MP wades in to village planning battle with call to cancel housing scheme

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New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne

NEW FOREST MP Sir Desmond Swayne has called on ministers to cancel planning permission for a controversial housing development in Milford as opponents race to raise £30,000 for a High Court challenge.

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The request from Sir Desmond follows a government planning inspector’s decision to allow Pennyfarthing Homes Ltd to build 42 dwellings on fields next to Milford Primary School.

The scheme, for a site known as MOS1, had been the subject of a planning battle between the developer and New Forest District Council, which refused the plans in July 2017 because not enough affordable housing was included.

Last month, a government-appointed inspector overturned NFDC’s refusal on the basis that the 19 affordable homes offered by Pennyfarthing was acceptable and a requirement for any more would undermine the project’s financial viability.

However, campaign group SLAM (School Lane and Manor Road) has announced it will continue to fight the scheme and hopes to raise £30,000 towards the cost of a legal challenge.

The group has now received the backing of Sir Desmond, Conservative MP for New Forest West, at a recent meeting to discuss the matter.

A SLAM spokesperson told the A&T: “We had a very good meeting and he was very supportive of us and continues to be so.”

Sir Desmond subsequently wrote to communities secretary James Brokenshire urging the planning permission to be revoked. He has also met with housing minister Kit Malthouse and asked him to look into the matter.

Pennyfarthing plan
An impression of the approved development on the corner of Lymington Road and School Lane in Milford

The SLAM spokesperson continued: “We have been in constant dialogue with Sir Desmond, and if he hasn’t received a reply to his request by the end of the month he will table a parliamentary question that will ensure the secretary of state does respond to him within a certain short timeframe.”

Part of SLAM’s argument will hinge on the fact that when the MOS1 site was declassified as green belt by a planning inspector seven years ago, it was on the basis that a maximum of 30 houses could be built and 70% of these had to be affordable.

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, Sir Desmond told the A&T: “The land in question was released from green belt exceptionally for affordable housing.

“As it has turned out that is not going to be the case. So I have asked ministers to invoke rarely used powers to cancel the planning permission. I believe that it is important to send a clear message about sticking to affordable housing promises.”

Last week, SLAM launched a webpage to raise the £30,000 it estimates will be necessary to have the matter re-examined in the High Court. It claims the inspector made an error in law so the appeal decision should be quashed.

As well as meeting with Sir Desmond, SLAM representatives have also held discussions with NFDC’s new head of planning, Claire Upton-Brown, and Milford Parish Council.

Speaking at a parish council meeting, Cllr Sue Whitlock said: “I, as many of you did, felt this was over when we got the appeal inspector’s decision, so I was very encouraged by the meeting with SLAM.”

Pennyfarthing land and planning manager Ben Arnold said: “It is disappointing that SLAM has decided to attempt a judicial review following the independent public inquiry decision for the site in Milford.

“We have been working with the school, NFDC and other authorities to commence work on the development at the start of the school holidays to minimise disruption to the school and local residents.

“We are seeking to complete the school drop-off zone for the start of the autumn term to prioritise school children’s safety.

“Ultimately, the judicial review will not stop this allocated housing site from coming forward for development, it will only delay matters further.”

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