Wyatt Homes’ Blandford-Pimperne development approved


‘Sad day for democracy’ as planners ignore neighbourhood plans and approve development on AONB, outside Blandford bypass

An artist’s impression of part of the new development

It was ‘a sad day for local democracy,’ said Pimperne Parish Council chairman Peter Slocombe, after Dorset Council’s northern area planning committee, meeting at The Exchange at Sturminster Newton, approved by seven votes to one the application by Wyatt Homes to build 490 homes on a 37-hectare/91-acre site between Blandford and Pimperne.
The application was for full planning permission for 150 new homes and outline planning consent for a further 340, on land outside Blandford bypass, adjoining the A354 and A350.
The decision was particularly galling for Mr Slocombe, after he and parish councillors had spent hundreds of hours with volunteers to create the village’s Neighbourhood Plan. The permission was contrary to the policies in the plan and Pimperne would receive no Section 106 benefits (planning gain).
He said: ‘This decision sends a clear message to Dorset villages that it is hardly worth creating these plans, that were initiated by the government more than a decade ago.’
The development is on land that is partly within Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or adjacent to the protected area. It is an established principle that planners should give ‘great weight’ to the site being within an AONB when considering development proposals.
Richard Burden, principal landscape and planning officer for Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said the decision was very disappointing:
‘It seems strange that the committee didn’t seem to identify any exceptional circumstances that gave them a reason to grant permission in an AONB.’

How the land outside Blandford currently looks

Training for councillors
He said that the Pimperne neighbourhood plan identified the site as land to be maintained as an open gap. ‘It flies in the face of all the efforts of preparing a neighbourhood plan,’ he said.
The detail of the two neighbourhood plans (Pimperne and Blandford) did not seem ‘to have been fully grasped by some members of the committee, who seemed to be swayed by the quality of the proposed development.’
After the decision, Richard offered to provide training to councillors on matters relating to AONBs.
‘There’s no point moaning if we aren’t prepared to do something,’ he said.
Wyatt Homes has welcomed the planners’ decision, which had come ‘after extensive consultation and engagement with the community.’ The new homes would prioritise energy efficiency and use advanced technologies, including high levels of insulation, top-tier glazing, solar PV panels, wastewater heat recovery and heat pumps, to minimise CO2 emissions.
Wyatt’s chief executive David Wyatt told the planners: ‘We are proud of the places we create and are committed to building well-designed, high-quality homes using local materials and locally-based contractors.’
The application had been strongly opposed by the AONB, North Dorset CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), Pimperne Parish Council and local residents.

The objections were on these main grounds:

  • That housing needs are well provided for already in North Dorset, especially in Blandford and Pimperne.
  • Questionable evidence of the need for a new school, which would be paid for by Section 106 developer funding tied to this application.
  • Harm to the National Landscape.
  • Conflict with Pimperne’s Neighbourhood Plan, as 150 homes would be built within Pimperne parish.
  • There was little evidence of the need for a new school, with data showing there were falling rolls in existing schools, he said, adding that it would be cheaper for Dorset Council to build extra classrooms (for around £1.5 million) rather than a new school, which could cost up to £20 million.

Richard Burden pointed out that the exceptional circumstances in which planning permission might be given for a site within a National Landscape included public interest, but Dorset now has an adequate housing supply, which relieved the councillors from an obligation to give weight to housing need.
‘It doesn’t make sense to build outside the bypass,’ he said. He recognised that Wyatt Homes were aiming for zero carbon and would include landscaping and planting, but the development did not meet sustainability requirements: ‘Everybody will have to get into their cars to drive to the town centre.’

A map of the site, supplied by Wyatt Homes

Creaking infrastructure
North Dorset CPRE chairman Rupert Hardy said that the news last month that there was now a more than five-year housing land supply in North Dorset, with planning decisions in line with development plans, had encouraged the campaigners to feel that they stood a good chance of stopping the developers.
Rupert warned that the permission would now add to severe traffic congestion in and around Blandford and place more pressure on the town’s ‘creaking’ infrastructure. The development would also sacrifice good farmland, which currently contributes to food security and acts as a carbon sink against climate change.
The planning officer’s report had acknowledged that there was a conflict with the council’s development plan, which said building in the countryside should be resisted. However, said Mr Hardy, committee members seemed determined to approve yet more housing, with little regard for the harm it would cause to local residents, the AONB and to Pimperne.
‘Admittedly, the development is well designed, but is clearly in the wrong place. One wonders about the composition of the committee with no members on it representing Blandford.
‘One can also speculate that Dorset Council was keen to avoid a costly appeal should they have refused the scheme.’
In a statement, Poole-based Wyatt Homes said the project will also provide new pedestrian and cycle connections and 30 per cent of the homes will be affordable. The house-builder also plans to plant more than 2,000 new trees throughout the site and more than 40 acres of public open space will make up nearly 50 per cent of the development.

Zero carbon plans
Land would be set aside for a potential future school, allotments, a community hall, shops and play facilities. The developers will establish new cycling and pedestrian pathways and improve bus infrastructure, with upgraded stops and the possibility of extending existing routes. David Wyatt said: ‘We will do our utmost to make this an exceptional development that not only Wyatt Homes is proud of, but the local community can be proud of too.’
Tim Hoskinson, Wyatt Homes’ planning director, said: ‘We are delighted with this strong, positive endorsement by the planning committee. These plans are the largest zero carbon-ready application that has come before the planning committee. It will deliver much needed new homes including vital affordable homes in Dorset.
‘We would like to thank those who commented on the plans during the extensive public consultation over several years, as well as Dorset councillors, those on the planning committee and council officers. This is a complex application and the comprehensive level of scrutiny by officers and detailed consideration by members shows the planning system working at its best.’



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