Planning application for 500 Aveley homes refused

A CONTROVERSIAL planning application for 500 homes in Aveley has been refused by the government.

The plans were for 500 homes in Purfleet Road, Aveley.

The decision will come as a relief to some. such as local residents, campaigners and some politicians. Whilst others, such as the developers and others who could have benefitted from the development such as Aveley Community Centre, Treetops School and Grays Athletic, will be digesting the news.

The Department of Communities and Local Government said:

"The Inspector recommended that the application should be refused. For the reasons given below, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s conclusions and agrees with her recommendation."

Key findings of the decision

The SecretaryofState has taken account theEnvironmental Statement(ES) which was submitted, together with the further information (IR2.1-2.3). He agrees with the Inspector that the Environmental Statement together with the further information submitted complies with the provisions of Schedule 4 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations, and he has taken into account the Environmental Information as defined in the regulations in reaching his decision on the application.

Matters arising after the close of the inquiry

The Secretary of State received representations from Sport England dated 25 July and from Jackie Doyle-Price MP dated 5 August, both submitted too late to have been considered by the Inspector. He has carefully considered these representations but, as they do not raise new matters that would affect his decision, he has not considered it necessary to circulate them to all parties.

Policy Considerations

In deciding this application,the Secretary of State has had regard to section38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which requires that proposals be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

In this case,the development plan includes the 2011 Core Strategy and Policies for the Management of Development, Development Plan Document (CSPMD). The Secretary of State considers that the development plan policies most relevant are those identified by the Inspector at IR4.2.

The Secretary of State has paid special regard to the desirability of preserving those listed structures and listed historic parkland or their settings, or any features of special architectural or historic interest which they may possess, that are potentially affected by the proposed development.

Main issues

Housing land supply and relevant policy

The Council has a significant and long standing shortfall in its five year housing land supply (IR7.1 and 14.2). For the reasons given, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s application of relevant policy in this case at IR14.2 – 14.4.

Openness and permanence of the Green Belt

For the reasons at IR14.6 – 14.8 the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the development would reduce significantly the openness of this part of the Green Belt. As noted at IR14.10, the proposal would result in the permanent loss of some 14.5 hectares of Green Belt, harming the fundamental aim of the Green Belt to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.

Purpose of the Green Belt to check unrestricted sprawl

For the reasons at IR 14.12 – 14.15, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the proposed development would spread the existing (and committed) extent of built development further into this part of the Green Belt, equating to sprawl on this edge of Purfleet, and that there would be some harm in this regard to the first of the stated purposes for Green Belt (IR14.15).

Purpose of the Green Belt to prevent the merging of neighbouring towns

For the reasons at IR14.16 – 14.18, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would cause some harm to the Green Belt purpose of preventing the merging of neighbouring towns (IR14.18).

Purpose of the Green Belt to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment

For the reasons at IR14.19 – 14.21, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would encroach into the countryside, at least to some extent, and therefore that there would be some harm to this Green Belt purpose (14.21).

Purpose of the Green Belt to assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

For the reasons at IR14.23 – 14.28, like the Inspector the Secretary of State is not persuaded that the proposed development would materially advance the Green Belt purpose to assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land (IR14.28).

Impact of the development on the character and appearance of the area

For the reasons at IR14.29 – 14.31, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would not intrude unduly into the views identified at IR14.17 and that its impact on the character and appearance of the area would be limited (IR14.31). Accordingly he gives this only limited weight.

Fanns Farmhouse

For the reasons at IR14.32 – 14.34, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the special interest and significance of Fanns Farm, and its setting, would be preserved. Consequently he also agrees that there would be no conflict in this regard with policy PMD4 of the CSPMD, or with the Framework (IR14.34).

Traffic and highway safety

For the reasons at IR14.35 – 14.43, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that any residual traffic impacts arising from the development would not be severe (IR14.41) and that there would be no material harm to the safety and free flow of traffic in the locality (IR14.43).

Arboriculture and ecology

For the reasons at IR14.44 – 14.50, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the proposed development would not have a material adverse impact on the biodiversity and ecological interest of the site, and that there would be no conflict therefore with policy CSTP19 of the CSPMD or the objectives of the Framework in this regard (IR14.51).

Existing and replacement sports facilities

The proposed development would result in the loss of the existing sports facilities on the application site. However, for the reasons at IR14.76 and having noted Sport England’s letter of 25 July 2014 about recent changes in circumstances at Belhus Park, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the proposed development would not lead to any net loss of sports provision and therefore there would be no conflict with CSPMD policy CSTP9. Likewise, he finds no conflict with paragraph 74 of the Framework in regard to existing open space, sports and recreation buildings and land, including playing fields.

Other matters

For the reasons at IR14.77 the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the degree of possible interference with the right of the occupant of Fanns Farm to peaceful enjoyment of that property would be insufficient to give rise to a violation of rights under the relevant articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

For the reasons at IR14.77 the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the relevant conditions would be effective in regard to surface water drainage and sewerage.

