Government overturns new homes plan refusal on same day Earls Barton residents vote for Neighbourhood Plan

Residents have voted in favour of the neighbourhood plan
Residents have voted in favour of the neighbourhood plan

A planning application for 39 homes in Earls Barton has been given the go-ahead by the Communities Secretary – on the same day residents voted for a Neighbourhood Plan which wanted the land protected.

Voters in Earls Barton went to the polls last Thursday to decide on the question: “Do you want Wellingborough Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Earls Barton to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”

The result was 1,071 yes votes and 80 no votes. The turnout was 28 per cent.

This means that the plan, which sets out a framework for the village including new housing, local employment, transport, leisure, health and education facilities, will be taken into account when proposals for development are considered.

But in a decision issued the same day as the vote was taking place, Communities Secretary Greg Clark allowed an appeal against a Wellingborough Council decision to refuse an application for 39 homes on an agricultural site on the edge of the village, ruling that a five-year housing land supply shortfall should trump policies in the nascent Neighbourhood Plan.

In allowing the appeal by Bowbridge Land, Mr Clark agreed with the conclusions of inspector Wenda Fabian, who recommended that the appeal be allowed and planning permission granted, subject to conditions.

Mr Clark’s decision letter said the Earls Barton Neighbourhood Plan is “an important material consideration in this case”.

It also said that the Secretary of State agreed with the conclusions of the inspector that the proposal “conflicts with the emerging neighbourhood plan”.

The decision letter explained that the appeal site is “outside the limits for development” set in the emerging plan and is “not allocated for development”, adding that the size and type of proposal does not comply with one of the plan’s policies.

Mr Clark’s decision note said the conflict with the emerging Neighbourhood Plan should be given “significant weight – in view of the very advanced stage that the plan has reached and the evident high degree of local support for it”.

But the letter also said the plan is “not yet made and therefore does not carry full statutory weight”.

It added that, as there is not a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites, “the relevant policies for the supply of housing in the emerging Neighbourhood {lan, including the proposed village development boundary, should not be considered up to date”.

Mr Clark agreed with the inspector that the scale of the proposed development “is sufficiently small not to be premature in terms of jeopardising future development” within the Neighbourhood Plan.

Neighbourhood plans were introduced under the Localism Act in 2011 as a way to help communities influence the planning of the area they live and work in.

For the first time, residents were able to prepare plans with real legal weight which, if they achieved successful local support through referendum, would be adopted by the local planning authority and be used when determining planning applications.

Earls Barton’s Neighbourhood Plan is the first plan of its kind to go to referendum in the borough of Wellingborough.

The borough council will adopt the plan as soon as is practicable.