South Cambs village will get block of retirement flats because council didn't make decision in time

A developer has won an appeal to build a block of retirement flats in a South Cambridgeshire village. Concerns about the impact the plans to redevelop a site off Station Road in Great Shelford could have on the character of the area had been raised.

The exisiting buildings on the site are planned to be demolished to make way for the new flats. © Google The exisiting buildings on the site are planned to be demolished to make way for the new flats.

A planning application was submitted by Churchill Retirement Living Ltd to build 39 retirement flats in Station Road, Great Shelford. The existing site currently contains a car park and commercial buildings, which are proposed to be demolished to make way for the new development.

In a planning statement the company said the proposals to redevelop the brownfield site into retirement homes would help release larger family homes back into the housing market. They said the site was a “highly sustainable location” and that the development had been designed to “reflect the character and scale of the surrounding area”.

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It said: “It is evident that there is critical need for the delivery of older people’s housing in the district and significant pressing need within the administrative boundary of the council. This planning application proposals will contribute towards delivering these much needed homes, including older people housing. That contribution can be considered a significant benefit which weighs strongly in favour of this planning application.”

Churchill Retirement Living Ltd lodged an appeal with the planning inspectorate for non determination after they argued South Cambridgeshire District Council had failed to make a decision on the application in the required time. The district council argued the application should be refused by the planning inspector. In the closing remarks submitted from the district council’s barrister, they argued the developer had “considerably overstated the benefits” of the scheme.

They said: “This is a poor-quality scheme, which will fail to add to the overall quality of the area and will result in a poor standard of amenity to its residents, and a severe loss of privacy to one of its neighbours. Properly considered, the proposal is fundamentally at odds with what the planning and development process should achieve.”

In the planning inspector’s report they explained that they considered three main issues, whether the development would be of high quality design and its effect on the appearance of the area; what the effect of the development would be on the living conditions on neighbours; and whether the development would provide acceptable contributions towards infrastructure.

The planning inspector said the new development would “fundamentally alter the character and appearance of the site” due to its larger size compared to the existing buildings. However, they said the site was “somewhat of an anomaly” compared to the surrounding area, which they said was “relatively built up”.

They said: “Furthermore, I find that the front elevation would represent an improvement on the existing site frontage. The current frontage building is set on the back edge of the footpath and forms a blank facade which is devoid of any openings or architectural features, other than a series of rooflights in the northern part.

“Although there would be a loss of visual openness through the increased height, overall I find that the design of the front elevation would improve the character and appearance of the area and introduce a feature which is more representative of its surroundings.”

The planning inspector said they accepted that some of the widows from the new development would be closer to those of one of the neighbouring homes. While they said there “may be potential for a degree of overlooking” they did not think there would be a “harmful loss of privacy”. Financial contributions had been requested by the district council from the developer towards infrastructure in the area should the development go ahead.

The planning inspector decided that while the contributions towards affordable housing, green infrastructure, indoor community space, swimming, burial space, indoor and outdoor sports were necessary and met the relevant tests, they said the request for contributions towards allotments and orchards did not meet the tests. The planning inspector concluded after having considered the different arguments made that the appeal should be allowed.

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