Category Archives: Newsflash

VF DETAILED PLANNING UPDATE

We have been in correspondance with Dorset Council to try and get some clarity on what is happending with the Detailed Planning Application for the VF development.

It has taken some time but we have an email response from James Lytton-Trevers, Lead Project Officer (Southern & Western), Economic Growth and Infrastructure. This is shown below in quotation marks.

Our biggest concern was that the detailed plans for VF might be approved by delegated authority (ie a council official) and not go to the planning committee. So there would be no opportunity for the people of Bridport to have their views heard at the committee meeting.

It is a long email response and the process described is complicated. The bottom line is that there is still no guarantee that we will get the detailed plans presented to the planning committee.

“I refer to your undated letter to Cllr. David Walsh and I, which you forwarded to the Chief Executive on 29 September 2021. You also mentioned that you had sent this to us in August, but in all honesty I did not receive it or I would have replied.

You refer to my reply to a different question on 1 August 2021 which I have included below for clarity for the other recipients of this. Thank you for acknowledging the position of the Local Planning Authority (LPA), although I would maintain that the LPA does take a robust approach to these matters if breaches occur. However, in this instance no breach of planning permission has occurred and there is no action I could take.

There is currently no planning application for reserved matters before me, so I cannot say what path such an application would take to reach a decision until such time if and when I receive it. However, I can explain the typical process that the LPA would follow on receipt of, say, an application for reserved matters for a development somewhere in the Dorset Council area. It would be improper for me to comment specifically on someone’s land and what they might want to do on it where there is nothing before me

An application for reserved matters would be advertised with notices in the usual way on and around the site. Consultations would take place with statutory consultees and non-statutory consultees including both a Parish Council and a Town Council (if it lay in both). The ward members would be notified. During the ensuing period there is an opportunity for consultees to make consultation responses and members of the public to make representations. This period would normally end after 21 days.

Once the consultation period has expired, if there are minor issues which have been raised by the consultee comments, representations or the LPA which can be resolved, the LPA may seek to resolve these. Once the LPA has sufficient information on which to reach a decision, an Officer of the LPA would normally prepare a report which would include a recommendation. In most cases a decision to grant or refuse planning permission is delegated. For example, if there is a planning application for a development which the parish council, ward member and LPA support, the decision is normally delegated. It is when the contrary happens that the Scheme of Delegation is triggered.

If an application needs to be referred to the Scheme of Delegation, the way in which the decision is taken, whether it be delegated to a nominated officer of the LPA or referred to a committee of elected members, would need to pass through the Scheme of Delegation process which is set out in the Dorset Council Constitution. In simple terms, this is a cascade system where consultee comments received from parish and town Councillors are referred to the Chair of the planning committee, Vice chair and Ward Members, whom can comment accordingly whether they consider the application should be delegated or referred to committee. Any responses received would be referred to the Head of Planning who would have regard to the planning application, consultee comments, representations and the recommendation. The Head of Planning would then reach a view whether or not to delegate a decision or refer it to a committee.

It is important to note that the Scheme of Delegation is seen as a fair way in which to decide the course of an application for planning permission. It has to be fair to the public as well as the applicant. So, for example, if there were an application which received some support from some, but for which despite some support, there was overwhelming objection by consultees and the public, it did not comply with Local Plan policy, etc and the LPA recommended refusal of it, it would not normally be necessary to refer it to the Scheme of Delegation. And vice versa.

I cannot comment further than this as at this point in time where there is no application before me. I have explained the process through which all applications made to the LPA need to pass through. The LPA could not single out specific applications for special scrutiny for the reasons I have set out above.

I hope this helps explain the process to you and let me know if I can explain further. I have copied this reply to Cllr. David Walsh and the Chief Executive as you sent your original letter to them.”

UPDATE ON MILES CROSS ROUNDABOUT

A lot of concerns have been raised with us about the traffic management plan for the Miles Cross roundabout. Particularly the impact on Bridport and the potential for work during Summer 2022. We have raised these concerns many times with Dorset Council and Highways England.

