A developer’s bid to build a new housing estate on a Cheltenham meadow has been thrown out by councillors for a third time.
William Morrison (Cheltenham) Ltd and the Carmelite Trust were refused planning permission to build 43 homes on land off Oakhurst Rise, in Charlton Kings, by Cheltenham Borough Council’s planning committee yesterday.
The proposal lost by a majority of one as councillors raised concerns over the number of homes and the risk to heritage assets Ashley and Charlton Manors.
The number of homes in the developer’s plans have been scaled down each time it went to the authority’s planning committee, with 90 in 2019, 69 in 2019 and 43 in 2020.
The development was proposed to be next door to St Edward’s Preparatory School, and consisted of a mixture of one-bed apartments, two-bed, three-bed and four-bed houses, as well as 18 affordable homes.
A spokesman for William Morrison (Cheltenham) Ltd said it is “disappointed” by the decision and will “need to carefully consider” its next steps.
The bid for 69 homes last year subsequently lost on appeal by an independent planning inspector, whose main concern was the impact on nearby heritage assets Ashley and Charlton Manors.
However some councillors felt the developer addressed the concerns raised by the inspector, and a council report said it “reduced the number of homes and developed area, retained open space, more landscaping and improvements to biodiversity”.
Hundreds of people voiced their opposition and support for the revised scheme for 43 new homes, which borough council officers recommended its approval in yesterday’s meeting (September 17).
According to Cheltenham Borough Council’s local plan, the site was allocated a “minimum” of 25 homes.
Local group Friends of Charlton Kings, which has more than 1,600 members, objected to the proposal over concerns of ecology while Charlton
Kings Parish Council said the application did “little to address any of the committee’s concerns”.
Councillor Bernard Fisher (LD, Swindon Village), who proposed refusal, said in the meeting: “Who decided there should be a minimum? It is one word in the local plan, it would have been better if they put in maximum.
“We have had inspector after inspector tell us 25. If you cannot get a better steer than that on what number an applicant should put in, or something very adjacent to it, we are not listening.
“The inspectors are the authority. As it stands we have been told on many occasions by planning inspectors that 25 would do the minimum harm.
“This application does more damage to the previous one to the heritage site, in my opinion.”
Councillor John Payne (PAB, Prestbury), speaking in support of the application, said in the meeting: “I have really mixed feelings about this development. We have an applicant who now has the benefit of an inspector’s report and has been able to address the concerns of the inspector.
“I think he has done that in a very comprehensive way. He has clearly aware of the council’s concern about biodiversity, and I think he has gone to considerable lengths to address that issue.”
A spokesman for William Morrison (Cheltenham) Ltd said in a statement: “We are understandably disappointed about this decision. For 18 families desperately seeking an affordable home, this decision will come as a big blow. Once again, they have been denied the opportunity to settle and become part of a community.
“Cheltenham does not have a five-year land supply and there is a huge shortfall of affordable houses.
“We are disappointed that the opportunity to deliver 43 new homes in Charlton Kings has been delayed. In refusing this application (which was recommended by CBC’s planning officers and supported by a number of housing associations), the first chance to deliver against the new Local
Plan has been missed.
“We will need to carefully consider last night’s decision before deciding on our next steps.”
A borough council officer said in the report that since the appeal was determined last year, the Cheltenham Plan housing blueprint allocates the site for housing was approved and the proposal should be given the go-ahead.
The council report said: “Since the appeal was determined the Cheltenham Plan has been adopted which allocates the site for housing. Members will be aware that decisions must be taken in accordance with the development plan unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise.
“The current scheme has sought to respond to the requirements of the newly adopted policy and to respond to the comments and observations made by the Inspector in his decision.
“This has led to a number of changes to the proposal as outlined above including the reduction in number of houses, reduction in developed area, retention of open space, introduction of additional landscaping in indicative plans, improvements to biodiversity protection and mitigation and greater retention and protection of trees.”