Is it consistent with policy?

Date:

Secretary of State calls in controversial plan for 490 homes outside Blandford – to the delight of North Dorset CPRE

Proposed map of the site, supplied by Wyatt Homes

Felicity Buchan, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, has called in an application by Wyatt Homes to build 490 homes between Blandford and Pimperne, on behalf of the Secretary of State. A planning inspector will now carry out a public inquiry into the proposal. This followed Dorset Council’s Northern Area Planning Committee’s second decision to approve the application. The second meeting was called so that changes to material planning considerations could be taken into account. Campaigners had hoped that the committee would defer the meeting until members had had training on the latest planning legislation. But the need for this was ignored by both officers and committee members. The planning officer downplayed the potential effects of the planning changes on this application.
The initial plan was strongly opposed by the Cranborne Chase National Landscape (CCNL), North Dorset CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), Pimperne Parish Council and local residents. North Dorset MP Simon Hoare also spoke on behalf of the opposition group.
The approval triggered a call-in request to the Secretary of State by the campaigners on the grounds that the planning committee had failed to deal with several matters of national importance, including the failure to uphold the recently remade Pimperne Neighbourhood Plan and the support of a major development within a National Landscape, without exceptional circumstances.
The call-in letter tells Dorset Council that the Secretary of State particularly wishes to be informed about:
The extent to which the proposed development is consistent with Government policies for delivering a sufficient supply of homes in the NPPF (Chapter 5)
The extent to which the proposed development is consistent with Government policies for conserving and enhancing the natural environment in the NPPF (Chapter 15)
The extent to which the proposed development is consistent with the development plan for the area

Approved anyway
The news of the call-in was greeted with relief by campaigners. Richard Burden, CCNL Principal Landscape and Planning Officer, said: ‘Building 490 dwellings and other buildings on productive farmland in one of the nation’s finest landscapes does not protect that landscape, nor conserve and enhance its natural beauty, as intended by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. The CCNL therefore welcomes the decision to call in the application for full and objective scrutiny.’
The news that there was now more than a five year housing land supply in North Dorset, with planning decisions supposedly then following development plans, initially made campaigners confident they stood a good chance of stopping the developers. The planning officer’s report to the October meeting acknowledged a conflict with the council’s own development plan, which said building in the countryside should be resisted.

But the committee gave the scheme the go-ahead. Campaigners agree that the development is well designed, but is clearly in the wrong place. The CPRE was disappointed that the committee did not include Blandford representatives.
The approval was particularly galling for Pimperne Parish Council chairman Peter Slocombe, who, with volunteers, spent hundreds of hours creating the Neighbourhood Plan, which was disregarded here and in a recent previous application. Pimperne would receive no Section 106 (planning gain) benefits from the development.

First planning approval, October 2023
The key grounds of objection to this Blandford development were:
Housing targets in the North Dorset Local Plan for Blandford Forum and Blandford St Mary, as well as in the surrounding villages, had already been exceeded thanks to a massive local building programme in recent years.
The limited evidence of the need for a new school, which would allegedly be paid for by the Section 106 developer funding tied to this application. Should the currently declining school rolls reverse, expansion could be achieved more cost-effectively with a few extra classrooms
The development will cause harm to the Cranborne Chase National Landscape, and its setting, on whose land some of the development would be built, with views both to and from it seriously affected
There is conflict with Pimperne’s Neighbourhood Plan – and the 150 homes which would be built within that parish would threaten the important “gap” between the village and Blandford
Good farmland, which contributes to food security and acts as a carbon sink against climate change, would be sacrificed

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