EXCLUSIVE: Two huge development appeals won over Tewkesbury's lack of housing supply
By Laura Enfield | 9th February 2024
Plans for 215 homes and a 322,000 sq ft expansion of Highnam Business Centre have been allowed on appeal.
The developments can now forge ahead after Tewkesbury Borough Council lost two Planning Inspectorate cases in two days due to its lack of housing supply.
Developers M7 Planning Ltd have been granted permission for a 322,000 sq ft expansion of Highnam Business Centre and construction of 95 homes off Newent Road.
And Robert Hitchins Ltd has been given the green light for 120 homes on land off Fiddington Lane.
Both decisions came after the council was forced to concede it did not have a five-year housing supply, required by central government to meet demand for homes.
It had refused both developments as it believed it had met its target but it was forced to reassess after losing appeals last year in which Inspectors rubbished their housing figures.
The council has since conceded the supply actually stands at around 3.24 years, leaving it with little ground on which to fight against both appeals.
It also means going forward the planning committee will find it much tougher to reject a housing scheme without good reason.
Permission for the Highnam scheme comes despite residents claiming piecemeal development of the area would result in a "broken community".
M7 Planning submitted its application for the two plots of land north and south of Newent Road in November 2021.
The council approved the business park but refused the homes at a meeting in June 2022.
M7 Planning appealed to the Planning Inspectorate on grounds of non-determination and said it planned to challenge the council's claims it had a sufficient housing supply.
At a meeting in February 2023 Tewkesbury Borough Council said it had a 6.16 year housing supply. It also said it also had issues with the location and design of the proposed homes and lack of connectivity to the village and facilities.
But it did a u-turn in October 2023 and decided not to contest the development after three other appeal decisions concluded the council had at best a 3.39 year supply.
A statement submitted by the council as part of the Higham appeal inquiry said: "The council has carefully considered this decision and concluded that its approach to the assessment of the borough's housing land supply is unlikely to be accepted in future appeals.
"Accordingly, it has recently published a revised Five Year Housing Land Supply Statement which determines that there is a 3.24 years' supply of deliverable housing sites."
Gloucestershire County Council also then withdrew its objection to the plans but Highnam Parish Council continued to challenge them alongside several residents.
Their concerns were over the location, character and appearance of the development and the effect on safety of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers using Newent Road.
One objector raised concerns that the landowner was taking advantage of planning laws to put forward small developments of homes to maximise financial gain but this meant a lack of community benefit from Sec106 money which would be "very detrimental to the village in the long term."
They would prefer to see the area developed in one go with community facilities and amenities included.
"Surely this would make better strategic sense than just continuing with small blocks of housing in an unplanned manner, with the result of a broken community and also higher long term costs for Tewksbury with regards to ongoing costs and services," added the objection.
M7 said in a statement to the inquiry: "In the context of a significant and urgent need for new housing now, this is a proposal which is unanswerably sustainable development."
The planning inspector said on balance the proposal was acceptable and would come with a number of public benefits.
"The delivery of both market housing and affordable housing would contribute towards the need for housing in the borough and this attracts significant weight," said their report.
"The appellant and TBC agree that significant weight should also be afforded to the economic
benefits arising from the provision of commercial development and its associated job creation and growth opportunities."
Robert Hitchins plans for 120 homes off Fiddington Lane are part of a swathe of developments in the Ashchurch area. They include the retail park currently being constructed and two developments totalling 1,310 homes known as Fiddington Fields and Fiddington 2.
The parcel of land sits south of the developing retail park and is described as Parcel 5558, Road from Natton to Homedowns, Ashchurch, Tewkesbury.
The council had said it thought the development would adversely impact the rural character of the area and create problems with living conditions for future residents.
However, after it was forced to back down the Inspector concluded that any harm caused by the development did not outweigh the benefits.
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