Contentious 450 homes development on Margate farmland granted permission on appeal

Farmland at Shottendane that was earmarked for housing development

An  appeal over Thanet council’s refusal of planning permission for a contentious application of 450 homes on agricultural land off Shottendane Road in Margate  has been upheld by the Planning Inspectorate,

The planning proposal by Gladman Developments Ltd was rejected by Thanet council three times – in April, June and then July of last year. But it has now been granted following an inquiry last month.

The proposal was initially sent back to the drawing board by councillors with the developer told the 10% affordable housing offer was inadequate. Thanet council’s Local Plan policy stipulates 30% affordable housing unless proved that this figure is unviable.

In June the application was rejected yet again by Thanet council’s planning committee due to an “insulting” affordable housing offer of 15%, flood risk, harm to wildlife and agricultural land and concerns at the inability to provide required health care for new residents.

In July it was again rejected on the grounds of an unacceptable percentage of affordable housing although councillors had raised numerous concerns including the lack of biodiversity surveys and mitigation, wildlife, the loss of farmland and the issue of greatly increased pressure on access to healthcare services.

Gladman’s appealed to the Secretary of State against the refusal.

Planning Inspector David Cliff BA Hons MSc MRTPI has upheld the appeal and granted permission for the development.

In his decision notice Mr Cliff says:” I consider that the appellant’s assessment of viability is satisfactorily robust. Taking account of my findings above, including on build costs and profit margin, there is no clear and conclusive basis for finding that more affordable housing could be viably provided than the 15% proposed. I therefore find that the provision of 15% affordable housing is acceptable in this case and would accord with the affordable housing aims of Policy SP23 of the Local Plan and the Framework.

“Whilst being substantially less than 30%, given that it is the most that can viably be provided, the provision for affordable housing proposed in this case would still make an important contribution towards meeting the identified need within the district and contribute positively to the creation of a balanced and mixed community.”

On the issue of the effect on the integrity of the Thames Coast and Sandwich Bay special protection area the inspector found that developer contributions that would pay towards the employment of wardens, provide for increased signage and interpretation, co-ordination of educational activities, wardens and volunteers and monitoring/surveys were acceptable.

Barley harvest at Shottendane

He also found that the harm upon the setting and significance of designated heritage assets in the vicinity of the site would be “less than substantial.”

However, an application by Gladman’s for a full award of costs against Thanet District Council was rejected with the inspector saying: “Unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense during the appeal process has not been demonstrated.”

Among those to make representations at the inquiry were the Salmestone Ward Residents’ Association – which raised funds to fight the appeal- and the Westgate and Garlinge Action Group which has been fighting against development of Thanet farmland.

A spokesperson for Salmestone Ward Residents’ Association said: “We are disappointed with the inspector’s decision to allow this development to proceed with just 15% affordable housing. We feel that this sets a precedent for future developments to wriggle out of TDC policy compliance as has already been seen with the Salmestone Grange development where the proportion of affordable housing was dropped to 18%.

“It’s of note that the inspector also concluded that TDC did not act unreasonably in refusing this application. Therefore costs have not been awarded against the council and the planning committee should take heart that their decision to refuse this application was absolutely the right one.

“We’d like to thank our supporters for sticking with us and for being generous with our fundraising efforts that enabled us to hire a planning consultant.”

A Westgate and Garlinge Action Group spokesperson added: “With huge sadness, disappointment and anger we  confirm the news that the appeal for the 450 houses at Shottendane Rd has been upheld by the planning inspectorate.

“Disappointment doesn’t begin to cover how we are feeling right now. More will be said in the coming days but it’s safe to say we are really up against it now in our fight to save our remaining grade 1 farmland.

“For those directly involved in the Shottendane fight,thank you, your work has been immense.”

Gladman Developments Ltd, will build the homes, a new distributor link road connecting Hartsdown Road, Shottendane Road and Manston Road, two new roundabouts, public children’s play areas and recreational routes.

The latest plan offers 68 properties as affordable housing on an 80% affordable rent and 20% shared ownership mix  with approximately £4.9million in contributions to community and highways infrastructure.