Persimmon Homes planning application – Parish Council objection

Objection to the Persimmon Planning Application that has been sent to the Planners Feb 2021:
Objection from NUNTHORPE PARISH COUNCIL to Planning Application 20/0658 submitted by Persimmon Homes in respect of land north of the Nunthorpe Bypass, Nunthorpe Grange, Middlesbrough.
Nunthorpe Parish Council welcomes the reduction in the number of dwellings proposed for Nunthorpe Grange in the revised Planning Application submitted by Persimmon Homes.
However, this statement of objection from the Parish Council explains why Persimmon’s revised application should be rejected on the grounds that the total of 77 dwellings still significantly exceeds the number of houses authorised by the Middlesbrough Housing Local Plan 2014. Therefore, the first section of our statement outlines non-compliance as the fundamental flaw in Persimmon’s submission to Middlesbrough Council’s Planning Committee.
In addition, in the second section, under the heading “Planning Infrastructure Issues”, Nunthorpe Parish Council presents some other significant compliance challenges to the case made by Persimmon Homes.
1. Total Authorised Housing Numbers – 250.
All parties appear to be in agreement that the core documents in this case are the Middlesbrough Housing Local Plan 2014 and the associated Policy H29, which specify “a maximum of 250 predominantly 3 and 4 bedroom detached and semi-detached dwellings” in Nunthorpe Grange.
As a Councillor reminded Middlesbrough’s Planning Committee during its recent consideration of an application for a development in Ford Close, the maximum numbers specified in the Local Plan “are there for a reason.” The maximum figure of 250 for Nunthorpe Grange was clearly specified intentionally, rather than inserted as an oversight, because the Planning Inspector at the time explicitly asked that the wording of this requirement should be restated in order to avoid any possible doubt about the Plan. The maximum figure of 250 was included as being “justified on this site to ensure the densities of development reflect the high quality and low density of those properties in the immediate surrounding area and the type of housing required.” The Housing Local Plan of 2014 has not been replaced, and so the unambiguous maximum of 250 houses remains in force.
Furthermore, in a recent public declaration, Middlesbrough’s Mayor has reaffirmed the Council’s understanding of the authority of the 2014 Housing Local Plan’s assertion that 250 houses in Nunthorpe Grange is the maximum figure acceptable to Middlesbrough Council.
It follows that, to succeed with this planning application, Persimmon must successfully argue that it can somehow set aside Middlesbrough’s core planning framework, replacing the maximum figure of 250 with a higher total figure.
To a considerable extent, Persimmon’s case relies on mention in the Nunthorpe Grange Design Code (2018) of the maximum being “about 350” houses. Persimmon argues that this reference “is a key material planning consideration in the determination of this application and relaxes this restriction” from 250 to 350, and thus “makes a compelling reason to allow the determination of this application”. (Planning Statement, page 44). The argument is that reference in the subsidiary document must be regarded as overriding the Local Plan simply because it is a more recent document.
This is a distortion of the factual situation.
For a start, the Nunthorpe Grange Design Code is explicitly a document “to deliver guidance” (page 3), with the main part being headed as an “Indicative” Masterplan – in contrast to the Planning Inspector’s strong affirmation that the Local Plan is to “ensure” appropriate densities in Nunthorpe Grange. Even Persimmon’s own “Design and Access Statement” accepts the guidance role of the Design Code (Section 3.5), while Persimmon’s “Transport Assessment” goes further, referring to the Nunthorpe Grange site as comprising “26.5 hectares of greenfield land allocated by Middlesbrough Council for up to 250 residential dwellings” (page 7). So it is rather inconsistent that, for the purposes of sidestepping the Local Plan, Persimmon treats a reference to 350 houses in the Design Code as having authority considerably above its declared status as being no more than guidance.
It is probably helpful to recall that the time when the Nunthorpe Grange Design Code was being drafted was also the time when Middlesbrough Council was considering replacing the 2014 Local Plan. There was debate at the time about whether the maximum of 250 dwellings in Nunthorpe Grange should be replaced with a maximum of 350 houses. However, any possible force of these deliberations as a “material consideration” must be limited by the overriding “material consideration” that the operative decision was NOT to replace the 2014 Local Plan in 2019. The truth is that the debates in 2018/2019 left intact the maximum of 250 houses in Nunthorpe Grange. As the Mayor of Middlesbrough has confirmed – “Housebuilding on Nunthorpe Grange will be limited to 250 houses, as stated in the Housing Local Plan (rather than 350 houses or any of the other higher figures previously considered.)”
