Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Concern over ‘100% Affordable Homes’ Development at Saxilby

Residents of Saxilby will be aware that an application has been made to West Lindsey District Council, who are the local planning authority, to develop 8 Bungalows and 11Houses, by Waterloo Housing Group, at ‘greenfield’ land on Church Lane. This land is approximately 10 hectares (that’s about the same as 10 football pitches) and is currently in use as arable agricultural land.

The site lies outside the ‘Settlement Boundary’ as defined on the adopted First Review of the West Lindsey Local Plan – Policy STRAT 4/5/6. The applicant is therefore reliant on the Authority releasing the site using the Rural Exception Policy (Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) paragraph 30 refers).

Notwithstanding the fundamental changes to national planning policy introduced by this Labour Government in 2005, It is my understanding that policies in the West Lindsey Local Plan are ‘held’ until the emerging documents, in form of a Local Development Framework, are adopted; probably not before 2011. The Local Development Framework will then take forward the ‘new plan’ to 2026.

During recent years, most local residents would agree that Saxilby has had its fair share of newly built ‘affordable/social-rented’ dwellings. Furthermore, several small sites suitable for this type of development have been identified within the present ‘Settlement Boundary’ (Brownfield sites); indeed, at least 3 sites are vacant, derelict and calling out for regeneration. Furthermore, Planning Policy Statement 3 also states that priority for development should be on ‘previously-developed’ land.

The Saxilby with Ingleby Housing Need Survey published in July 2006 quotes reasons for needs that are unsubstantiated, unconvincing and do not ‘cut it’ with ‘Middle England’ residents. Moreover, the West Lindsey Need Study published later that year, in November, is hardly convincing using 2 separate Models to estimate the net annual need across the whole district; Model 1 results in a figure of 198 and Model 2 reflects a figure of 518. These disparate exercises conducted at considerable cost to the taxpayer and in the light of the current economic conditions, suggest that any rush into false conclusions and planning options would be, to most observers, unwise until the housing market recedes to a sustainable level.

In the circumstances, any encroachment onto ‘greenfield’ land at this time is totally unjustified. Indeed, approval of the application would clearly not demonstrate ‘joined-up’ planning objectives. The field on which the subject site is located would be capable of accepting anything between 315 to 515 dwellings at the density figures quoted in Planning Policy Statement 3. Not surprisingly, residents in the near vicinity perceive a mini ‘Ermine Estate’ in the making with all the related social and security concerns.

In consideration of the planning application (123430) in context with the West Lindsey Local Plan First Review indicates further reasons to oppose any encroachment beyond the defined ‘Settlement Boundary’. In particular:
Policy Res 6 – Affordable Housing states: at para 1.46, that:
“ ‘exceptions’ provisions do not override long established national and planning policies controlling development in open countryside.”
Policy Res 7 – Rural Exceptions Housing states at para 1.48 sub para iv, that:
“This policy will apply to small rural communities, therefore sites on the fringe of the Unban Area of Lincoln... and the villages identified as Primary Rural Settlements will not be considered appropriate.”
Furthermore, farmland extending westwards from the site is rural in character so ‘affordable dwellings’ in isolation would be detrimental to the visual amenity and nature of the surrounding countryside. Indeed, approaching the village from the northwest along the lane from Torksey affords the traveller fine views onto the rising terrain towards St Botolph’s Church, the only Grade 1 Listed Building in the Parish. Moreover, the visual amenity is further enhanced by the ancient ‘ridge and furrow’ grassland located beyond the junction of Sykes Lane and Church Lane.

Accordingly, I consider encroachment of development on land outside the present ‘Settlement Boundary’ is totally unacceptable before adoption of the Local Development Framework which will occur, hopefully, after full and meaningful community consultation during the adoption process; a far cry from the alert of this application pronounced on a grubby Planning Notice posted on a way pole in a country lane. I therefore strongly of the opinion that the application be refused on grounds of that it is inconsistent with the stated local & national planning objectives and the desired will of local residents.

Giles McNeill
Local Conservative Action Team Co-Ordinator (Nettleham & Saxilby)

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