The most recent update was in October from Highways England. Their comment is shown below in quotation marks. We already know that the building of the roundabout will take at least 6 months and given the official responses it seems that there is not a rush to get on with building the roundabout. Our view is that no work should be carried out during the Summer holiday period because of the chaos it would cause on the A35 and surrounding roads!

“One of the planning conditions for the Vearse Farm development is that a ‘Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) must be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority’ (see condition 20 in the attached decision notice).It is the planning authority (now Dorset Council) who will approve the CTMP (not National Highways), although we willexpect them to consult with us.

Traffic management will also need to be agreed as part of the legal agreement they will be required to enter into with us for the design and delivery of the roundabout scheme, as well as to satisfy the requirements of condition 24.

I can assure you that we will consider the proposals in the CTMP very carefully and will be actively working to mitigate the impacts as far as possible (ie we would expect HGVs to only operate outside peak hours with measures to avoid right turning manoeuvres if possible). We will also check traffic flows on the A35 and advise the developer the periods traffic levels are at their lowest.”

VEARSE FARM SITE CONTRACT PLACED

We have received a letter dated 18th March from Barratt Developments plc and Vistry Partnerships saying that they have secured a contract for the Vearse Farm site to bring forward the open market and affordable homes, associated infrastructure and all S106 obligations as contained within the outline planning consent.

The letter is an introduction and providing a point of contact.

The companies have also offered to have a virtual meeting to discuss any questions we might have at this stage. We have already replied to say that we will take them up on this offer.

Our next Advearse team meeting is on 29th March when we will discuss the questions and concerns that we want to raise with Barratt/Vistry.

If you have any questions that you would like us to raise then please email us or leave a comment on the website.

We will provide a web post on the questions we will be raising and we will provide feedback on the responses we receive.

Advearse drAFT comments on local plan

We have completed a draft response on the Dorset Council Local Plan. The full document can be accessed via the link below. We welcome comments on this response and will be submitting the final version to Dorset Council on 12 March. Also please feel free to use or refer to this document in your own response to Dorset Council.

http://www.advearse.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ADVEARSE-response-to-Local-Plan-03-03-21.docx

Our main concerns as set out in more detail in our response are summarised below.

Consultation (Page 3)The Dorset Council Local Plan is not a fair and proper consultation. Specific housing plans are given but here are no options or alternatives for people to choose between. The consultation period should be significantly extended under delegated powers and the LP amended to provide strategic alternatives for people to select/comment on.
Housing (Page 4, 5,19)The Local Plan should reflect genuine local housing needs and not be driven by unrealistic and unnecessary government set targets that do not reflect the local situation. Dorset Council should make the case for locally appropriate housing numbers below central targets.
Climate Change/Environmental Protection (Page 5,7)The proposed Local Plan is not compatible with Dorset Council’s declared climate emergency, zero carbon commitments and responsibility for protecting the natural environment
Green Belt/AONB (Page 6)There is little credible support and no strategic policies for the protection of AONB (Area of Natural Beauty) land.
Flood Risk (Page 17)There is a lack of focus on reducing flood risk via Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and avoiding building houses in areas that will increasingly as a result of climate change be at risk of flooding.
Pollution (Page 14)Traffic pollution as a result of large scale housing estates is not taken seriously. The Local Plan must accept that where there are legally exceeded levels of NO2 an AQMA (Air Quality Management Area), will be declared (eg East Street, Bridport).
Expectations on developersA thread running through the plan is a soft approach to developer commitments. Requirements on developers should be mandatory and not optional.
Economy (Page 21)This section needs to be completely reassessed as there is no sense that employment will change radically in the next 20 years.
Transport (Page 24)Transport is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions in Dorset, but there is no credible plan for improving vehicle, cycling and pedestrian networks to achieve the essential reduction in carbon emissions whilst increasing the housing stock.

