It is great to see that the government are taking on board al the objections to the proposed changes in the planning laws. Along with many others we have made our views known to our local MP.
As previously reported, ADVEARSE has now moved on to a new phase focusing on ensuring the planning obligations and promises made by Hallam, such as the provision of 35% affordable housing (at around 80% of usual market value) and improvements to the A35 Miles Cross junction, are honoured. We will also be closely examining aspects of the development that do not appear to meet legal requirements, including pedestrian safety. Our supporters can be assured that we will fight any attempt to back track on developer and council commitments
Sarah Carney has left Advearse in view of her role as a Bridport Town Councillor and possible conflicts with also being a member of Advearse. We would like to thank Sarah for all her years of great work with Advearse. David Tett (former Town and District councilor) rejoined and brings a wealth of local government experience that will be invaluable.
We held our AGM on 26 October and will be shortly posting the annual report on our website.
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:
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.
For those interested in planning, two interesting case studies have just popped up:
1) A Devon council tried to refuse outline planning permission to a developer for 122 houses but the developer took it to appeal and the council lost because they hadn’t met their housing-land supply. As we know, developers can basically build where they like – permission is just a pretend formality – as is the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan.
But Sevenoaks Council is trying to make a stand, they have failed to meet their supply because they refuse to build on greenbelt land but their LP has been rejected by the inspector:
As much as I really respect Sevenoaks Council for doing this and wish other council’s would do so too, I think statements like this:
‘We believe, whilst this is not the reason the inspector has given, failing to meet the government’s housing figure would potentially impact on subsequent Local Plans across the country.’
Are somewhat naïve as this has been going on for years under the last and present iterations of the NPPF. They will undoubtedly be brushed off by the Secretary of State, as were ADVEARSE before our JR. They may win any subsequent JR on the technicality that the inspector has rejected the plan because ‘it was not legally compliant in respect of the council’s duty to cooperate’, her main concerns being ‘the lack of constructive engagement with neighbouring authorities to resolve the issue of unmet housing need and the absence of strategic cross-boundary planning to examine how the identified needs could be accommodated’, whereas the council says its ‘Plan submission included more than 800 pages of evidence detailing how it had worked with neighbouring authorities during its production of the Plan’ and ‘that those councils and other organisations involved in its development supported the council’s evidence and approach.’ If the inspector had explicitly rejected the plan on the grounds of it failing to meet housing-land supply – the real reason for the rejection – then the judge would undoubtedly be able to uphold the decision. However, if they win on a technicality, the inspector has only to reject it again citing the real reasons.
The real situation is what the council suggests: ‘If we are not to follow the evidence to make our Plan then the government may just as well dictate how many homes an area should have and then pick sites, we need to put an end to the thinly veiled charade that Local Plans are in any way locally led.’ If I were the leader of the council and the plan still gets rejected further down the line, I would be inclined to publicly rip it up and say, what’s the point, clearly developers can build where they like so we might as well leave it all to the free market and bin the pretence.
Sarah Carney, ADVEARSE
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
There has been some local and national news coverage of the outcome of the JR. Links/cuttings for this coverage are listed below. Generally the coverage has been sympathetic.
As mentioned in an earlier post, we went ahead with the Judicial Review claim and lodged the court papers on 12th June.
Our understanding is that our case has been allocated to a judge for review, but that this review has not yet occurred. This is probably due to delays at the court given it is the summer holiday season.
So we are still at the permission stage awaiting to hear if a judge considers our case to have sufficient merit to go to a full hearing in the Administrative Court.
We are still hopeful to have news by the end of August and be able to take our challenge to a full court hearing.
We now have over 250 people supporting the campaign through either direct donations or Crowdfunding pledges.
With all this great support we have now just over £10,500 left to raise to hit our £34k target to fund the Judicial Review and try to stop the massive and damaging Vearse Farm Bridport Urban extension.
But we have just 20 days left to raise this money – so please keep the donations and pledges coming in. This is a really worthwhile cause to stop the loss of our precious AONB countryside, prevent the spoiling of Bridport and pressure Dorset Council to build genuinely affordable eco-friendly houses for local people using available brownfield sites
One of the most repeated comments we hear in relation to Bridport’s (Vearse Farm) urbanisation is – “How on earth can this happen?”
It is incredibly difficult to understand how Dorset Council could possibly grant planning permission for this massive development on AONB land on the outskirts of Bridport. Also, grant this permission in the face of massive local people, Town Council and Parish Councils opposition.
But then articles like the one linked below demonstrate just how dysfunctional and corrupt the whole planning system is. Best to sit down when you read it as it is guaranteed to make your blood boil.
But there is something increasingly local communities are doing where disastrous planning applications are granted – using Judicial Reviews to challenge and overturn these terrible planning decisions. Please join us in our campaign to stop Bridport’s urbanisation.
Following on from an earlier post regarding Bridport Town Council declaring a climate emergency we now have Dorset Council doing the same! But in DC’s case this is just rank hypocrisy!
Below is the Bridport News article link:
The article says “DORSET Council has declared a ‘climate emergency’ following a morning of protests.” Also “A photo tweeted by the council showed that 69 Councilors were in favour of the motion, while two Councilors were against and six abstained from the vote.”
Talk about shameless virtue signalling and hypocrisy!
18 months ago West Dorset County Council (DC’s predecessor) Planning Committee passed Vearse Farm planning application in the teeth of massive opposition by 11 votes with one lone councilor objecting. Would DC now pass such a planning application with all the environmental and climate change damage?
Lets help Dorset Council recover their virtue by giving them a chance to halt the Vearse Farm development!
Help us raise the funds for the Judical Review and then DC can do the right thing – not oppose our JR and consign the massive and destructive VF plan in the dustbin. They can then get on with plans that don’t damage the environment and which actually provide genuine affordable housing for local people!