MP demands that Government rethink controversial new housing estate approval

Sir Edward Garnier.

Sir Edward Garnier.

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Harborough MP Sir Edward Garnier has stepped into the row over a controversial new estate near Market Harborough.

Sir Edward has asked the Secretary of State to “call in” or review a planning inspector’s decision to approve a 70-home estate in Great Bowden.

As reported in the Mail last week, planning inspector Richard Allen over-ruled Harborough District Council’s decision to refuse the development on Berry Road, Great Bowden.

The inspector’s decision - the result of a planning appeal by developers Redrow Homes - shocked local people and council planners.

In a letter to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sir Edward writes: “A Planning Inspector has overturned the district council’s refusal of planning permission ... despite expressly accepting that the development would lead to the loss of open space, farmland and the separation of the town and the village.”

He said the Inspector, Mr Richard Allen, ruled that the district needed more homes to meet its five-year target.

“That may or may not be true, but the area needs housing in places that are suitable for it, not where the new housing will cause more problems than solutions.”

Sir Edward points out that the district is only just short of its five-year housing supply figure, having a 4.66 year housing supply.

“But housing supply is based on building starts over which it has no control, not approvals.

“What can a planning authority do if it has given permission for a large number of houses that will satisfy future demand, but the developers do not make use of it but just sit on the land, using the planning approval as an addition to the land value?”

He adds: “I urge you to call in this decision and reinstate the council’s refusal.”

The planning inspector noted that Harborough is falling short of a Government five-year housing target, and decided the need for more houses outweighed “moderate” harm from the new development.

Four previous planning inspectors have said “no” to houses on the Berry Close site.

Local people had argued that the site was unsuitable, and the development closed the gap between Great Bowden and Market Harborough.

Great Bowden parish council chairman Paul Claxton said he was “utterly appalled” by the inspector’s decision.

A spokesman for the district council said: “We are disappointed.”

The council’s deputy leader Phil King called it a “worrying” decision.

Local councillor Phil Knowles said: “There is no guarantee that the call in request will be successful, but I would urge everyone to write direct to the Secretary of State requesting him to accept the call in and asking that he reconsiders the inspector’s decision.”