To five refusals – dating back to 2005 – can now be added a sixth in failed bids to build a house on what a planning inspector described as an ‘irregularly shaped’ strip of land.
Stephen Isaacson had fingers firmly crossed when he applied in October 2021 for permission to build a two-bedroom detached home on the land he owns next to his 7 Northfield Road, Soham.
Consent was refused by East Cambridgeshire District Council and their decision has been confirmed following an appeal to the Government Planning Inspectorate.
The inspector, Mr G Norman, visited the site in February and has delivered his verdict.
He said the main issues were:
- The effect of the development on the character and appearance of the area.
- The effect of the development on the living conditions of nearby residents.
- The effect of the development on highway safety.
- Whether suitable biodiversity net gain has been demonstrated.
“The appeal site currently forms a visible and spacious gap within the immediate street scene, breaking up the built form,” he said.
“However, I do not find that gaps between dwellings form a consistent or characteristic pattern of development along this part of Northfield Road.
“As such, the development of the appeal site would not be harmful to the overall pattern of development in respect of open gaps in this case.”
He added: “However, the appeal site is irregularly shaped and the introduction of a detached dwelling into this site would appear cramped and out of character with the more generous plots in the immediate surroundings due to the size of the site and the positioning of the proposed dwelling. “
Mr Norman explained that the district council’s design guide states that, in most cases, building plots should be approximately 300 square metres “and this site falls below this size.
“Furthermore, along this side of Northfield Road, the dwellings are predominantly semi-detached, and the introduction of the detached dwelling would disrupt the regular form of the immediate street scene.”
Other sites not comparable says inspector
The inspector said he had regard to other sites where homes have been extended or new properties built.
“I have limited details of the consideration behind these examples, and I do not consider that extensions to dwellings are comparable to the proposal before me,” he said.
“In addition, these examples are in different locations, some at a distance from the appeal site, where the context of the surroundings are different.
“As such, I find that these examples are not sufficient to justify the proposed development in this instance.”
Mr Norman concluded: “For the above reasons, I conclude that the proposed development would be at odds with, and harmful to, the character and appearance of the surrounding area.”
As such it failed to comply with council policies.
“Collectively these seek to ensure that development provide complementary relationships with the existing development and relate sympathetically to the surrounding area, amongst other things,” he said.
He agreed there would be no overlooking of neighbours or loss of privacy, and in many respects complied with highways requirements but he was concerned about biodiversity.
East Cambs Council require development to protect the biodiversity value of land, minimise harm to or loss of environmental features and habitats and conserve and incorporate biodiversity features, amongst other things.
And the council now has a natural environment supplementary document.
“This requires all development proposals to contribute and enhance the natural and local environment by firstly avoiding impacts where possible, minimising impacts on biodiversity and providing measurable net gains for biodiversity amongst other things,” he said.
“The appeal site currently comprises an area of grass with a strip of concrete pathway, with trees and hedging on the adjacent site.
“I note that the council have not specified that there are currently any important trees or landscaping features within the site.
“However, the policies require demonstrable biodiversity net gain and evidence that the development would conserve and where possible enhance landscape and biodiversity features and whilst this may be achievable through a careful landscaping scheme or other means, I have been provided with insufficient evidence at this stage to demonstrate that this could be achieved.”
The proposals failed to show how they “relate to the need to protect and enhance biodiversity features and demonstrate a significance biodiversity net gain”.
Mr Norman said felt that the positive nature of a new home weighed against “the harm identified” and the fact the proposal is contrary to a number of council policies, led him to “conclude that the appeal should be dismissed”.
No reason to refuse say agents
Agents for Mr Isaacson had argued that the site is not located in a Green Belt, a Conservation Area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Green Wedge” or any other area designated locally which would restrict or prevent appropriate efficient development.
“All main services are already present.
“Post and newspapers are delivered to all of the houses in the immediate area of the site and refuse bins and recycle bins are emptied on a regular basis.
“The development will have no adverse impact on existing services.”
The agents added: “Small sites can make an important contribution to housing requirements in this area and are often built out quickly. The housing demand for this size of property on a non-estate location is exceptionally strong in Soham.”
In their refusal, East Cambs Council said the proposed new home had not overcome the previous reason for refusal.
“It still results in the loss of a spacious gap between two pairs of semi-detached dwellings, breaking up the rhythm of the existing street scene and disrupting the pattern of important open spaces between each pair of semi-detached dwellings,” said council planners.
“It also still results in a cramped and contrived development on a plot less than 300sqm.
“It is therefore considered that the proposed development would create a significant detrimental impact upon the character and appearance of the area.”
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