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First 'special measures' application refused by planning inspector

A planning inspector has refused developer Gladman Homes' application to build 220 homes in Blaby, Leicestershire, in the first application to be submitted directly to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) since the government introduced its 'special measures' policy in 2013.

The Growth and Infrastructure Act gave the UK government the option to designate any local planning authority that is not "adequately performing its function of determining planning applications" as underperforming, allowing major planning applications to be submitted directly to PINS for determination.

Blaby District Council was the first local planning authority to be designated as underperforming by the UK government, after being found to have decided only 15.2% of its major applications  within the prescribed 13 weeks over a two year assessment period. Gladman submitted an outline planning application directly to PINS in April, seeking permission for the construction of up to 220 new homes and a school drop off and pick up zone on a 17.4 hectare site in Blaby.

At the time of the application, the Council's development services manager James Carpenter had said that the Council had received more than 40 applications from major developers since designation, all of whom had chosen not to submit applications directly to PINS. "Gladman clearly take the view they have a better chance of securing planning permission on this site through a remote planning inspector than through a local democratic planning process," Carpenter had said.

Refusing the application, planning inspector Jonathan King said in his statement of reasons (26-page / 223 KB PDF) on 22 July that the proposals represented unsustainable development contrary to policies for the allocation of housing development in the district's core strategy. Only 420 new houses had been allocated to Blaby town between 2006 and 2029 under the core strategy and these homes had already been permitted, noted the inspector.

"As 420 is explicitly a minimum figure, providing some excess would not necessarily cause harm," said King. "However, the proposed development would exceed that number by over 50%, a very considerable proportion. Development significantly in excess of the figure estimated to be appropriate at the time the core strategy was adopted has the potential to harm the character of the town."

The inspector also said that the proposed development would have a detrimental effect on the local character of the area, with particular impacts on views from Bouskell Park, to the west of the development within the Blaby Conservation Area.

"Taking all factors into account, I conclude on balance that the proposed development would be contrary to the development plan as a whole and would be unsustainable," said King. "Material considerations do not indicate that the decision should be other than to refuse permission in accordance with the guidance of the National Planning Policy Framework."

PINS chief executive Simon Ridley said in a statement: "This is the first major planning application to be decided by PINS since it was given responsibility under the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 to consider applications for major developments where a local planning authority has been designated."

"After careful consideration of the application, the views expressed in over 650 representations submitted in writing and oral evidence given to the inspector at a public hearing, the decision to refuse was made within a deadline of 13 weeks," said Ridley.

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