DLP Planning Ltd has secured planning permission, on behalf of Wattsdown Ltd, for a residential development of up to 56 dwellings on land east of Aspenden Road, Buntingford
The outline application, despite being recommended for approval and eliciting no objection from the Highway Authority or the Environmental Health Officer, was refused by the Planning Committee in March 2014 on the basis that the site was in the rural area outside the town and therefore the impact on a rural highway and pedestrian access was unacceptable; and the potential effects of noise on the character of the site and on any residential development would be contrary to policy.
The decision was appealed and a Hearing held in January 2015. The appeal was recovered by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for his own determination on 27 March 2015, the reason being that the Appeal involved proposals that raised important issues of development control and legal difficulties.
Based on the evidence presented on noise impacts the Inspector concluded that the site could be treated as within a noisy environment as it is located alongside the busy A10 road and therefore the higher of the WHO noise thresholds (55dB) should be applied. He did not share the Council’s objection to the use of mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) noting that such systems are now commonplace and reliance on mechanical ventilation as a mitigation measure would not result in poor internal amenity levels. The matter could be dealt with by condition.
Nor did he share the view that Aspenden Road was a rural highway unfit to accommodate the level of growth proposed. Whilst he found that the road width was constricted for a short distance and the footpath narrower than recommended in Manual for Streets, and that this was not an ideal situation, he found that no harm would arise as he was satisfied that a safe and suitable access to the site could be gained for all modes of transport.
The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector’s recommendations, specifically that in weighing the balance, the provision of housing including 40% affordable provision was a significantly benefit of the scheme in the light of an agreed shortfall in five year supply. Of particular note in his conclusion was the minimal weight given to the emerging Buntingford Community Area Neighbourhood Plan. The Secretary of State considered that because the Neighbourhood Plan was still subject to unresolved objections to relevant policies and may require further modification at Examination, little weight should be afforded to it in determining the Appeal. This sets an interesting precedence in the materiality of Neighbourhood Plans in that only minimal weight should be afforded to emerging Neighbourhood Plans.