The day after the ‘purdah period’ ended Planning Inspector Louise Phillips MA (Cantab) MSc MRTPI issued her decision to refuse planning permission for a mixed-use urban extension comprising up to 700 dwellings, 8,600m employment floorspace and various community facilities.
Prior to the Inquiry the Inspector included the impact upon Ashdown Forest SAC as one of the main issues. The issue took two days of inquiry time with three witnesses giving evidence in relation to it. However, the Inspector, finding that the appeal should be dismissed on highways grounds, did not conduct an appropriate assessment of the scheme nor did she make any decision with regards to the impact of the proposal on nitrogen deposition at Ashdown Forest.
During the Inquiry the Appellant sought to introduce new access drawings (which were the sole detailed matter in what was otherwise an outline application). The Council resisted their submission on the basis that they offended the Wheatcroft principle. The Inspector agreed with the Council and proceeded to determine the application on the original drawings. With regards to access, the Inspector noted that the safety audits submitted by the Appellant noted ‘several problems’ relating to insufficient information being provided to conclude that the designs would not compromise road safety (DL). Ultimately the Inspector agreed with the District Council (and the County Council who, as Highway Authority, had objected to the proposal) that it had not been demonstrated that the proposed access arrangements would not compromise the safety of all road users, in breach of local and national policy (DL).
The Inspector further found that the site access proposals would delay the busses running on the Council’s planned Hailsham, Polegate & Eastbourne Movement and Access Corridor (‘HPEMAC’) and therefore would not promote this public transport opportunity as required by paragraphs 102 and 108 NPPF and would be detrimental to the operation of the local road network.
The Inspector concluded that the proposal would not result in a severe impact on the strategic road network and also that the proposal was not premature.
In conducting the planning balance the Inspector noted that the Council could only demonstrate 3.67 years housing land supply. The proposed housing weighed heavily in the balance, so too the economic benefits of the scheme. However, the Inspector concluded that the ‘basic risk to highway safety constitutes an adverse impact of the proposed development which would significantly and demonstrably outweigh its benefits when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole’ (DL). Further, the Inspector concluded that the risk to highway safety amounted to a breach of the development plan overall which was not outweighed by other material considerations and that the appeal should be dismissed.
The decision can be found here: https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/ViewCase.aspx?caseid=3230484