Government rejects Forest MP’s call to revoke permission for housing development

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Milford homes
The 42-house development in School Lane

THE government has rejected a call by Sir Desmond Swayne MP to revoke permission for a controversial housing development on former green belt land in Milford.

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The New Forest West MP had claimed that Pennyfarthing Homes should have been made to include more affordable housing in the 42-dwelling scheme on fields next to the village primary school.

As reported in the A&T, the company won an appeal last year against New Forest District Council which had refused the plan as the green belt site had only been declassified on condition 70% of homes built there were affordable.

That would have delivered 30 but Pennyfarthing proposed 19, which was accepted by the planning inspector who agreed that any more would make it financially unviable.

Housing minister Robert Jenkins has now written to Sir Desmond dismissing his request to revoke permission saying he can only do in “exceptional circumstances”.

The letter also pointed out that if approval was overturned any compensation payable to the developer would have to come from the taxpayer.

Sir Desmond said he was “disappointed” with the reply saying: “The land was released from green belt on the expectation that it would be for affordable homes.

“The decision should have been made much more swiftly, before development really got underway – suppose the secretary of state had found in my favour?

Sir Desmond Swayne

“NFDC will be breathing a sigh of relief that he didn’t because had he done so, it would have resulted in an almighty compensation payment to the developer.”

The decision comes after Sir Desmond met with then housing minister Kit Malthouse to talk about his concerns over the development which was opposed by many villagers who feared it would “dominate” Milford and cause traffic problems.

In a reply sent last week on behalf of Mr Jenkins, Sir Desmond was told that although the affordable housing on the site was lower than 70% this was allowed “where it can be demonstrated that the target level is not economically viable”.

It also said that the appeal inspector was satisfied that it did provide an “acceptable level and mix of affordable housing”.

It went on to say that the government did not “consider that it would be expedient” to exercise its power to revoke permission.

Campaign group SLAM (School Lane and Manor Road), which has fought the scheme, said in a statement that the decision set a “worrying precedent” for the use of green belt land.

“Communities will have to live with the loss of precious green belt land and unwanted developments long after developers have walked away with their large profits,” it said.

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