Localism in planning issues

An example of the way in which the strong and reasonable objections are being overridden by the planning inspectorate

In November 2012 Hallam Land Management, Sheffield, submitted an application for a development of 160 residential dwellings on a site on the edge of Abingdon-on-Thames designated as rural fringe. This application was rejected by Vale of White Horse District Council on 24 January 2013 on several grounds, the most important of which was that:

‘the proposal would generate additional traffic movements onto Drayton Road [the access road leading to Abingdon town centre and the A34] which would lead to greater traffic congestion at road junction interchanges which are currently at capacity and add to traffic movements to other road junctions which would add to existing unacceptable levels of road congestion within the wider area and the detriment of the free flow of traffic and the safety of road users. The submitted scheme has failed to provide sufficient information in relation to the wider highway aspects of the proposal for an informative and authoritative solution of the identified problems to be satisfactorily addressed and therefore the scheme is deficient in this aspect of the proposal which is necessary for a determination to be made.’

Hallam appealed this decision and a public enquiry was held in May 2013. The decision to allow the appeal was announced on 11 July 2013. The main grounds for allowing the appeal were that Vale of White Horse District council did not have a Local Plan (one is in preparation and is available in draft) and that there was a shortfall in their five-year supply of deliverable housing (this is currently correct but both the Vale District Council and Oxfordshire County Council have stated in earlier, now defunct, strategic plans that further development in Abingdon would not be allowed because of the traffic problems and other infrastructure concerns, and other sites are under consideration).

Objections to and comments on the original application were submitted by Oxfordshire County Council, Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council, Drayton Parish Council, Science Vale UK, Friends of Abingdon Civic Society, and over 100 other organizations and individuals, many of whom did not live in the immediate vicinity of the development and therefore could not be described as NIMBYs. The Oxford West & Abingdon MP, Nicola Blackwood, also made representations pointing out the deleterious effect of this development on many of her Abingdon constituents

Droitwich Spa Neighbourhood plan conflict

I am writing as a resident, ratepayer and voter of Droitwich Spa. I understand have called Neighbourhood Plans a cornerstone of the Big Society and a new form of local democracy. In Droitwich Spa the Conservative controlled Town Council will not even let residents discuss a Neighbourhood Plan in spite of residents and local organisations expressing a wish to discuss the rights afforded by the act. The Town Council obtained a Frontrunner Grant in March 2012 but has let this lapse. They have also made incorrect and misleading statements at council meetings attended by residents at the last Annual Town Meeting with residents. These misleading statement have been confirmed by your department as incorrect, when residents have checked on them, on a number of occasions. Also your department have spoken to the Town Clerk who confirms they are incorrect and yet they still persist in making these misleading statement and in discouraging any discussion with the community.

Wychavon District Council has the correct information on its website and has also confirmed what our town councillors are saying is incorrect.

The Town Council has even rejected an offer of assistance from your department to help them understand the legislation correctly. When as a resident and ratepayer I wrote to the Town Council Meeting on 24th June, in the correct manner, asking questions about this situation the council declined to answer.

I would like to point out a major problem with the legislation.

Developers can appeal to you about sites they want to develop like the Yew Tree Hill area in Droitwich Spa even if the sites are not allocated in the proposed South Worcestershire Development Plan and are not required by Government targets. I understand you are due to deliberate on the proposed developments on these sites. Residents however if dealing with a Town Council not fit for purpose on the legislation have no way to appeal to you. The Town Council can block a population of over 23,000 from enjoying the rights and benefits afforded by the act and to plan for the town's future.. Also there is no opportunity to appeal to an ombudsman service over misleading the community as the Local Authority Ombudsman advises they have no powers over the first level of local authorities. Leaving the final decision with a town council to deny the rights under the act with no right of appeal is a major fault in the legislation. Even criminals have a right of appeal but apparently not residents of Droitwich Spa.

Whilst the community in large numbers supports rejection of the Yew Tree Hill sites it is hypocritical of a Conservative controlled Town Council to oppose government legislation and prevent the community from discussing the benefits of a Neighbourhood Plan for the town to work under the South Worcestershire Development Plan. 

Last Modified: 27 February 2012