Parish Council Response

Question 1 Do you support or object to the Strategic Policies (SP1 to SP2)? Comments should identify the specific policy number to which they relate and should state whether the policy is supported or alternatively what amendments are considered necessary and why. Suggestions for amendments should be made by reference to the tests in paragraph 35 NPPF, namely that policies should be positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy.

Bishopstone Parish Council supports Policy SP2 in principle and in particular the wording at para 4c of Policy SP2 in that development should be supported at “the other villages in the Borough, proportional to their size and function”. However Policy LA 23 is in direct conflict with para 4c of the Policy in that this Local Allocation does not meet the necessary criteria and so development on the scale proposed would be wholly disproportionate to the size and function of Bishopstone. The Plan is therefore considered to be unsound unless the Local Allocations are capable of meeting the criteria in para 4c of Policy SP2.

Para 4.2.6 of the supporting text to Policy SP2 also states that “A smaller quantum of housing is allocated to some of the Borough’s better served smaller villages proportional to their size”. Policy LA 23 does not accord with this statement. Bishopstone is not a “better served” village and the proposed allocation is not proportional to the size of Bishopstone. There are approximately 160 houses in Bishopstone at present and Policy LA 23 would therefore represent an increase of over 18%. This is in addition to Policy LA 24 and the recently approved development for 5 dwellings at Prebendal Farm. Taken together an additional 44 dwellings would represent an increase of over 27%.

Question 3 Do you support or object to the Local Allocations (Policies LA1 to LA31). Comments should identify the specific policy number to which they relate and should state whether the policy is supported or alternatively what amendments are considered necessary and why. Suggestions for amendments should be made by reference to the tests in paragraph 35 NPPF, namely that policies should be positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy.

The proposed allocation LA 23 lies some distance (in excess of 100m) beyond the existing Rural Settlement Boundary and would result in a completely isolated “island” of development in the open countryside. The proposed allocation thus flies in the face of all good planning practice and should be removed from the Local Plan on this basis alone in that it constitutes unsound planning.

Having taken advice from leading planning counsel Bishopstone Parish Council objects to Policy LA 23 on the grounds that this is in direct conflict with Policy SP2 in that this Local Allocation does not meet the criteria set by Policy SP2. The proposed allocation is disproportionate to the size of Bishopstone which only has around 160 dwellings at present. This allocation on its own would represent an increase of over 18% and when added to Policy LA 24 together with the 5 dwellings recently granted planning permission at Prebendal Farm there would be an overall increase of over 27% which is neither reasonable or proportional. The allocation thus breaches Policy SP2.

In the recent planning permission granted at Prebendal Farm the Borough Council’s Policy team commented as follows:-

“The issue of proportionality was raised at pre-application stage both by this department and by Bishopstone Parish Council.  Bishopstone is a relatively small village of about 200 properties (*the actual number is around 160) with a limited range of facilities including a church, village hall and small primary school but no shops and limited public transport.  Since 2011 three new dwellings have been completed.  The applicants have responded to these concerns by reducing their proposal from 7 at the outset, down to 5 new dwellings in this proposal. This would represent a 2.5 % increase in the total number of homes in Bishopstone, which, in my opinion, is not unduly out of context nor materially significant enough to warrant refusing the proposal on the grounds of proportionality alone”

It is clear that the Borough Council’s own Policy Officers considered that 7 dwellings would be a disproportionate increase and that an increase of 2.5% would be more appropriate. To now propose a 27% increase is totally unsustainable under any circumstances.

Policy LA 23 is therefore in direct conflict with Policy SP2 and we submit that this renders the Local Plan unsound as a result.

Furthermore, the Council’s proposed allocation LA 23, being adjacent to the Bishopstone Conservation Area, is unlawful owing to the Council’s failure to have had regard to the impact of any development upon the setting of the Bishopstone Conservation Area. As confirmed recently in R.(oao James Hall and Company Limited) v City of Bradford MDC [2019] EWHC 2899 (Admin) where land is outside but within the setting of a conservation area there remains a duty to impose the relevant paragraphs in the NPPF. Indeed, HHJ Belcher recognised this point at paragraph 16 of the judgment:

“There is no dispute in this case that the Site, being adjacent to the HCA, involves development which may affect the setting of a heritage asset.  It is accepted, therefore, that Paragraphs 189-190 NPPF, and Core Strategy Policy EN3 apply in this case.  It is also accepted that the NPPF is a material consideration for the purposes of any planning decision.   It follows that the Defendant accepts that, in determining the application, the Council was under a duty to assess the impact upon the HCA, including its setting”

There appears to be no evidence that a proper assessment has been undertaken by the Council.

Further, having regard to the inevitable harm to the Bishopstone Conservation Area, the Council are obliged to consider alternative sites to an allocation here, having regard to the judgment in R (On the application of Forge Field Society and Others) v Sevenoaks DC [2014] EWHC 1895 (Admin).  At paragraph 85 of that decision Lindblom J explained why alternative sites had to be considered in that case, and the rationale underpinning those reasons applies with equal force here.

In addition to the above points it is also worth emphasising that Bishopstone has very limited facilities and recently had its bus service axed by the Borough Council, and now relies on a limited service run by West Berks Council. The road network leading to and within the village is characterised by narrow lanes, in places too narrow for two vehicles to pass, making the village an unsuitable location for an additional 44 houses. The High Street in Bishopstone, which would be the main access route serving the land subject to Policy LA 23, presents a particular problem due to the high levels of on-street parking.

The land subject to Policy LA 23 is adjacent to a working farm with livestock buildings including calving sheds. There would be the potential for serious and regular conflict between residents and the farm which would undoubtedly lead to pressure being put on the farm to curtail or even cease operations if this development were allowed to proceed. The loss of a working farm within the village would be detrimental to the character of Bishopstone.

The land subject to Policy LA 23 is an unsuitable and unsafe location for a local play area due to its remote position outside the village and there are no footpaths. The introduction of any new footpaths would be harmful to the character and appearance of the Bishopstone Conservation Area.

Bishopstone Parish Council has no objection to Policy LA 24 in principle due to the land in question being surrounded by existing development however the potential for conflict between residents and the adjacent working farm needs to be carefully considered before any allocation is confirmed. In addition, the potential impact of any development on the character and setting of the Bishopstone Conservation Area needs to be fully assessed before any allocation is confirmed.

The Parish Council asks that it be allowed to speak and/or be represented at the Local Plan Inquiry.