A CONTROVERSIAL development for fields on the edge of Milford which provoked more than 100 villagers to come out in protest has been given the go-ahead by a government inspector.
Two years since unveiling its scheme, Pennyfarthing Homes Ltd has won its challenge against New Forest District Council’s refusal of 42 dwellings on what used to be green belt land on the corner of Lymington Road and School Lane.
The company’s proposal was rejected last year by councillors who said there was too little affordable housing for the site which had previously lost its green belt protection specifically to provide cheaper properties for villagers.
NFDC wanted an extra six affordable homes, based on its value calculations. But Pennyfarthing said if it added any more the scheme would not be financially viable. The two sides put their cases at a public inquiry in February.
Now building can get started after planning inspector Alex Hutson sided with Pennyfarthing, backing its more up-to-date method of working out costs.
As well as the homes, the development includes public open space, children’s play area, allotments, a car park for the neighbouring Milford Primary School, and a cycleway.
The result is a bitter defeat for campaign group SLAM (School Lane and Manor Road) which, as well as organising demonstrations and protest meetings, raised £3,000 to instruct a planning consultant for the public inquiry.
The A&T has asked both SLAM and Pennyfarthing for comment.
The battle has been raging since the scheme was submitted by Pennyfarthing in 2017 for 46 homes, which was later reduced to 42.
One of the key issues was that NFDC policy for the site demanded 70% must be “affordable” – requiring 30 units under the developer’s plan.
Pennyfarthing offered only 19, however, of which seven were starter homes that, at the appeal hearing, were estimated to require a salary of at least £56,000 to buy. The rest were six for affordable rent and six for shared ownership.
Although the government recognises starter homes as “affordable”, NFDC argued they should not count in the context of the specific local policy for the former greenbelt land.
But Mr Hutson ruled in favour of Pennyfarthing, saying in his decision notice that although there was “some conflict” with NFDC policy, the development was broadly in line with the overall strategy.
He also highlighted other developments, raised by Pennyfarthing at the inquiry, which had been allowed to go ahead despite also not meeting affordable housing targets.
Ecological concerns, such as safeguarding protected dormice living in the hedgerows, could be dealt with through mitigation measures, such as the timing of construction, he said.
Rejecting residents’ fears of overdevelopment, he added: “There is no substantive evidence to demonstrate that any services would be put under any undue pressure and I note that Hampshire County Council consider that the adjacent school would not be oversubscribed as a result of the proposal.
“Nor is there any compelling evidence to indicate that sewage systems would be overloaded.”
Finally, Mr Hutson pointed to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which requires councils to identify a five-year housing land supply.
Despite working on a new Local Plan to fulfil that requirement, NFDC currently has a “considerable” shortfall, he said, and so development decisions fall under the NPPF’s presumption in favour of “sustainable development”.
Mr Hutson concluded: “On this matter, there would be no adverse impacts of granting planning permission that would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, which includes much needed affordable and market housing of a ratio to enable a viable scheme, when assessed against the policies of the framework taken as a whole.”
It emerged in his findings that Pennyfarthing had wrongly claimed in its application to be the main landowner and had not informed the actual owner of its proposals.
However, Mr Hutson said the owner had since made a statutory declaration that they had become aware of it and was supportive.