Persimmon also suggests that the housing limit in the Housing Local Plan should be sidelined because of “changing market conditions”. However, the examples cited of changing market circumstances are little more than subjective opinions which are unaccountably elevated by Persimmon to rank as definitive “material considerations”. These opinions are so subjective that
one possible interpretation by Persimmon of changing circumstances is countered by a contrary interpretation by Persimmon in another part of its own documentation – with market changes apparently moving in opposite directions ! So, we learn that material market changes since 2014 necessitate fewer 5-bedroom homes in order to create more “alternative price points” in Nunthorpe Grange, to counter the “natural saturation point” for executive housing (Design and Access Statement, page 10) – while also requiring even more 5-bedroom houses so that the “character” required in Nunthorpe Grange becomes “more aligned with Nunthorpe Gardens” (Planning Statement, page 44).
Similarly, Persimmon argues that greater recognition of the national housing need provides a rationale for discounting provisions in Middlesbrough’s Local Plan. It is argued that Middlesbrough’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment of 2016, updated in 2017, represents “the most recent and up to date assessment” of the Objective Assessment of Need for Housing, providing compelling “evidence” that 350 units are not just suitable but necessary. (Planning Statement, page 23). This conveniently overlooks the objective analysis of the Office of National Statistics, projecting a reduction in Middlesbrough’s population between 2020 and 2030 when compared with the projection in 2014 – a fall of 7449 between the forecast in 2014 and the forecast in 2018, with a related 90% reduction in housing need.
Even if it is acceptable for anyone to identify “material considerations” which might merit the Local Plan being regarded as irrelevant, the Parish Council could identify much more appropriate considerations. Probably the most significant event faced by Nunthorpe since 2014 is the same as that faced by every community – Covid 19 – but it is as yet far from clear what will be the social and economic consequences. Persimmon does not hazard a guess, but it is unlikely that there will be zero impact on the sale of houses. Perhaps fewer families will be able, or willing, to purchase large and expensive houses. Perhaps more people will wish to downsize to smaller houses. In this connection, a “material consideration” might be the findings of a recent survey of Nunthorpe residents, which found that 41% of those expressing an opinion about moving home identified a bungalow as their preferred type of accommodation (22% of respondents when the 47% of residents who have no plan to move are included). This interest in bungalows is in line with the projections of the Office of National Statistics, which is expecting an increase of 19% among Middlesbrough’s residents aged over 65 during the next ten years, alongside a reduction of 6% among Middlesbrough’s working-age adults. Yet the Persimmon submission apparently assumes that no bungalows are appropriate, because such a perspective is not compatible with its own random selection of “material considerations”.
In short, Persimmon’s attempt to undermine the Housing Local Plan with selective “material considerations” is unbalanced, and can be disregarded as just as inappropriate as its attempt to replace Middlesbrough’s formally established Local Plan with the guidance contained in an indicative Design Code.
Therefore, Nunthorpe Parish Council maintains that, in accordance with planning law and regulations, Middlesbrough Council has established 250 dwellings as the maximum number of houses permitted in Nunthorpe Grange.
2. Persimmon’s Share of Total Permitted Housing.
As explained above, the Local Plan may not authorise more than 250 houses in Nunthorpe
Grange, but it certainly does authorise construction of some of the 250 houses on this site.
Persimmon’s previous application was rejected by the Planning Committee because of being “too high in density” (ie too many houses on this site) – and so the key question for the Planning Committee is : “how many houses might be acceptable?”
Unfortunately the three landowners / developers of Nunthorpe Grange have not yet agreed on an equitable division of the 250 between themselves.
In the absence of agreement, a reasonable starting point might be an allocation based broadly on the proportions of land available to each party. This is not as straightforward as might first appear, depending on such factors as inclusion or exclusion of the 1.7 hectares currently leased to the Nunthorpe and Marton Playing Fields Association, and on the extent to which an allowance is made for primary roads, drainage etc.
However, it is probably reasonably fair to conclude that Persimmon’s land share is between 21% and 25% of the 250 houses. This results in a range between 53 houses (21%) and 63 houses (25%), with the average being 58 houses (23%). Clearly, the 77 houses currently being claimed by Persimmon (at 31%) significantly exceeds this fair share. In the absence of agreement between the parties, and in the absence of a clear rationale why Persimmon might be entitled to deprive Middlesbrough Council and/or Taylor Wimpey of their fair shares, Nunthorpe Parish Council maintains that the application to construct 77 houses should be rejected. Even starting from the most favourable base of 63 houses (25%), it would seem very difficult to justify authorisation of an allocation as high as the 70-house (28%) mid-point between the high-end 63-house (25%) calculation of land share and the 77-house (31%) entitlement currently claimed by Persimmon.
With Persimmon claiming 77 houses and Taylor Wimpey claiming 56 houses, Middlesbrough Council, as the owner of approximately 67.5% of the land, would have only a potential 47% of the house-building capacity – the residual 117 houses.
It would seem perverse for Middlesbrough Council to sanction disproportionate private sector profit, to the detriment of the funding potentially available to Middlesbrough Council.
Therefore, without a reduction in the 31% share asserted by Persimmon, Nunthorpe Parish Council argues that the proposed density remains excessive, and non-compliant with the Housing Local Plan and related Policies.
