Developer wins appeal against Stafford Borough Council

A developer has won its battle to build up to 20 new affordable homes on land on the edge of Stone more than three years after the plans were rejected by Stafford Borough Council.

The site between Saddler Avenue and Blackies Lane is considered to be outside the Stone settlement boundary. But affordable homes can be allowed on “rural exception sites” if certain criteria are met, such as all proposed properties being for social rental or “intermediate housing” and the site being near an existing development.

Fradley Estates appealed against Stafford Borough Council’s 2017 decision to refuse permission for up to 20 affordable properties on the land at the edge of the Aston Lodge estate.

This month the Planning Inspectorate published its decision to allow the appeal and grant consent for the development.

Planning inspector David Williams said: “Although outside the settlement boundary of Stone, the proposed development, which is for 100 per cent affordable housing, would comply with Policy C5 of the Plan for Stafford Borough. In view of the small number of dwellings and its status as an exception site it would not involve prejudice to the development plans strategy for the distribution of housing in the borough as set out in (other) policies, and would comply with the development plan as a whole.

“With regard to the question of flood risk, while I have not accepted the appellant’s conclusion that the sequential and exception tests are passed, I accept that, subject to a condition preventing development from taking place within land identified as being within Flood Zones 2 and 3, and other conditions mitigating any potential flood risk, the development would be acceptable in flood risk terms.”

The appeal decision was discussed at the council’s planning committee meeting on Wednesday.

Development manager John Holmes said: “This resulted from an application the committee considered twice in 2017. It went to appeal and the original appeal decision was quashed in the High Court back in December 2018.

“More than two years later we have got what will be the final decision on this. There are a number of issues that came about – principally it’s to do with interpretation of the Local Plan policy, particularly in terms of affordable housing and settlement boundaries, because this is something put forward as rural needs affordable housing outside the settlement of Stone but it is immediately adjoining it.

“The way our policy is phrased this can happen again. We can get applications around the edge of Stafford and Stone, literally adjoining the settlement boundary, that are put forward as rural exception sites.

“It’s something to bear in mind because I don’t doubt it will come up again before the Local Plan is replaced.”

Councillor Marnie Philips said: “I think these developers are finding far too many loopholes and I’m not happy about the way we’re having applications presented to us. With this application they’ve got round things to have this built and it’s just wrong.

“It’s such a shame that we can’t put a stop to this because of the legalities. We need to have changes in order to be able to stop these kind of developments."

Committee chairman Councillor Ray Sutherland said: “That’s the point in reviewing and changing the plan. But if we’ve got a rule about development we have to abide by that rule until we change it.”

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