Outcome of Seeds Field Appeal Hearing awaited

I understand that parishioners were unable to follow all of the discussions during the Appeal Hearing that took place on 22 November because of some technical difficulties. Here is my version of the discussions which may be of help to you.  The second day of the Hearing took place on 6 December 2022 and parishioners were able to listen into the proceedings without any technical glitches.  The outcome of the Appeal Hearing is now awaited and on receipt of this it will be published here. Best wishes, Marie, Wansford Parish Clerk

In attendance:
Mrs C Dillon, Planning Inspector and Chairperson
Mr James Croucher, PCC Principal Planning Officer
Ms Gemma Wildman, PCC Planning Officer
Mr John Hunter, Barrister for Kelland Developments
Mr David Hutchison, Pegasus
Mr Mark Henderson, Kelland Developments

1. Mrs Dillon opened the meeting and identified the main issues of the appeal as follows:
(a) Were the new self-build homes justified within the spacial strategy of land available?
(b) What are the local housing needs?
(c) Would their build be an effective use of land?
(d) Would they be in character and appeal to the area?
(e) What were the ecological interests?

2. The initial consultation process had started with a press notice issued in July 2017 as well as a letter sent to all residents living within close proximity of Seeds Field. Four years later a letter of appeal had been lodged by Kelland Developments which was dated 1 April 2022. There had been 23 written submissions received, including the resident of the Old Pump House, Wansford. That resident had submitted a disc with information (photographs of the area) but unfortunately it could not now be located. PCC was asked to find it.
3. Mrs Dillon acknowledged that there had been a significant gap in time between the original planning application having been submitted and the date of the appeal being lodged. Mr Hutchison said that it had taken some time to address the SSSI issues and also that it had taken 10 months to resolve the ecological/draining concerns.
4. Seeds Field was within 60 metres of Wansford’s conservation site. There was no objection to the heritage sites within the village which were identified as St Mary’s Church and Wansford’s Grade I Listed Limestone Bridge.
5. A discussion took place about the services within Wansford. Cllr Stannage, Chairman of Wansford Parish Council, explained that there were very few services in Wansford parish and whilst Wansford village covered both sides of the old bridge there were in fact two separate parishes, Sibson-cum-Stibbington parish and Wansford parish which were separated by the bridge. Cllr Stannage explained that there were very many more services in Sibson-cum-Stibbington which had two pubs, a hotel, coffee shop, post office and food shop, as well as a hairdresser, florist and two clothes shops. Cllr Stannage explained that Wansford was not serviced by public buses and so this was a constraint to people living on both sides of the bridge. Mr Hutchison of Pegasus said that the people who were likely to purchase self-build plots would most likely have their own independent transport. Cllr Stannage explained that the south side of Wansford was in fact in Huntingdon District Council, the doctor’s surgery was in Northants and Seeds Field in Cambridgeshire. The solicitors of Pegasus took the view that the plan to develop Seeds Field did not conflict with the spacial plan and that accessibility to the site was good. Cllr Stannage stated that the proposal for Seeds Field to be developed outside of the village envelope was unacceptable. Mr Croucher of PCC said that village envelopes existed to protect the countryside from development. He believed that building outside of the village envelope would allow future uncontrolled sprawl within and without the city boundaries and undermine areas already identified. He continued by saying that there would also be more demand on existing urban areas. Mr Hutchison of Pegasus believed that the development of Seeds Field would not lead to a fundamental spacial strategy.
6. Mrs Dillon then addressed evidence submitted for her consideration and referred to the Statement of Common Ground dated 8 November 2022 which had been signed by both parties. PCC had submitted a revised document on Housing Land Supplies at the end of October 2022 and Pegasus had seen this. There were no points of dispute in the Planning Conditions document submitted for consideration on 8 November 2022. PCC’s SPD, which was referenced in the Appeal statement, had been seen by the appellant. PCC had commented on the Hillside judgement and Pegasus had responded to this. There had also been a document updated on the marketing of the site.
7. There were no changes made to the two Plan diagrams submitted – they looked different only because they were both of different scales.