Planning conditions

The Secretary of State has considered the Inspector’s reasoning and conclusions on conditions at IR12.1 – 12.25. He is satisfied that the conditions proposed at Appendix C of the Inspector’s report are reasonable and necessary, and would meet the tests of paragraph 206 of the Framework. However, he does not consider that these conditions overcome his reasons for refusing the application.

Planning obligation

The Secretary of State has also had regard to the submitted s106 Planning Agreement dated 27 August 2014, the Inspector’s assessment of this at IR13.1 – 13.11 and 14.56 – 14.74, national policy set out at paragraphs 203-205 of the Framework, the relevant planning guidance and the CIL Regulations 2010. For the reasons at IR13.7 – 13.10, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the contribution in regard to the Council’s Planning Obligations Strategy (POS) and the additional contributions in regard to affordable housing, highway works and education comply with regulation 122 of the CIL Regulations and the tests at paragraph 204 of the Framework.

The Secretary of State has considered very carefully the other provisions in the Agreement which are described at IR13.4 (3rd, 4th and 5th bullets) and 14.56 – 14.57, namely contributions with a total value of £2.3 million in regard to Belhus Park, Aveley Community Centre and the sports hall at Tree Tops School. He agrees with the Inspector’s reasoning at IR14.60 – 14.64 and consequently he agrees that these provisions would not comply with regulation 122 of the CIL Regulations and the tests at paragraph 204 of the Framework. Therefore he also agrees that it would be unlawful take those provisions into account and, accordingly, they cannot carry any positive weight in favour of the proposed development (IR14.65).

As regards affordable housing, the Secretary of State notes that the combined on and off-site provision would fall substantially below the minimum 35% requirement for a development of this size as indicated by CSPMD policy CSTP2, and that this was precipitated, largely, by the £2.3 million package of sporting and community benefits considered at paragraph 25 above (IR14.66).

He agrees with the Inspector that the arrangement described at IR14.67 to, in effect, transfer part the contributions to Belhus Park, Aveley Community Centre, and the sports hall at Tree Tops School to the provision of affordable housing would not accord with the ‘CIL Condition’ as defined in the Agreement (namely a finding by the Secretary of State that the obligations meet the Regulation 122(2) tests). Consequently he also agrees that, were permission to be granted, those obligations would not ‘bite’ (IR14.68). The Secretary also considers that, even if the Inspector were incorrect in this regard, and the totality of those contributions totalling £2.3 million were to be redirected to the provision of affordable housing, there would still be a significant shortfall in provision for the reason at the end of IR14.68.

For the reasons at IR14.69 – 14.72, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the applicant’s case for the level of provision proposed, both on and off site, is not sufficiently robust to constitute an appropriate arrangement in this case and should not carry any significant weight in terms of the Green Belt balance (IR14.72).

For the reasons at IR14.73 – 14.74, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that, whilst the education contribution may be a benefit of the scheme, in that it adds to the POS contribution, it would nowhere near address the substantial shortfall that has been identified and this limits the weight it can be afforded.

The planning balance and overall conclusion

The development would constitute inappropriate development in the Green Belt. Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances. The Framework is clear that very special circumstances will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations (IR 14.3 and 14.52).

In this case the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that, for the reasons at IR14.53 – 14.54, the proposed development would make a valuable contribution towards the supply of housing land in Thurrock and this consideration should be afforded substantial weight (IR14.54). However, as the Inspector points out at 14.55, a

Written Ministerial Statement of 1 July 2013 confirms, in relation to housing, that the single issue of unmet demand is unlikely to outweigh harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the very special circumstances justifying inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that, in this case, the combined weight of the contribution of the proposal to housing land supply and the limited weight that can be afforded to the provision of some affordable housing and the education contribution, does not clearly outweigh the substantial negative weight he attaches to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, loss of openness and permanence, and conflict with at least three of the five stated purposes for Green Belt, and the additional limited weight he attaches to the harm to the character and appearance of the area.

On balance therefore, the Secretary of State concludes that very special circumstances to justify the proposal do not exist in this case (IR14.75). Even if the Inspector was incorrect in her reasoning in regard to the matter considered at paragraph 26 above, the Secretary of State considers that although the balance of benefits and harms would shift in those circumstances, this would not, in his view, alter the balance sufficiently to establish very special circumstances and justify grant of planning permission.

The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s overall conclusion at IR15.1 – 15.5.

Formal Decision

Accordingly, for the reasons given above, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s recommendation. He hereby refuses your application for demolition of existing buildings and comprehensive redevelopment comprising 501 residential dwellings, 985 square metres of commercial, community and health floor space with associated infrastructure, including new vehicular access onto London road, public open spaces, replacement bowling green and local community facilities, in accordance with application ref 12/01119/OUT dated 13 December 2012.

This letter serves as the Secretary of State’s statement under regulation 24(2) of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011.

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