D-day for battle over feared new housing plans

Boston Spa village hall.   (120120M1k)
Boston Spa village hall. (120120M1k)

A public inquiry into a Boston Spa outline planning application concluded last week.

The inquiry follows Miller Homes’ appeal on the Leeds City Council (LCC) decision to refuse their application for 104 houses on land between Grove Road and Green Lane.

The process, which began on Tuesday with a large public audience, will see this appeal and LCC’s reasons for their refusal put before a government-appointed inspector.

On the first day government inspector Zoe Hill told the inquiry: “The main considerations are whether the site should be considered favourably for housing, whether the site should be dealt with on prematurity grounds, and whether it is sustainable.

“The effect on the character and appearance of the area will also be considered, and I am conscious of the proximity to the protected area.”

First entered in July 2013, the application has received several hundred letters of objection and in January, LCC’s chief planning officer recommended the refusal of the outline application.

His reasons for this included the prematurity of the development of the site contrary to the Niational Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Jeremy Cahill QC, on behalf of Miller Homes, told the inquiry: “The proposal for which permission is sought is for 104 houses with provision for education.

“The reasons for refusal raise the issues of prematurity, their interpretation of the Leeds development plan, the interim housing policy, and that it has a five year housing supply.

“The appeal site was identified in a report which removed it from the greenbelt and it was identified in 2005 by an inspector as a suitable site for housing.

“According to the NPPF, to refuse planning permission on the basis of prematurity the planning authority has to demonstrate that the proposal is so substantial that it would undermine the plan-making process, so refusal on the grounds of prematurity will seldom be justified.

“I don’t expect members of the public to suddenly decide there is merit in our proposal. Indeed, there are people who have strong opinions against the proposal. We respect these opinions, though we disagree with them.”

The Development Plan Document (DPD) from LCC, which will give clear guidance on the placement, scale, and phasing of proposed developments, will be submitted as a pre-submission draft later this year.

Nathalie Lieven QC, on behalf of LCC, said: “These sites are expressly reserved within the Unitary Development Plan policy, which states that they shouldn’t be released until they have been through the Local Development Plan process, so it would be contrary to the planning policy framework to grant planning permission to the proposal.

“Sites reserved for longer term development shouldn’t be released without a strategic review. That position is supported by the NPPF.

“The role of the site allocations DPD is the policy decision which makes critical choices on the placement of development. Through the DPD process the council is weighing up the sustainability benefits and disbenefits. It also plays a critical role in including local communities.

“The effect of granting planning applications on sites such as this undermines the DPD process and undermines public belief in that process.”

At the appeal each side will call expert witnesses to argue their case. Following all representations from both sides and members of the public, the government inspector will present what she has seen and heard to government ministers who will then decide whether to permit or reject the appeal.

According to planning officers, it is likely to be a minimum of six weeks before a decision is reached and the public are informed.