Divided councillors narrowly approve plan to build up to 12 homes for older people on Northamptonshire village outskirts
Scheme described as both 'a very good idea' and unsustainable was given green light
A plan to build up to 12 homes for people aged over 55 on the outskirts of a Northamptonshire village has been narrowly approved by councillors.
West Northamptonshire Council's interim planning committee for South Northamptonshire was divided over the scheme for land north of Church Lane in Bugbrooke during a meeting on Thursday (April 15).
Members were concerned about the site being an 'island' outside the village with services already oversubscribed but accepted there is a need for such specialist housing.
Councillor Elaine Wiltshire, who proposed the approval, said: "I think this is a very good idea, having houses for over-55s and I think the locality, yes it's slightly outside the village confines but I think it is quite good as you are within distance of various places.
"If you're going to have decent footpaths to walk and also parking there as well, for 12 houses, I don't think there should be a problem."
Land Allocations, the firm behind the proposal, initially wanted to build 31 ordinary homes on the site before reducing it to 20, and now 12 for older people, half of which will be affordable.
Usually applications outside development boundaries and in open countryside would not be acceptable but this one is because it is for a specific purpose, according to the planning officer.
Bugbrooke councillor Phil Bignell said: "We're supposed to put things in acceptable sites that join the village.
"This doesn't join the village, it's just an island behind a row of trees just to get some new access off a different road - I don't believe that this is sustainable."
Councillor Bignell also raised concerns about the site being too far from Bugbrooke Medical Centre to walk for the older people.
Bugbrooke Parish Council supports the application due to the need for older person’s accommodation within the village but has asked for cash from the developer to fund several schemes.
Fellow Bugbrooke councillor David Harries said he was 'concerned and unconvinced' by the suggestion the village could take more development but 'reluctantly' backed the scheme.
"I just think that it's a very finely balanced decision and there is no doubt that there is a need for housing for older folks and that site has been identified by the parish council as a possibility if there are any outside the village envelope," he added.
Councillor Karen Cooper described the site as 'unsuitable' and said the footpaths in Bugbrooke are a 'disgrace' with people in mobility scooters unable to use them.
Councillor Steven Hollowell voiced worries about the number of affordable homes being reduced at a later stage and under-55s moving into the development wrongly.
Helen Wilkinson, who represented Land Allocations, said there was no intention to have fewer affordable homes and the main road should be adopted by the council.
"Overall, we believe that this proposal would be of significant benefit to the local community whilst delivering a development that is planning policy compliant," she added.
"These homes will be ideal for residents in Bugbrooke who wish to remain in the local area throughout retirement and will contribute positively to the community."
In the end, councillors voted seven in favour of outline approval with a series of conditions and a section 106 notice, which forces a developer to make financial contributions towards the area, six against and one absention.
A further application for reserved matters, such as exactly how the homes will be laid out and their design, will be needed before they can be built.