Exceptional Cheddar Success

February 5, 2010 9:23 am Published by

Tetlow King Planning (TKP) played an important role in helping to secure the approval in principle of an exceptions scheme for 67 affordable dwellings on the south west edge of Cheddar.

The application was by First Step Homes (SW) Ltd, working in partnership with the Guinness Trust, a leading national registered social landlord.  TKP advised the Guinness Trust, by whom we are retained on a national basis.

The site is located outside of the Cheddar development boundary in the Sedgemoor District Local Plan. In such locations residential development is generally objectionable in principle. However, national and local planning policy permits in exceptional circumstances appropriate form of ‘affordable’ residential development where there is a proven need for affordable housing for local people. Such sites are generally referred to as ‘rural exception sites’.

The saved policy in the Sedgemoor District Local Plan permits ‘limited’ residential development on sites which not otherwise be released for residential purposes. Clearly a scheme involving 67 units would not be described as a ‘limited’ form of residential development and as such the application was contrary to policy in this respect.

A departure from the Local Plan was however deemed acceptable in this case due to the urgent need for affordable housing in Cheddar. It was only on the issue of scale where it departed from policy. Policy H13 is clear that limited residential development may exceptionally be permitted outside of development boundaries where:

  1. It meets a proven need for affordable housing for local people;
  2. The management of the scheme will ensure that the dwellings continue to meet such proven needs for initial and subsequent occupiers;
  3. The site is within or immediately adjoining the development boundary of a Rural Centre/Village; and
  4. There is no significant adverse affect on the character of the existing settlement or surrounding countryside nor harm to the water environment; and the site is close to public transport routes and has reasonable access to local services by foot and cycle.

Whilst the proposed development was not ‘limited’, in all other respects it accorded with the above criteria. The Development Control Committee of December 2009 agreed that the urgent need to provide affordable housing in the village outweighed the policy requirement for the development to be ‘limited’ and resolved to grant planning permission subject to a section 106 Agreement being completed.

At an early stage TKP provided an important briefing note to Guinness on the policy implications and precedents elsewhere.  This was forwarded to Sedgemoor District Council and appears to have heavily influenced their ultimate consideration of the application. It presumably helped that TKP had previously advised the Council more generally on affordable housing issues, including on the preparation of its current Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance.