A Derbyshire council has rejected plans to build homes in the Green Belt, but took so long to decide that the land owner has already taken it to appeal. At a South Derbyshire District Council meeting last night (May 31) plans to demolish a house and replace it with two homes in Thorn Tree Lane, Newhall, were rejected.
Widespread work is said to have already taken place on the site, which also has an air raid shelter in the garden, but council officials will now not be able to take action until after the appeal is handled. The applicant, DP Improvements, has taken the authority to appeal over “non-determination” – it took too long to make a decision.
DP Improvements had submitted its plans, through JF Planning, on January 18 in 2021 – 17 months ago. Government guidance is that most planning applications should be decided within eight weeks, with large or complex schemes having a time limit of 13 weeks.
However, the Thorn Tree Lane application has taken 71 weeks to decide – more than five times the limit. Steffan Saunders, the council’s head of planning, said councillors should reject the scheme due to it representing an “incursion” into the countryside and is “counter to policies seeking to protect the environment”.
He wrote that the applicant aimed to demolish a large farmhouse and outbuildings and replace them with two four-bed houses, with one on the similar spot as the existing home and the second sitting further forward on the site. Mr Saunders said the replacement of the current house with another house would likely be acceptable, but increasing the number of homes on the “isolated” site would be to expand the “urbanisation” of the plot in what is the protected Green Belt.
He confirmed there is an air raid shelter on the site but it is not of “particular historic importance”. A resident speaking on behalf of those living in Thorn Tree Lane and Rose Tree Lane said the road to access the site was not wide enough for two vehicles.
She said a local builders merchant confirmed it would not be able to access the site from the north due to trees, which would need to be removed, with access blocked to the south by residents’ cars. The resident said the route past the site was regularly used by schoolchildren.
Cllr Kevin Richards, leader of the council, said: “It is very narrow. It is very difficult to get up there. It is outside the settlement boundary. One (home) would have been acceptable but two is incurring in the countryside.” Cllr Steve Taylor said: “When our policies are as clear as this it is clear to me that we should follow the guidance.”
Cllr Sean Bambrick, a local councillor for the site, told the meeting: “I am a little disappointed it took so long to come to committee, I know we have had the pandemic and I know we have been short of staff. Historic hedgerows have already been cleared and neighbours have suffered from flooding before and they could again be in the same condition if we don’t do something.
“I don’t feel we should be building here.” Cllr Amy Wheelton said that on a site visit it was clear that a “vast” amount of work had already been carried out.
Mr Saunders confirmed that enforcement action could be taken but this would have to wait until after the appeal has been decided. A total of 13 residents wrote objection letters to the council over the plans, saying work has already started, including the removal of trees, which they fear could cause flooding, that the road is too narrow and that the route is popular with school pupils and walkers.