We have had a busy year again. The first change to mention is that we are now the Bunbury Action Group. Why the change? Often particular groups emerge to fight a given development but disappear as soon as the application is decided. It is to be hoped that with one organisation we can maintain the watching brief on a wide range of concerns about the village. Secondly what we learn from each struggle with developers, enhancement of the environment, etc. will build our ability to be more effective. As we accumulate resources people will be able to find useful material more quickly and therefore be more effective in their struggle against inappropriate developments. Thirdly, one organisation keeps the village united. We must avoid parts of the village feeling that their loss is somehow others’ gain, or vice-a-versa ..’if they build over there then they might not build next to us…’ That breeds fragmentation. And while those directly affected will be most likely to lead the examination of the application, we must all feel included in the debate to protect and promote our village.
The new Friends of Bunbury website also seeks to encourage both easy access to the debates about housing developments but also the wider life of the village. Many of our struggles with developments have attempted to point to the damage to the environment, the loss of amenity and the threat to our wildlife. I hope this new website will give greater prominence to these aspects of our concern with our lives in the village.
1. What has happened to housing developments in 2017
This year the number of applications for 2 or more properties increased to a peak. Please note these are my personal calculation and may not be error free. They also do not include single dwelling construction or applications.
Total Dwellings Affordable/Intermediate
Land off Oak Gardens 15 4
Land off Bunbury Lane (Wulvern) 15 5
Land next to Medical Centre 7 ?
Land off Bowes Gate Road 11 8
Land around Bunbury Heath (4 sites) 8 0
Planning Condition applications granted (Reserved matters and other conditions)
Hill Close 15 5
The Grange (building) 14 4
The Outspan 5 0
School Lane (Inc. Car Park) 2 0
Totals 92 of which 26 are affordable in some way
Analysis by Type of Dwelling:
1 Bed 2/3 Beds 4/5 Beds
2 33 53 (plus 4 undecided or unclear)
The 2013 housing survey of Bunbury identified 1 bed dwellings as being in strong demand. Developers want to build the ‘executive’ home but unlike elsewhere we are getting the 30% of affordable and intermediate (shared equity) housing.
2. What we learnt from Appeals:
During the year three applications went to appeal and we had the result of two during the year. The first up was the appeal on the land off Oak Gardens. This came through in mid June with the decision to allow the appeal. What did we learn?
- 1. Very little will protect a site if the local Plan cannot ‘demonstrate’ an adequate supply of land for development. Without the local plan all policies related to housing are deemed to use that strange phrase ‘out-of-date’.The Bunbury Neighbourhood Plan (BNP) was therefore, at the time, ‘out-of-date’. Six weeks later Cheshire East had a Local Plan and was able to demonstrate the required supply of land.
- 2. The ‘Co-location Policy’ contained in the BNP was open to different interpretation. The ‘local’ thought it applied retrospectively to the previous Local Plan (2010-2030) period. The inspector said the definitions were ‘contradictory’ and could only refer to houses built after it was ‘made’ i.e. became a legal policy in March 2016. The BNP development group had foreseen the problem if the policy were not retrospective. Adjacent sites given planning permission days apart in the spring of 2016 could deemed not to be co-located. Absurd.
Perhaps, as I have heard, some in the Government are troubled by the widespread adoption of the co-location policy. Designed to block the emergence of large estates it was being considered by many groups developing their own Neighbourhood Plans. This decision has damaged the policy and reduced its effectiveness. From now on the policy can only stop co- location of sites built with the period 2016-2030
Next the Wulvern appeal on the site east of Bunbury Lane behind the retirement bungalows. This application became controversial to many because of it linkage with the Hill Close battle. The granting of permission to the Hill Close site created a protracted struggle over access. Wulvern Housing Association (now part of Guinness Partnership) had an application on a site a field away. On the same day that Hill Close (CB Homes) got the go-ahead Wulvern was turned down. Most wanted it round the other way. Wulvern appealed.
1. The same point was used here as above. All housing policies are deemed ‘out-of-date’.
2. The co-location policy is also subject to a thorough ‘pounding’ by the inspector. The inspector agues that the development of both these sites does not conflict with the policy as they are ‘visually separated’ (by the paddock) and it is: is:
‘inevitable that it seems to me, that some of the new housing would have to be located within the same geographical area of the village’.
She then suggests the field off Oak Gardens, that has just been given the go-ahead, illustrates her point very well! So the co-location policy is yet further reduced in scope. Anyone would think the inspectors have an agenda.
The final appeal was on the footpath diversions across the field off Oak Gardens. No word yet.
Let us hope 2018 will be a quiet year on the planning front.