Judge says 350 new homes can be built at Cleve Park
A HIGH Court judge has ruled that 350 homes can be built in Thornbury, despite continued opposition from South Gloucestershire Council.
The council refused planning permission for the 22-hectare Cleve Park site, east of Morton Way and north of Grovesend Road, in March 2017 - and then launched a judicial review when the Planning Inspectorate overruled its decision.
The authority said Landform and Welbeck Strategic Land’s proposals would “compromise the vision” for Thornbury and be out of character with the historic market town.
But its refusal was overruled by planning inspector Clive Hughes, who admitted his decision would disappoint residents.
He acknowledged that the scheme was contrary to South Gloucestershire Council’s development plan, but said he had given substantial weight to the benefit of new housing, jobs and an increased population.
More than a third of the homes are classed as affordable housing - available for social rent or shared ownership schemes - under the plans, which also include a 70-bed care home and community and commercial facilities.
South Gloucestershire Council said allowing the scheme would prejudice the West of England’s joint spatial plan, which is being drawn up to determine where 105,000 homes will be built up to 2036. It indicates that 500 new houses will be located to the east of Thornbury.
In the High Court, the council questioned why Mr Hughes gave “little weight” to its argument that the application was premature and said his reasons were “inadequate”.
But, ruling in favour of the inspector's decision, Judge Mrs Justice Lang DBE said: “There was not any real, as opposed to forensic, doubt as to what the inspector’s reasons were.
“In the course of [South Gloucestershire Council’s solicitor] Alexander Greaves’ oral submissions, it became clear that the council’s main challenge was to the substance of the inspector’s reasons, not their adequacy or intelligibility.”
Alistair Watson, senior partner at Welbeck, said: “I am delighted that – assuming the council accepts the court’s decision – we have, at last, and two and a half years after submitting our planning application, secured planning permission for 350 new homes, of which 35 per cent will be affordable.
“The only disappointment is the time it has taken to secure this permission and, bearing in mind our original application was supported by the council’s planning officers, I hope lessons can be learnt to avoid this situation recurring, particularly when the country is suffering from such a severe housing shortage.
“I now look forward to working with the council’s planning officers to convert this permission into a sustainable location for people to live, and which enhances the community of Thornbury.”
John Baird, head of planning at Osborne Clarke, which represented Welbeck Strategic Land, said: “The issue of the adequacy of reasons in planning decisions has long been a fruitful ground of judicial challenge.
“This decision shows the court will take a pragmatic approach in dealing with such challenges, especially when the issue in question was not a main issue for the decision maker.”
A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council said: “We are committed to plan-led development so that South Gloucestershire can grow to meet the future demand for housing in a sustainable way and we will robustly challenge decisions that undermine this.
“We are disappointed that this particular decision has gone against us, however we will continue to work during this year on an updated Local Plan that will allow us to direct how and where our communities grow and where they cannot.
“Government analysis late last year confirmed that we have an adequate supply of land for the growth we need, which will act as a protection against speculative development of this kind which is contrary to our plans for the future.”