We have been discussing plans to build housing in the former garden of Linney House since May 2012. There is a growing sense of exhaustion with a series of plans that have taken more effort than most major housing developments. Yet the scheme is only for four homes or possibly eight. Four if the Southern Planning Committee approves plans at its meeting next Tuesday. Eight if the planning inspectorate approves a previous scheme which is now at appeal. Both outcomes could happen. That would mean that the site would have three sets of permission for three, four and eight homes.
I am expecting the Southern Planning Committee to approve this application next Tuesday.
Linney House has been one of the most controversial developments in Ludlow’s recent history. It also has been one of the most complex.
At the last meeting of the Southern Planning Committee, councillors narrowly rejected the scheme for eight homes. Committee members had been subject to extensive lobbying by the developer in the days prior to the meeting. The agent for the scheme even knocked on my door one evening to hand me a pack of papers. It seems these papers had been given to all if not most of the committee members rather than entered into the public record. One mentioned that the applicant would accept a deferral of a decision to allow time for the appeal on the previous application for eight homes to be determined by the planning inspectorate. That request was reinforced by a phone call to a committee member while the application was being discussed by the committee. That member proposed deferral in a move that broke the planning rulebook. Surprisingly, the chair of the meeting did not rule the proposal out of order but it did not in any event succeed.
This time there has been no lobbying I have seen. In any event, the head of planning has issued a warning to committee members after the last planning meeting to emphasise they should not be influenced by lobbying. This has always been the view of the Southern Planning Committee in the six years I have been a member. When lobbying got excessive or threats were made – I’ll see you in court if you approve / don’t approve this – we have ignored them. Planning committees must work on the evidence before them.
Which brings us back to the current Linney House application for four homes (19/05519/FUL). This is not as attractive as the scheme for eight homes but that scheme was too destructive of the ecological corridor along the Teme and the Southern Planning Committee rejected it by one vote. The final decision however will be down to the planning inspectorate as the scheme had been already appealed.
The four home scheme to be considered on Tuesday is modern in design. That is usually better in a conservation area than pastiche designs that attempt to look “traditional”. It has less impact on the important wildlife corridor than the eight home scheme. But there will be a lot of tree felling. Some of the most extensive planning conditions I have seen attached to a planning application for a small development will ensure that mitigation measures are put in place.
If the 2014 scheme had not been approved, it is likely that this scheme would be rejected. But given the earlier approval, the main consideration now is whether this scheme represents a betterment. It is better in design and for protection of the wildlife corridor. For that reason, I am backing the planning officer’s recommendation for approval next Tuesday.
My statement to the Southern Planning Committee 20 October 2020
It has been a long journey. Plans for housing on this site were first lodged in May 2012. A completely unsuitable scheme for three detached bourgeois homes was approved in 2014 when the council was under duress because it lacked a five-year land supply. In other circumstances, it is unlikely that any housing would have been approved on this site which lies outside the development boundary and is in a wildlife corridor.
Tree felling has since reduced the site’s amenity value but natural rewilding has boosted its contribution to biodiversity. The scruffiest areas often make the best contribution to wildlife.
The scheme this committee discussed last month undermined that biodiversity. This scheme keeps the important wildlife corridor along the Corve just about intact.
I support the officer’s recommendation that this scheme is approved. It is modern in design and that is appropriate for the site. It less damaging than other applications for this site.
Members will have noted that there are more conditions than normal attached to the recommendation for approval. The conditions recognise the importance of this site to biodiversity in Ludlow. I would urge that these are accepted in full.