Is outline planning consent a gateway round the more detailed full consent that enables developers to ‘sneak in’ features that would be objectionable if declared at the start? Often, as you can see along the A51 through Alphraham and next to the Medical Centre in Bunbury, outline planning consent is a prelude to the sale of the land to a developer. But this is not always the way. In the Outspan development in Sadlers Wells, we have a case in point.

In September 2014 consent was given for the removal of the existing property to be replaced by four dwellings, two detached and 2 semi-detached houses. No garages are shown on the initial plans. Apart from access, all other matters are reserved, i.e. everything they say in the initial plans is just for illustration and can be changed. The officer recommended consent based on the proposals.

In 2016 revised plans are submitted that changed the 2 semi-detached houses into detached properties. All four dwellings now have separate garages with pitched roofs. The two properties at the front of the plot ( previously semi-detached houses) now have additional parking spaces in front as well as at the back. The plans are amended after some objections are lodged by residents and the PC that the houses over dominate the neighbours. Approved.

To view the illustrative plot design at this stage click here

In the original consent, the pond at the rear of the two detached houses had to be retained. But about 20 trees were removed.

Then in December 2016, the developers seek to replace the pond with a ‘wetland scrape’ and remove the bluebells to the edge of the properties and to another ‘suitable’ site. The ecology strategy from the developers speaks of ‘mitigating the loss of the pond on the site which they describe as in a state of ‘ecological decline’;, by improving a different nearby pond instead. The published view of the Nature Conservation Officer is clear:
On the issue of the Bluebells: ‘I advise that the translocation of bluebells within the redline of the application is acceptable, but their relocation to an unspecified location off-site is not.’
On the loss of the pond: ‘I advise that I am not convinced that sufficient ecological enhancement works are being proposed to compensate for the loss of the existing pond and that the current proposals do not appear to be enforceable.’
What is the response of the Planning Officer?
The Councils Ecologist and Landscape officers have been consulted on the information and consider it to be a suitable compromise. It is therefore considered that varying the condition to relate to the new Landscape and Ecology information is acceptable.’ Approved. Just how do you explain that? Unpublished discussions and compromises?

In early 2017 along comes the next alteration. In fact, it’s another application to build an additional property on the same site. Yes, its 5 dwellings on the old site of a bungalow and large garden. It’s another 4 bedroom property with study and separate garage. Approved.

The final step, at present, is the alteration of the design of the dwellings. The original designs made some effort to link to the vernacular style of Cheshire ‘Whilst final design is a reserved matter it is envisaged that the dwellings will be consistent in terms of form and materials with the settlement and involve Cheshire brick with slate roofs (to be confirmed at Reserved Matters stage).’(original design statement). Now that has changed. The Planning Officer lists the alteration to be made under what is described as ‘non-material minor amendment'(s):

  1. 1. Replace all window designs and lintel details
    2. Gable Brick design detail changes front and rear elevations
    3. Change to the position of the string course details
    4. Additional obscure glazed window on side elevation due to internal floor plan changes
    5. Removal of window from first floor, and an additional window adjacent to the back door.

The Planning Officer comments:
‘Although the proposed design alterations will visually change the appearance of the dwellings from a [Cheshire] village style design to a more standard modern housing design the proposed changes are considered to be non-material in nature.’ Approved. View final house design here.

Now view the final(?) result of the changes here.

There was some resistance to the development but not a great deal. The PC was in the main happy to agree with the original application and raised no objections to the majority of the revisions. The resulting development is quite different from that originally described in the application. All 5 properties are large 4 bedroom properties of the type not ‘needed’ in the village (see local housing needs survey 2013). Initially, consideration was given to making ‘the two-storey proposal properties … more in character with those surrounding the site..‘ (Design Statement). The housing density is described as more in keeping with the village. So what happens when you increase the number of houses by 20% and remove vernacular design details to homogenise the building design? Large separate garages are added to the parking spaces (4 two car garages plus one single garage). Additional parking is also added to two of the two houses at the front. Much of the site is now covered in hard surfaces. The gardens at the front of each the  two houses appear much smaller. The pond has gone, the bluebells have been moved and reduced and many of the original trees (19) are to be removed. Clearly ‘reserved matter’ allows a lot of room for further development and changes even to the original conditions on which the consent was given. It’s all negotiable once you have outline consent! But have we ended up with what we thought we were going to get?

About the Author

Peter Gorman ()

Now retired from teaching. Involved in supporting the Village Day Committee, Village websites and Secretary of the Bunbury Action Group.