Development in Barnack gets the green light despite the city council

Shailesh Vara with residents at the development site
Shailesh Vara with residents at the development site

A “predatory” application for 80 new homes in the countryside which was slammed by city councillors will now go ahead after the developers won an appeal.

Gladman Developments can now begin building on land off Uffington Road, Barnack, after the Government Planning Inspectorate overturned a unanimous decision by Peterborough City Council’s planning committee to throw out the application in April 2016. At the time the committee slammed the proposal, which included a new children’s play area, with one councillor claiming: “This is one of the most inappropriate applications I’ve ever had to sit on and I’ve been on this committee a number of years.”

Cllr Peter Hiller, planning committee member and cabinet member for growth, planning, housing and economic development, described the application as “predatory,” while the council’s planning department gave six reasons for why planning permission should be refused.

Officers stated that the development would be too large for the village and would have a “harmful impact on the character and appearance of the Barnack Conservation Area.”

However, Gladman successfully argued on appeal that the council could not “robustly demonstrate” that it had an adequate five-year housing plan for the city, which the Planning Inspectorate said in his written judgement meant planning approval could not be refused unless “any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.”

And on this occasion he ruled that would not be the case.

Responding to the verdict, Cllr Hiller said: “I’m disappointed. The council put a very strong case as to why the appeal should not be upheld.

“The inspectorate said we could not robustly argue that we had a five-year land supply –I would refute that.

“I’m very disappointed for the people of Barnack who did not want the development.”

Barnack councillor David Over said he was “horrified” by the successful appeal and that he had been reassured last year that the council had adequate housing supply.

He said: “I’m absolutely appalled by the decision. We are going to get major pressures on country roads and the school is going to be overcrowded.

“I’m sympathetic to the council because it tried its best. It brought in an expert barrister, but they were confronted by five to six planning experts and a barrister who do this every day.”

North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara, who campaigned against the plans, said: “It is very disappointing for the residents of Barnack that the planning appeal went against them.

“They fought an excellent campaign based on well-evidenced planning arguments and the level of local opposition was significant.

“Together with residents and the local parish councils, I am concerned about Peterborough City Council’s lack of a demonstrable five-year land supply and it is important that this is addressed so that future speculative planning applications can be properly rebuffed.”

A council spokeswoman said the authority does not believe losing this appeal will make it easier for developers to push through projects because an updated Five Year Land Supply report will be published in the summer.

She said: “We believe we will be able to demonstrate sufficient supply and that this will be evidenced in the revised report.”

Nick Harding, head of planning for the council, said the local authority believed that it had adequate housing land supply when it refused the application.

He added: “Whilst we are disappointed with the outcome, we respect the decision of the Planning Inspectorate.

“As one of the fastest growing cities in the country, we are acutely aware of the need to generate additional housing to meet demand and have a number of projects underway to help us achieve our targets, a point highlighted by the planning inspector.

“In summing up he spoke about our ‘excellent track record in recent years in unlocking difficult sites through partnership arrangements’ and commended our proactivity in ‘bringing forward sites for development through a variety of measures’, citing Fletton Quays and the partnership with Cross Keys Homes.”

The council is currently preparing a new local plan which will identify sites required for development to meet the city’s housing needs until 2036.

Gladman Developments declined to comment.

Hiller hits out at developers

Gladman has been accused nationally of seeking loopholes in local planning policies to push through developments on greenfield sites. In particular, the company is known to challenge the lack of a five-year housing supply from councils.

Cllr Hiller said: “I maintain that this particular firm are a predatory firm. It’s what they do, and on this occasion they succeeded.

“Gladman are not in the business of making villages better. They are in business to apply for predatory developments using this arbitrary five-year land supply which makes no sense whatsoever for efficient local planning authorities like Peterborough.” Councillors in Whittlesey were furious in 2014 after Fenland District Council’s planning committee approved Gladman’s application for up to 150 homes to be built on land north of Snowley Park and Glenfields. Objectors claimed the land was not due for development in any local plan. Gladman’s first application for the site was rejected, which the company appealed against. However, it suspended the appeal when the council approved a second application.