Linney Hobbit House thrown out by planning inspector – the decision will help us protect our town against harmful development

Plans for a partly subterranean house near the castle mound on the Linney have been thrown out by the planning inspectorate. The plans for a so-called ‘Hobbit House’ were rejected by council planners last September.

The decision to refuse this scheme is a textbook application of local planning rules. It will strengthen the case against other controversial developments at the bottom of the Linney and on Burway Lane.

This is a good decision for Ludlow. We are already committed to hundreds of new homes in and around the town. There is no need for a single house in a location that would have damaged the setting of the castle and our historic centre.

In her report, Inspector Penelope Metcalfe said the proposed development breaks local planning rules. It lies outside the development boundary for Ludlow and such sites should only be built on if insufficient housing is being delivered or there are other exceptional reasons. She accepted that the site was at a sustainable location but could find no case for breaching local planning rules.

The developer, Andrew Badlan, had argued that the house would be a windfall development,[1] and development of such sites is supported by local and national planning policies. The inspector disagreed, saying that local plan policies for Ludlow only allow windfall developments within the town’s boundaries.[2]

The inspector was particularly concerned about the detrimental impact of development would have on the setting of the castle, St Laurence’s church and the Ludlow conservation area. She was also worried that the development would damage the character of top of the Linney: “The construction of a new dwelling would alter the character of the area by extending development into what at present appears as a natural, undeveloped part of the hillside.”

This is a particularly good decision for Ludlow. The inspector has made it clear that there have to be exceptional reasons to breach local plan policies that set out where housing should be built. The decision to reject this inappropriate house also protects the heritage of our town.

It is the case that no planning decision sets a precedent. But this inspector’s report gives me hope that we plan rationally for where houses will be built, without those plans being overturned by the planning inspectorate in Bristol.

Extracts from the Inspector’s report

The recently adopted SAMDev Plan clearly defines the development boundary for Ludlow. The site lies outside it and the proposed new dwelling would be contrary to Core Strategy policies CS3 and CS5 which restrict development to within the development boundary and exercise strict control over development in the countryside outside settlements. It would also be contrary to SAMDev Plan policy S10 which sets out in more detail the Council’s housing allocations for the plan period and which refers to windfall sites within the existing town boundary.

In my opinion, the emphasis in these policies is on focusing housing development in the allocated sites and within settlements, and additional sites outside settlement boundaries would only come into play if the housing guideline is unlikely to be met or there were other over-riding material considerations. As the SAMDev Plan has only very recently been adopted and sets out the Council’s policies for meeting its housing needs, I see no reason to allow the development of sites outside those allocated in the policies unless there would be a clear public benefit which outweighs the policy considerations.

The site is within the setting of Ludlow Castle, which is a heritage asset of high significance both nationally and internationally. It is also within the setting of two other heritage assets, the Town Walls and St. Laurence’s church, also of high significance, and it is within the Ludlow Conservation Area.

The construction of a new dwelling would alter the character of the area by extending development into what at present appears as a natural, undeveloped part of the hillside. The extensive earthworks would alter the natural slope of the bank and introduce an artificial looking mound with a somewhat alien flatter area over the roof just below road level.

The construction of a new dwelling would alter the character of the area by extending development into what at present appears as a natural, undeveloped part of the hillside. The extensive earthworks would alter the natural slope of the bank and introduce an artificial looking mound with a somewhat alien flatter area over the roof just below road level.

The proposal would not meet the tests in the [National Planning Policy Framework] for the conservation of heritage assets. The castle, walls and church are all assets of great importance and great weight must therefore be given to their conservation. The proposal would not enhance their significance and the present natural appearance of the site is in keeping with the wooded surroundings and causes no harm. Although the proposal would not cause substantial harm, I consider that the harm it would cause to the historic environment would not be outweighed by the limited public benefit to the social and economic well-being of the town of a new single dwelling.

On balance, I do not consider that the provision of one small dwelling would result in significant public benefits sufficient to overcome the fundamental objection in principle to new development outside development boundaries. The harm to the setting of highly significant heritage assets adds further weight against the appeal. Although I have found the site to be in a sustainable location, this is insufficient to outweigh the other considerations.

For the reasons given above, I conclude that the appeal should not succeed.

Notes

[1]. Windfall sites: Sites which have not been specifically identified as available in the Local Plan process. They normally comprise previously-developed sites that have unexpectedly become available. Source: national planning policy guidance.

[2]. Policy S10 of SAMDev, the local plan for development sites, sets out planning rules for Ludlow. It states: “New housing development will be delivered primarily on the allocated housing sites east of the A49, set out in schedule S10.1a and identified on the Policies Map, alongside additional infill and windfall development within the town’s development boundary.”

2 thoughts on “Linney Hobbit House thrown out by planning inspector – the decision will help us protect our town against harmful development

  1. This is a shame. The character of our old towns comes from centuries of building unconstrained by planning permission. Buildings survived if they were well-constructed and useful. Now anything that does not appeal to a few local worthies is banned. And this is not a dictatorship imposed on us by the EU.

  2. trb makes an excellent point about local worthies .That is why this town caters mainly for the wealthy and the tourist trade. A striking example is the lack of a Wetherspoons . Oh no we cannot have one of those in Ludlow. A fast food outlet was going to come to foldgate huh no chance of that…..The supermarket on rocks green will drag on for years as some dont want it . There is a lot of poverty in this town and they too should be catered for……

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