8. Costs would be addressed before the Appeal Hearing ended. Mrs Dillon would take into consideration any unreasonable behaviour and this could also relate to documentation being submitted very late or revised.
9. Mrs Dillon confirmed that there was no change to the undisputed matters within the Statement of Common Ground. Also, there were no changes to the Development Policies. Mrs Dillon noted that there had been little time given to the appellant for consideration of some of the documents submitted by PCC.
10. Some discussion took place relating what was meant by the term “prestige” when describing the properties to be built on Seeds Field. Mr Hutchison of Pegasus said that it meant higher end units, the top 10% of housing and that they were individually designed.
11. Mrs Dillon asked what harm would the site development bring to the area? Mr Hutchison said that there would be no harm. Mr Croucher referenced various planning policies and said that Policy LP2 had primacy over LP9. LP9 was the prestige self-build home policy. PCC was encouraging the build of self-build homes. Mr Hutchison believed that LP9 was not a blanket approach and that it shouldn’t prevent an individual case. Mr Croucher said that LP8 was meeting local housing needs. Mr Hutchison said that prestige self-build houses would fit in very well with the housing that Wansford offered which was high end housing. Cllr Stannage asked to speak and this was granted. Cllr Stannage said that Wansford actually had a good cross section of different housing, it had social housing, terraced houses, semi-detached houses, bungalows as well as larger detached houses.
12. Mr Croucher of PCC referred to LP16, paras 119 and 124 regarding low development density which was expected to contribute to the area and be proportionate to the proposal to make efficient use of land. There was no minimum requirement. PCC had concerns about the proposal to have 14 prestige self-build houses which was just under the threshold to have affordable housing and which meant that this exception would have to be applied elsewhere. Mr Croucher of PCC said that the proposed prestige self-build dwellings would be more akin to the type of houses that were already close to the site. They could be developed at a higher density as there was no density limit. Mr Hutchison of Pegasus said that there would be a local pattern of development for the site with gaps between building being important. He also said that there was a need to avoid a hard edge to the village contour.
13. Mrs Dillon asked about the demand for self-build properties. Mr Hutchison said that there was still a demand for CIL exemption council tax band D and above properties. Whilst Mr Hutchison believed there was still a demand for self-build housing PCC had identified that the demand was not significant. Mr Croucher believed that the Seeds Field proposal did not promote the idea of having mixed and balanced communities. Mrs Dillon questioned the representation from Pegasus as to why 14 houses had been chosen and not above 14 as this could be perceived as a deliberate avoidance of the need to have social housing.
14. Ms Wildman of PCC said that she believed the development of Seeds Field would be detached from the existing residential site. Mr Croucher was aware that some residents of Robinswood had bought land from the edge of Seeds Field to act as a buffer between their properties and the new development. Mr Hutchison said he was aware that the site would be on the edge of the village. Mr Croucher of PCC said that the perception of a gateway into the village which currently exists would be lost. Mr Hutchison said that there could be opportunity for further expansion of houses from the existing area where houses currently end on the Old Leicester Road at some time in the future. Mr Croucher of PCC said that the Seeds Field developed site would be quite visible from the valley (the Yarwell Road aspect) which would be a detriment to the countryside views. Mrs Dillon asked if there was a ‘Plot Passport’ (certain constraints identified for the self-build properties). Mr Hutchison of Pegasus said that there was no ‘Plot Passport’ and that it was important not to constrain people’s design and personality in their design of properties.