COMMENTING AND RAISING OBJECTIONS ON LOCAL PLAN (UPDATE)

We have been asked by some supporters how to go about putting in comments/objections on the local plan. Below we set out to do this.

Follow this link to Dorset Council Local Plan page:

https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/planning-buildings-land/planning-policy/dorset-council-local-plan.aspx

There is a “Comment on Dorset Council Local Plan” box. Click on that and it will give you an opportunity to make comments. The system takes you to a comment box for each section of the Local Plan. You only need to comment on the parts you are interested in. Just leave the other sections blank.

Alternatively you can email your comments in to [email protected]

Below is a link to Bridport Town Council’s page on the Local Plan and a video presenting a summary of the Local Plan. This is a really useful short video so please feel free to share this link with anyone else who may or should be interested.

The council’s response to the Local Plan is due to be publicly available after being signed off by their Planning Committee meeting on Monday 22 February.

The CPRE have also set out their concerns with the Local Plan and lack of proper consultation with the people of Dorset. See link below:

https://dorset-cpre.org.uk/news/current-news/item/2268-dorset-cpre-slams-local-plan

The most important section for us in the Local Plan is the West Dorset Functional Area – Section 36 – Bridport.

Vearse Farm plans are covered in Section 36.5.3 which notes “The whole Vearse Farm site could deliver around 930 new homes. This includes about 760 on the main consented part of the site with around a further 170 homes on three residual sites, namely: land at Vearse Farmhouse; land west of Coronation Road; and land to the west of Pine View”.

As a result of losing the judicial review the 760 houses are now “consented” and cannot be opposed/stopped. However, the proposed extra 170 houses will need Outline Planning Permission. The issue for us is that if these extra houses remain in the Local Plan and it is approved by the planning inspector then it will be extremely difficult to stop them from receiving planning permission. Even if we could persuade the Planning Committee to go against their own planning officer recommendation and refuse the planning application the developer could appeal and the Planning Inspectorate would inevitably side with the developer.

So our best chance to oppose this expansion of the VF urban extension is by trying to get it dropped from the Local Plan. To have any chance we need to build up a groundswell of opposition. So the more supporters sending in objections the better! So please ask family/friends to also object.

Points to bear in mind are:

  • The housing planned for Bridport totals 1,139 which is 75% of all the houses included in the plan for the whole of West Dorset. Given the area this is a huge focus on Bridport, which is by many measures is a small market town.
  • The housing target for Dorset for the next 17 years is 30,481 as set by government, but Dorset Council are proposing 39,285 houses. So they plan to build 8,804 (29%) more houses than required by the government!
  • Central government’s housing targets are 47% higher than the existing Local Plans in Dorset and  are way in excess of any sensible forecast of local housing need.
  • The Government’s targets and algorithm are based on outdated and flawed population and household projections.
  • The central housing targets are unrealistically high not least because the central algorithm increases assessed local housing need by 40% to reflect high house prices. The apparent justification for this increase in numbers is that if you build more, then prices will come down!

In addition there are plenty of other grounds for opposing the expansion to the VF urban extension: further building on and erosion of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), increased flood risk of the site and surrounding area, extra load on overstretched Bridport infrastructure (eg car parking in town centre), increased traffic volumes on an unsuitable road (West Road), increased traffic risk to pedestrians/cyclists and failure to provide suitable affordable eco housing for local people.

We will be putting our own draft comments on the Local Plan on our Advearse website early March for our supporters to see and submit our final comments to Dorset Council by their 15 March deadline.

Local Plan

Dorset Council have produced a draft Local Plan containing proposals for guiding future development in the Dorset Council area up to 2038. Advearse will be commenting on this plan and we will share our views on this website when completed. The deadline for comments is 15 March 2021.

Dorset Council comment: “The plan outlines the strategy for meeting the needs of the area such as housing, employment, and community services including schools, retail, leisure and community facilities. The plan directs development to the most suitable locations near to existing facilities, and detailed policies promote high quality development that respects and enhances the character of each area. The plan also protects Dorset’s natural environment and contributes towards the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.”

