The consultation period for the ‘Housing in Clusters and Small Scale Residential Development in the Countryside Supplementary Planning Document’ (SPD) closed on Friday 5thAugust.
The document seeks to provide clarity on the interpretation of the two relevant policies relating to housing in the countryside (i.e. outside of settlement boundaries, but within groups of other dwellings) – SCLP5.4 and WLP8.7. One of the main issues the Council has sought to address in the SPD is the definition of a ‘cluster’ or ‘settlement in the countryside’. Both policies allow for ‘infill’ development in such settlements, i.e. filling in obvious gaps in a continuous built up area.
Despite the local plans both being recently adopted, officer interpretation of the policies has been inconsistent, leading to some unfair decisions for applicants. Durrants represent numerous clients whose applications have been both approved and refused against these policies. Our letter to the Council highlighted some of the inconsistencies in their previous application of policy, and most importantly, some of areas in which the SPD could fail to avoid such issues in the future. These include the acceptable size and nature of a ‘gap’, what constitutes ‘continuous built up frontage’ and how development on one vs two sides of the road is treated.
It is our view that the SPD in its current form will only add to the existing confusion, and that the preferable solution is for officers to decide applications in accordance with SCLP5.4 and WLP8.7, as these policies are both very clear and pro-development.
We have summarised the points made in our representations here and would encourage you to take a look at the SPD online.
- Neither the SPD nor the local plans contain any policies allowing settlements with development boundaries to grow – i.e. there is only allowance for infilling of gaps
- The definition of a ‘gap’ is still unclear. It appears that infilling a gap containing a garden or farm access is acceptable, but containing a ‘large’ field is not. This needs to be clarified and, importantly, justified.
- Confusion over ‘development on both sides’ as per the policy wording, which is contradicted by the diagrams in the SPD.
- No position over whether planning approved developments count towards the cluster. We argued in our letter that they absolutely should.
- We closed by drawing attention to a recent appeal decision on a house in the countryside, which East Suffolk lost due to their incorrect interpretation of their own policy.
No timescale has been given for the next phase of the consultation process, but Durrants will continue to engage with the process on behalf of our clients. Please do get in touch if you have a potential site that could be captured by these changes.