breaches of settlement borders
  • Earlier appeals still have bearing – ‘like cases should be decided in a like manner’
  • Significant weight should be attached to preserving the intrinsic character & beauty of the countryside
  • Harm to heritage assets is considerable
  • Proposed road infrastructure is inadequate to cope with extra traffic; buses are unpopular & uneconomic solution
  • Educational considerations and effect on children with protected characteristics at Bentfield School poorly assessed & addressed, as are surface water drainage issues
  • Few tangible community benefits

THANK YOU!

The Stansted Council would like to thank all those who gave their time, expertise, money and support to back the Rule 6 party’s case against development near Pennington Lane.

Over 4,000 people signed a petition voicing their opposition to Bloor’s plan, and over £2ok was raised in campaign funding at a time when the pandemic has caused real financial hardship.

At the inquiry more than 47 statements were made to it by people from the community. Many of these were made in person and spoken with passion and sincerity.

This level of community spirit is something we all can be proud of when we say Stansted Mountfitchet is our home whatever the decision.

Documents relating to the appeal can be read here:

https://publicaccess.uttlesford.gov.uk/online-applications/appealDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=QRG8YSQN0FC00