The link for the Local Plan is:

https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/planning-buildings-land/planning-policy/dorset-council-local-plan.aspx

The draft Local Plan includes further 170 houses being sited on Vearse Farm. This will increase the already approved 760 houses up to 930 houses. It is now painfully clear that having got the 760 houses plan approved Dorset Council will continue to add to this Bridport Urban extension.

It is vital that we all take the opportunity to let Dorset Council know our views on this part of the Local Plan. Once the Local Plan is finalised and approved by the inspector then it will be extremely difficult to stop the expanded VF from receiving outline planning permission.

Hello – We are still here!

It has been a few months since we posted any updates or sent out any communications to our supporters. Since the Judicial review ruled against us in April 2020 things have been quiet on the Vearse Farm development front. But there are now a few updates to provide you with.

Sale of Vearse Farm development

As we reported in June the development had been put up for sale by Hallam Land with a requirement for bids to be made by 15 July for all or parcels of land on the site.

We have been monitoring Hallam’s website and relevant news sources and we have not seen any updates on how the bidding process went.

Hallam Land’s Interim Business Update for the end June 2020 states that:

“Our house builder customers are at differing stages in returning to the land market. Nonetheless, we are receiving bids for land at prices not noticeably impacted by CV-19, although we do not expect these deals to contribute to this year’s numbers. However, pressure on land pricing and average returns per plot has continued, with the forthcoming changes to building regulations likely to have a growing impact in the medium term.

As we enter H2 Hallam Land is in a strong position, with all its budgeted business for the current year contractually exchanged. Additionally, we are in advanced negotiations on further disposals of plots, which we expect to complete next year.”

It is highly likely that if Hallam had been able to complete any deals with house builders for Vearse Farm this would have been publicised. Hallam’s business model is to facilitate the sale of the approved outline planning development as soon as possible so that they and the land owners can take their cut of the proceeds and leave the house builders to get on with the detailed planning applications and the long term building work.

We suspect that this lack of progress is as a result of the current economic uncertainty and the delay resulting from the judicial review. Most probably bids received didn’t meet Hallam expectations and are subject to ongoing negotiations.

Vearse Farm working group

The working group was formed in a couple of months ago and has representatives from Hallam, Dorset Council, Bridport Town Council and other local organisations with an interest in the Vearse Farm development.

The working group’s draft objective is:

“To facilitate, through the active discussion and participation of the various local stakeholders, public engagement and communication, the next stages in the planning of the Vearse Farm development with particular focus on the design aspects and the delivery of the S106 obligations and benefits it affords for the residents of Bridport and its surrounding parishes.”

See the following link for the report on the group’s latest meeting:

https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/26-10-20-VEARSE-FARM-WORKING-GROUP-ENCL-3549.pdf

Advearse were not invited to join the working group – which given the legal challenge and our unpopularity with Hallam is not surprising!

However, we fully support the working group activities and their objective mirrors exactly what our focus will be going forward. It is good to see that Bridport Town Council will be making the work of this group public.

We will of course be ready to raise with the working group any issues that need their attention to make sure that Bridport gets the absolute maximum benefit from the Vearse Farm development.

 Proposed change to planning application

Hallam have submitted an application that seeks to vary two conditions of the previously granted outline permission, relating to the two vehicular access points on West Road (East Access is opposite Lodge Lane and West Access is opposite the entrance to Crepe Farm)

Hallam wants the flexibility to build these two accesses in the order that matches the eventual order in which the development is delivered – previously the conditions required that the eastern access be delivered first.

The decision on this would most likely be made by Dorset Council planning officials and not be required to go to the planning committee and receive comments/objections from the public and interested parties.

Whilst it may seem a small change it is worrying development as it could set a precedent for other changes to be requested to provide “flexibility. Further amendments could be requested that reduce the benefits set out in 106 Agreement (e.g. provision of Affordable Housing, Miles Cross roundabout, cycle/pedestrian routes etc). Given Dorset Council’s inability to stand up to developers we could see a steady erosion of the benefits from the Vearse Farm development and this Advearse will be watching and applying pressure that Hallam sticks rigidly to and complies with all the conditions of the Sectiion 106 Agreement.

