Developer blames giant bush for ‘uncomfortable’ building blunder

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The plans were for seven houses in Holbury in Fawley (stock image)

A DEVELOPER which built a terrace of houses too close to neighbours has been allowed to keep them standing.

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The trio of properties were part of a seven-unit scheme in Fawley constructed by Elite Homes Sussex Ltd up to 1.7 metres closer to adjacent dwellings’ boundaries than originally approved by New Forest District Council.

The courtyard-style set of houses are nearly complete and the company had to go before the authority’s planning committee to secure retrospective permission to save a series of already agreed sales.

“We’re here because of a very big bush; a very big overgrown bush,” said company boss David Craddock who blamed undergrowth by the boundary edge for getting in the way of accurate measurements at the start of construction.

He said: “It was not through malice or trying to gain any benefit.

“Obviously it caused us a huge amount of distress to in this situation. We have residents keen to live there and they are local people. We are still 40 metres away from the nearest neighbour and we have worked very hard with the planning officers.”

The site in Holbury covers about a third of a hectare and comprises a mix of former back gardens, a bungalow plot, and scrubland and a paddock south of Lime Kiln Lane, near where it meets the A326 Long Lane.

Thirteen objectors raised concerns of overlooking, light pollution, noise, and overdevelopment, although the parish council did not oppose it.

Elite Homes had proposed adding an eighth home but dropped the idea. Parking for 17 is being provided.

Cllr David Harrison said: “I have a sense of discomfort about this. We had the application before and considered the issues and it looks as though the district council is at fault for a failure of development control.

“We’re on notice that once the planning permission is given we, as a planning authority, need to be looking that it’s delivered in the way it should be. This feels like we are trying to cover our backs by giving it retrospective permission.”

That was rejected by NFDC chief planning officer Claire Upton-Brown who conceded the situation was “uncomfortable” but defended her department.

She said: “We proactively manage development sites but we would not have the resources and it would not be proportionate or appropriate to have planning officers checking every single site measurement.

“That would not be done here or anywhere else in the country.”

A nine-home scheme for the site was refused in 2017 as a “poor design” but the go-ahead was given for seven in 2018, which allowed building work to begin before the mistake was spotted.

Planning officers recommended approval judging there would be no significant overlooking, with 40 metres still dividing windows of the new buildings from existing homes to the rear.

Cllr Pat Wyeth said: “I think this is a well thought-out scheme. We need to accept the reasons why it was retrospective and why it should pass.”

But Cllr Allan Glass said: “I think they have designed hits to cram in as many tiny houses as possible on a site which I do not think should hold as many houses. They have started building this regardless of our opinion.”

The committee voted by 16 votes to zero to grant retrospective permission, with one abstention.

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