15. Ecological considerations: Mr Hutchison said that Natural England had been consulted regarding the usage of the SSSI. Natural England had concluded that there would be no effect to the SSSI as the proposed development was for only 14 dwellings, however, they had proposed the idea of a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) which was the name given to green space that is of a quality and type suitable to be used as mitigation. 3.34 hectares would be provided for people to have a circular walk around Seeds Field and it would be managed in perpetuity by the Wildlife Trust. It was proposed to make available a footpath onto the site and it would be maintained. Mr Croucher of PCC said that he would be nervous about this suggestion as there would be no control in the future. Cllr Stannage said that there would be an internal footpath on the site inside the existing hedge. Mr Hutchison of Pegasus said that they would put a dash line on the plan to ensure that it was there. Mrs Dillon said that she would need to see that footpath shown on the plan as it was currently not there. Mr Hutchison of Pegasus said that they would capture this on the plan. Cllr Stannage said that he had concern about how that footpath would be maintained in perpetuity. He said that the Wildlife Trust did not have a good record after they had closed off the SSSI for the past two years and he would be concerned with this arrangement with them. Mr Hutchison of Pegasus said that he would want the SANG land to be transferred to PCC. Cllr Stannage said that Wansford Parish Council would prefer that the land came under the control of Wansford Parish Council because that way the parish council would be reflecting the views of the parish. Mr Croucher of PCC said that PCC would be open to discussion with Wansford Parish Council about this area of SANG. Cllr Stannage continued by stating that Seeds Field was free draining land that drained to the SSSI subsoil which was “the making of the SSSI”. Wansford Parish Council was concerned that this would be adversely affected by contaminated water from the proposed new properties flowing from Seeds Field into the SSSI. Mr Croucher of PCC said that surface water was a concern of PCC and that when the Appeal discusses ‘Conditions’ this would need to be addressed. Cllr Stannage said that the Wildlife Trust, surface water and effluent would all need to be addressed. Mr Croucher agreed with Cllr Stannage. Cllr Stannage said that if there were to be a greater density of housing on the site this would increase pollution on the SSSI so Wansford Parish Council would prefer lower density housing. Mrs Dillon referenced the red and blue line boundaries for the site and that these would need to be addressed. Mrs Dillon and Mr Croucher both agreed that there was no requirement for the site to have a formal public open space.
16. There followed discussion relating to certain areas of disagreement and the first of these related to how building spaces were counted. Mrs Dillon referred to a ratio issue and whether this should be 1.5 or 1.6. Ms Wildman of PCC made reference to a housing build north-west of Tewkesbury which she believed had set a legal precedent and PCC used their precedent. Mr Hutchison of Pegasus disputed this precedent and believed the correct measure to use was to look at the average number of households with adult residents. The discussion then focused on the number of local planning applications and developments that were currently taking place to compare the housing that would soon be available against the need for housing. Reference was made to plans for 2,000 new houses at Norwood and 3,500 homes at Great Haddon. The data obtained by PCC and Pegasus did not align in this respect and Mrs Dillon asked both parties to check this and represent them to her as soon as possible.
17. A discussion then took place relating to the building projects that had taken place at Peterborough’s Hampton Hargate in recent years. Mr Henderson of Kelland Developments challenged PCC when he stated that the original figure for building at Hampton Hargate had been for 5,200 dwellings but that the actual number built had exceeded this number. Mr Hutchison said that this had either been PCC acting unlawfully or there had been some double counting. Pegasus believed that the time limit on some outline planning permissions for development had expired but that PCC had allowed the building to go ahead. Mr Hutchison said that a similar situation had arisen for the building plots at Pilkington Hill and that planning procedures had not been adhered to in a timely manner. Ms Wildman said that this situation was complicated but that full statistics would be provided to Pegasus on these matters. Mrs Dillon asked what was meant by a “timely manner”? Mr Croucher said that, in the case of Seeds Field, he would expect all things to be completed within 5 years. Mrs Dillon said that she needed to understand better the timescale and to have a family tree created of all departments and persons involved in the creation of the proposed prestige self-build houses.
18. The two parties agreed to provide Mrs Dillon with all information requested by her during the meeting which included revised and additional information and that it should be provided to her by 28 November 2022. Mrs Dillon recognised that it would not be possible to conclude the agenda for the appeal meeting on 22 November 2022 and she, therefore, proposed that the meeting continue virtually on 6 December 2022 at 9.30 a.m. All persons would be provided with the additional information to be prepared. The meeting closed at 5.45 p.m.

Marie Lewis
Wansford Parish Clerk
23 Nov 2022