The revised application documents will be accessible on the Dorset Council website from 28th October.

We will be pressing for the decision on this change to go to the full planning committee so that it can be discussed in a public forum rather than be a quiet deal passed by unaccountable council officials.

Post Judicial review Update

On Wednesday Barry Bates (Chair Advearse) was interviewed on Radio Solent. The link below if the the programme with Barry’s interview being after 28 minutes (at 7.28am).

In the interview Barry notes that the Vearse Farm development is the largest ever incursion into the AONB – and hence is a national issue on so many levels including the protecting the green spaces and the environment and loss of valuable farm land.

We are currently working on our strategy now that the judicial review legal challenge has come to an end. Other options for opposing the Vearse Farm urbanisation of Bridport are under review and we will shortly be sharing this strategy with our supporters to obtain their input on the best way forward.

In the meantime anyone wishing to be added to our list of supporters please email us. You don’t have to be a local resident or live in Dorset to be concerned about the damage of this development

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p088bky5

Verdict on Vearse Farm judicial review

6 April 2020
PRESS RELEASE

ADVEARSE has, overall, lost its judicial review of West Dorset Council’s outline planning permission for what is believed to be the biggest ever development on a single area of outstanding natural beauty at Vearse Farm, Bridport.
In a written judgment issued on Monday 6 April, ADVEARSE was found to have won the legal argument on the first ground of their case — that the former West Dorset Council (since subsumed into the new unitary authority) had failed to have regard to statutory provisions and national
planning rules that require the harmful impact of the development on the conservation area and heritage assets to be assessed against the public benefits. The judge, Mr Justice Swift, said that ADVEARSE’s criticisms were ‘well-founded’ as the Council had not properly addressed the application of the relevant section of the National Planning Policy Framework, ‘a matter material to the decision the Council had to take.’ However, the judge said, ‘The role of the court is no more than to ensure that the decision and the decision-making process meet basic legal standards’, and because he believed the Council’s inadequacies may have made no difference to the committee’s ultimate decision, he had to rule against the claimants. The other two grounds of the case were rejected.
In court, ADVEARSE’s barrister, Matthew Henderson from Landmark Chambers, revealed defects and demonstrated that key objections and information from statutory experts, such as the conservation officer, the landscape officer and the AONB team, had been omitted from the officer’s report on which planning committee members had based their decision.
The judge said, ‘Planning issues are often controversial, all those affected by them deserve to be reassured that the officers’ reports that inform councillors’ decisions are sufficient to identify how any particular proposal is affected by specific statutory obligations … and by material policies’.
These reports, he said, ‘must meet some basic standards of good public administration’ and ‘basic level of coherence’. But, in a damning assessment, the judge said the West Dorset planning officer’s report did not meet the ‘bare minimum standard’. He likened it to a ‘jigsaw puzzle’ without a picture ‘on the front of the box.’
Further, the Council officer had made assumptions and speculations about the mitigation of any harmful impact of the Vearse Farm development which the judge regarded to be ‘optimistic’, ‘not realistic’, and which could not possibly be determined until later in the detailed planning process.
This, he stated, was ‘an incorrect approach.’
The report was, however, found to be ‘sufficient’ in terms of the remaining two grounds of the case which referred to failure to take into account other relevant aspects of the National Planning Policy Framework.
Stephanie Hill from ADVEARSE’s legal team said, ‘It is frustrating for our clients to have demonstrated that the Council’s decision-making was legally flawed, but still to have lost the challenge. The impact of the development will have to be given more detailed consideration as the planning application progresses, and this judgment emphasises the importance of good quality, reasoned decision-making throughout that process.’
ADVEARSE Chairman Barry Bates said, ‘After fighting tooth and nail we have been let down at every stage of the planning process. The JR was a last-ditch attempt to stop, or at best delay, this development. We are bitterly disappointed but accept that the courts are limited to looking at the legality of the process rather than the political or moral rights or wrongs of the case.’ ‘However,’ he said, ‘the old West Dorset planning authority came out of the affair badly and we hope that lessons have been learned, particularly now that we have a different council and are living in a different global and economic context.’
Bridport town councillor and ADVEARSE member Sarah Carney said, ‘There needs to be a review of national planning policy which forces rural councils to meet metro-centric housing targets which fail to deliver for local people and deliberately encourage private developers to build thousands of
unsuitable, unsustainable and unaffordable houses all over our countryside.’
ADVEARSE member and former district councillor David Tett, said ‘Vearse Farm houses will not be affordable to local families or keyworkers. They will, however, attract retirees from the big cities and second-home owners, resulting in more traffic and unbearable pressure on our already desperately over-stretched health and social care services.’
ADVEARSE spokesman Lewis Gerolemou said, however, that ‘Vearse Farm is far from done and dusted. It remains our view and that of our supporters that there are serious problems with the plans which will need to be addressed before any houses are built. The developers can rest assured that they will face intense scrutiny and challenge at the detailed planning stages and at any point should they fail to deliver what has been promised in the S106 agreement.’
The Chairman of Dorset CPRE Peter Bowyer said, ‘This outcome is very disappointing. It is clear that the planning authority in Dorset has little respect for the designation of the AONB. Dorset deserves to have a better planning service for the area. The fundamental questions of the right
numbers of houses, the right places and the right tenures are not being addressed within the current planning system. Alternative community-driven approaches are necessary in order to ensure that the incremental urbanisation of Dorset is not allowed to proceed.’
‘We now need the Dorset AONB to be upgraded to a National park. This would have the responsibility and resources to conserve and embrace our wonderful landscapes while also having the duty to respond proactively to local housing needs and so develop the local housing that local people need.’
ADVEARSE Treasurer, Phil Summerton, said, ‘We would like to thank our wonderful lawyers, Leigh Day, Landmark Chambers and our barrister Matthew Henderson for all their help and support. A big thanks also to the Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) who donated £10,000 to the cause, and tremendous thanks to the hundreds of people who have supported us over the past six years and who contributed towards the £34,000 that made it possible for the judicial review to go ahead’.

