BRAISHFIELD residents have attacked a decision to defer a controversial planning application for affordable homes in their village.
They are bemused and angry that Test Valley councillors voted 13-5 to refuse Hyde Homes’ scheme for nine homes next to the Wheatsheaf pub and minutes later agreed to defer the application after an intervention by head of planning, Paul Jackson.
Mr Jackson advised members to defer the application to allow the developer time to come up with an acceptable design within the tight time limit Hyde had to obtain funding for the homes.
However, some villagers are not happy with the decision-making, including Mike Evans, who said the committee had completely ignored Braishfield’s Village Design Statement (VDS) and the council’s own conservation and design officers, who objected to the development on the grounds that it would be “harmful to the setting” of the village’s conservation area and would “adversely harm” the character of the area.
Mr Evans said: “Our strong objection is that of the proposed location. In planning terms, this site is, we understand, deemed to be ‘countryside’ and normal planning applications would not be allowed to proceed on this land.
“This location just south of the Wheatsheaf, has a gas pipeline further to the south of it, meaning that, unless the Wheatsheaf ceased to be a public house and residential permission was granted on the land, then these nine affordable homes will always be set aside from the rest of the village and not integrated with the rest of the housing settlement.”
After being asked about the voting procedure at the meeting, TVBC issued the following statement: “The planning committee did not vote to refuse the application. The proposal tabled was that the application be granted as per the officer recommendation, but the committee voted not to grant planning permission. Councillors then proposed that the application should be refused.
“At this point, the head of planning and building (Paul Jackson) suggested the committee may wish to defer the decision to allow the applicant to improve the design. Councillors agreed to this approach and deferred subject to the receipt of amended plans to be considered by the committee.”
Mr Evans said he “couldn’t believe” the council’s response.
He told the Advertiser: “To the man in the street, there is very little difference between ‘voted not to grant planning permission’ and ‘refuse an application’, but clearly to the planners there exists a whole world of wriggle room.”
Mr Evans added: “The suggestions made by the head of planning neatly avoided the issue of site location much to the anger of Braishfield residents present and further he prefaced his remarks highlighting the potential loss of funding for the Housing Association, something I note the statement from TVBC fails to mention and is of course not a material planning concern.”
Braishfield Parish Council’s chairman, Mike Prince, believes the application was properly debated.
“I am sure officers acted correctly. They know the planning rules better than you or I do. There is a need for affordable homes in the village and we will now have to wait and see what Hyde Housing comes back with. I hope it gets sorted out soon one way or the other, because it’s causing an atmosphere in the village,” he said.