Housing plan for pony paddock at Cannock beauty spot passed despite hundreds of objections

Hundreds of residents have lost their battle to stop 60 affordable homes being built on a pony paddock on the edge of a beauty spot.

The field north of Rawnsley Road, Cannock, earmarked for an affordable housing development. Photo: Google
The field north of Rawnsley Road, Cannock, earmarked for an affordable housing development. Photo: Google

More than 540 people signed a petition opposing the development of the field north of Rawnsley Road, Cannock, close to the boundary of Cannock Chase AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), along with more than 340 objections submitted to Cannock Chase Council.

Concerns raised included the impact of the new homes on local services such as schools and GP surgeries, as well as flood risk, the visual effect on the AONB, disturbance to wildlife and road safety. There were also fears that affordable housing could bring crime and antisocial behaviour to the area and affect property values.

A planning officers’ report said it was considered that the development would “dominate” part of the valley, resulting in “local moderate adverse effects on the setting of the AONB”, and the land would need to be re-contoured.

But the application was recommended for approval ahead of a planning committee meeting on Wednesday, It was considered that harm to the AONB would be outweighed by the development meeting the need for affordable housing in the district.

A mix of eight one bedroom, 28 two-bedroom, 20 three-bedroom and four four-bedroom properties has been proposed for the development.

Jo Noakes, speaking on behalf of applicant Bromford at Wednesday’s meeting, said: “It is well known that England is in the midst of a housing crisis. We are a registered provider which exists to provide safe, affordable homes for people who can’t access market housing.

“This proposal of 60 affordable homes will directly contribute to the district’s affordable housing need of 110 units per annum. The shortfall is compounded by the fact the council cannot currently demonstrate it has a five-year housing supply – there should therefore be no dispute the need for this type of development is acute.

“The proposal constitutes sustainable development and is in accordance with the local plan. It is not within the Green Belt or the AONB and not protected by landscape policy.”

Committee members visited the site on Wednesday before they made their decision. Chairman Councillor Paul Startin said there were “abuse and threats” during the visit.

Dave Williams, one of the local residents who spoke against the plans at the meeting, said: “You will have seen the level of feeling against it at the site visit today and I regret that there were some unsavoury comments made at that site visit. We know very well what local residents think of that site.

“It would be a complete eyesore and it would blight the aspect on both sides of the valley. There would also be an impact on the environment and loss of habitat.”

Mr Williams, chair of Hazel Slade and Rawnsley Community Association, also spoke of previous plans to build homes on the land which were rejected by Cannock Chase Council in 1999. At that time it was considered “the development would adversely affect the setting of the Cannock Case Area of outstanding Natural Beauty and would be seriously detrimental to the areas’ landscape qualities.”

Mr Williams added: “The land has been subject to a number of local plans over time and because of that it became designated as protected land. Some time after that the designation changed to ‘additional space’, which was a hazy notion.”

Rawnsley ward councillor Claire Wilkinson raised concerns about lack of public transport in the area for residents.

She said: “I am firmly opposed to any development of this land. The officers’ recommendation for approval specifies 28 conditions and the number of conditions regarding wildlife is noticeable.

“The proposal will result in harm to Cannock Chase AONB and 100 per cent affordable housing should never be at the expense of irreplaceable geography.”

Committee member Councillor Andrea Muckley, who lives in Rawnsley, said the development would join two villages and called for the application to be refused permission.

She added: “I’m torn because I have friends waiting for a house. They can’t get onto the housing ladder and I have a lot of sympathy for people in that position.

“But we need to be careful we are building in the right place for the right reason. Putting money and people before the environment is how we got into this climate change mess in the first place.

“There are no buses on a weekend. I cannot get to and from work by catching a bus to the train station and that’s during the working week. What about people working weekends and students going to school?

“The new residents would be affected by that as current residents are. Bromford are going to get complaints from residents about lack of services.”

But other committee members voted to approve the plans.

Councillor Startin said: “There are 600 families in the district waiting for a house. As a council we have to be able to provide those families with homes.

“This is an opportunity to take a lot of people off the waiting list and provide families with somewhere they can call home. I understand why people don’t want this application but I take a different view – I put humans before the environment.”

Councillor Adrienne Fitzgerald said: “There is shortage of affordable housing for families. Recently a flat became available and there were 35 expressions of interest and 38 people applied for a three-bedroom property. For a two bedroom bungalow 35 people applied.

“This application complies with the local plan and there is a desperate need for housing in the area. Cannock is blessed by the AONB but we have a severe shortage of brownfield land to build on, which is why this has been brought forward.”

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