Further information
The full written judgment can be found here:
https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2020/807.html
Information about ADVEARSE can be found at: http://www.advearse.org.uk/about-advearse/
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ADVEARSE/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/advearse
Crowdfunder: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-west-dorset-aonb
Vearse Farm development planning application: WD/D/17/000986
https://planning.dorset.gov.uk/onlineapplications/
applicationDetails.do?keyVal=DCAPR_132168&activeTab=summary

Neighbourhood plan

The vote on the Neighbourhood plan is on 27 February and is an opportunity to have a say on the future of Bridport. Below is the text of an email from the Bridport Town Clerk giving some information that will be helpful. Please feel free to share this information.

Early feedback from coverage of the Neighbourhood Plan referendum suggests that a lot of people are engaged (which is great!) but may not be able for a number of reasons to absorb the entire 106-page document.

In response, David has produced a summary guide to the Plan, and a narrated video summary.  Both are available from the main NP page at https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/projects/neighbourhood-plan/.

Hard copies of the summary guide are available from the Town Council on request, although naturally we’d encourage people not to ask unless they are unable to access the website version.

Many thanks to David for reacting so quickly to the significant number of requests for these summaries.

Please share this information via your own networks.  I have shared the summaries on the ‘Bridport Banter’ and ‘Bridport Notice’ Facebook pages, with a combined following of almost 24,000 people.

I’m sure also you’ll be aware by now that both poll cards and the NP leaflet are dropping through letter boxes this week.  The Bridport News also produced a helpful two-page spread last week, which is reproduced online at https://www.bridportnews.co.uk/news/18216834.important-points-know-neighbourhood-plan-ahead-referendum/.