Rural Exception Site Appeal Success, with Costs, for 22 new dwellings in Mid Devon

August 31, 2022 11:54 am Published by

Tetlow King Planning (TKP) is delighted to have secured full planning permission for up to 22 dwellings on the outskirts of Tiverton, Mid Devon, on behalf of LiveWest Homes.

TKP were the planning consultants on the scheme approved at appeal which will deliver a mix of house types and tenures, including 12 new affordable homes, on a sustainably located site within walking distance to Tiverton town centre. Other benefits include financial contributions towards early years and primary education places, and off-site open space.

TKP prepared and submitted the application which involved several revisions in the context of a new Local Plan. During the application’s determination, Mid Devon District Council (MDDC) adopted the Local Plan 2013-2033. Following this, the Planning Policy Team at MDDC reviewed the application proposal and linked the application to the newly adopted rural exceptions policy DM6; TKP coordinated an agreement between MDDC and the applicant that the application would be considered as a rural exception scheme, given its location adjacent to the settlement boundary of Tiverton. A number of revisions were made to plans and documents submitted with the application in order to reflect changes in the adopted Local Plan and comments on the application from officers and consultees. In addition to preparing the planning statement, TKP produced an affordable housing statement for the application to demonstrate local affordable housing need in line with rural exceptions policy DM6.

Concluding that there were no technical constraints to development, MDDC’s Planning Officers recommended that the application should be approved, subject to conditions and a s106 legal agreement. However, Planning Committee resolved that it was ‘minded to refuse’ the application, and deferred determination of the application until after it had reviewed an implications report written by Officers to consider the proposed reasons for refusal.

The Planning Committee argued that the site should not be considered a rural exception site under Policy DM6 as the site was not within what was considered to be a ‘rural area’ due to its location on the edge of the market town of Tiverton, and that the proposed development would have a detrimental impact on the character an appearance of the area.

The Officer’s Implications report supplemented the previous Officer’s report to Committee explaining clearly the reasons why Officers considered that the application was acceptable when assessed against the Development Plan in its entirety. Despite the Officers’ professional advice and thorough evaluation, the application was refused by MDDC Planning Committee. Following refusal of planning permission, TKP were instructed to co-ordinate and submit the appeal, including preparation of the statement of case and an application for costs.

The single main issue set out by the Inspector considered the suitability of the appeal site for the proposed development having regard to local and national planning policy for the supply of housing and the effect of the proposed development on the character and appearance of the area.

The Inspector quickly identified that the site was located within the countryside for planning purposes given its location outside of settlement limits, and that in order to facilitate the provision of affordable and low cost housing, the Local Plan states that rural exception sites will be considered in rural areas. The Inspector noted that, “Following submission of an Affordable Housing Statement, the Council agree that there is a demonstrable local housing need in the area.” Furthermore, the Inspector noted that the Council did not dispute that the proposed development satisfied rural exceptions Policy DM6 in that the scheme provided a greater number of units of affordable housing than open market dwellings.

In evaluating the Council’s approach to the location of rural exception sites, the Inspector stated:

“…the Council have referred me to criterion c) of Policy DM6 of the Local Plan which provides that development would be permitted where the site adjoins a settlement and is in a suitable location which takes account of the potential for any visual impact and other relevant planning issues. The supporting commentary of that policy further states that “Exception sites must adjoin a settlement, which for the purposes of this policy will usually mean one of the settlements defined as suitable for development in Policy S13”. In that regard, the Council maintains that the appeal scheme would conflict with criterion c) of Policy DM6 in that Tiverton is not a settlement named within Policy S13 of the Local Plan and that the proposal would have an adverse visual impact on the surrounding area.

Whilst I note the Council’s submissions in respect of the settlements named within Policy S13 of the Local Plan, it is clear from the wording of Policy DM6 that exception sites are not solely restricted to land that is adjacent to just those named settlements and does not preclude such sites being considered in locations adjacent to other settlements within the district, such as at Tiverton.”

As such, the Inspector confirmed that the appeal site would be an appropriate location for a rural exception scheme in the context of the Local Plan, contributing to the vitality and viability of Tiverton and located within convenient distance to services and facilities.

With regard to the appeal proposals effect on the character and appearance of the area, the Inspector set out that: “On my site visit, I saw that the site was well screened from views from within Tiverton, including from the Tiverton Conservation Area, and the wider surrounding area, by mature vegetation and nearby housing. In that regard, whilst there would be a change to the appearance of the site by the development, I do not find that it would have a harmful effect on the character and appearance of the area…”

In discussing housing need, the Inspector considered that the proposal would provide an important benefit in terms of the provision of housing including contribution towards meeting an identified need for affordable housing, assisting with the Government’s objective to boost the supply of housing. The Inspector recognised that: “In terms of numbers of dwellings, including affordable housing, over the plan period, the text to the Policy is clear that an approximate number of such units will be provided. As such the figures provided in the Local Plan are indicative and do not set a cap or an absolute limit on the delivery of housing.”

The Inspector went on to allow the appeal. The application for an award of costs was also allowed in full, the Inspector concluding that “the Council has acted unreasonably, and that the Applicant has incurred unnecessary and wasted expense in the appeal process.”

The Appeal Decision can be found here. The Costs Decision can be found here.

Leonie Stoate – Senior Planner, and Jonathan Adams – Senior Director, are delighted to have enabled this quality development for LiveWest. TKP wish to thank Bean Designed Architects, Trace Design, Richard Green Ecology, Foxford Design, AC Archaeology, GeoConsulting Engineering, JLL and Keith Rushforth for all their inputs as part of the consultant team to secure this approval.