1. Persimmon’s Share of Responsibility for Community Impact.
A related issue for the Planning Committee is the calculation of Section 106 contributions which are reasonable from the perspective of Persimmon, and reasonable from the perspective of the community.
At the previous hearing of Persimmon’s application for planning permission, the Parish Council expressed concern that the claim for a share of permitted housing was not aligned with the share of infrastructure contributions. We are pleased to note that the current set of Persimmon documents accepts a fair share of responsibility to compensate the Nunthorpe community for whatever the adverse consequences may be of the development of Nunthorpe Grange.
But how can the Planning Committee anticipate the overall impact of the development of Nunthorpe Grange when this remains a matter for consultation between all the parties? If the overall impact can’t yet be assessed, how can a proportion be calculated? If agreement with Persimmon were to be calculated now as a component of the outcome of this planning application, is Persimmon prepared to increase its contribution significantly at a later stage if the community impact is shown at a later stage to be much greater ?
This is yet another reason why Persimmon’s application should be regarded as premature even by those who are not opposed to construction of some housing in Nunthorpe Grange.
The National Planning Policy Framework of February 2019, paragraph 110, requires that applications for development should give first priority to pedestrian and cycle movements, both within the scheme and with neighbouring areas.
The documents provided in support of Persimmon’s application give the impression that this requirement can easily be satisfied because of the proximity of Nunthorpe Gardens.
Some of Persimmon’s statements about this are confidently expressed. The Design and Access Statement identifies as “an Opportunity” the new pedestrian and cycle links across the site to Nunthorpe Gardens “to increase permeability and safeguard strategic connections”. The Framework Travel Plan notes that the nearest bus stops are located on Guisborough Road and can be reached via Nunthorpe Gardens. Similar pronouncements are made in the Transport Assessment about the new connections for cyclists and pedestrians between the Persimmon site and Nunthorpe Gardens.
However, other references are more tentative. A plan at Section 24 of the Design and Access Statement identifies this as a “potential footpath link” and page 35 describes this as a “potential pedestrian link”. The Parish Council suspects that these more circumspect statements reflect considerable doubt about whether there is a right of way between Number 18 and Number 19 Nunthorpe Gardens, with the ownership of the connecting land being shared between three parties (the residents of 18 and 19, and Taylor Wimpey.) Furthermore, our attention has been drawn to a different, but related, challenge about the ownership of the land adjacent to the fence between Nunthorpe Gardens and the Persimmon site.
The Planning Committee would need to be assured that there could be no grounds for a successful challenge to this cycle/pedestrian connection, before it can be satisfied that such planning requirements as those contained in the NPPF can be met. If there is no right for pedestrians and cyclists to pass between the Persimmon site and Nunthorpe Gardens, the Parish Council believes that this undermines the fundamental assumption on which Persimmon has constructed its Framework Travel Plan.
Similarly, an impediment to free passage through Nunthorpe Gardens also poses a challenge for the credibility of the calculation of the likely traffic impact of the Persimmon development, as presented in its Transport Assessment. Persimmon’s Travel Plan states : “It is considered that the impacts on the highway network would not be significant in capacity terms, particularly as the development would operate a Travel Plan aimed at reducing vehicle trips” (Page 39, section 6.15). So, if the Travel Plan depends on the Nunthorpe Gardens link, and the Transport Assessment depends on the Travel Plan, this planning application raises a considerable number of outstanding issues if it is to demonstrate compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework.
In the Report from the Planning Inspectorate to Middlesbrough Council “on the examination of Middlesbrough Housing Local Plan” (31/10/14), Appendix MM40 stipulates as a “main modification…in respect of the housing allocation for land south of Guisborough Road, Nunthorpe, make it explicit that the development will not come forward before there is a commitment to provide either the new East Middlesbrough Link, or Park and Ride in place”. Middlesbrough Council accepted that, to overcome this prohibition on building on Nunthorpe Grange, either the Ladgate Link or the Park and Ride would need to have been “secured” through an agreed “timetable for implementation”.
Nunthorpe Parish Council understands that the Ladgate Link has been effectively abandoned. Middlesbrough Council has certainly taken some initial steps towards a road access to a Park and Ride facility between Church Lane and the A1043 Bypass, by obtaining planning permission for a roundabout on the A1043. However, this hardly constitutes significant progress towards meeting the criteria specified in the 2014 Plan, in the absence of the much greater
development required by Redcar and Cleveland Council, within whose jurisdiction such a facility would be located.
Persimmon appears to accept that this is the situation, noting in its Transport Assessment, section 8, in relation to Park and Ride, that “there are no firm proposals at this time.”
It is, of course, theoretically possible that agreement might be reached among all parties on a more effective way forward to deal with the “Marton Crawl” and other local traffic and transport issues; but, as no such proposal has even been presented to the Parish Council, let alone endorsed, the Parish Council draws attention to this as yet another reason why the Persimmon Plan should be rejected as contrary to planning authorisation.
Nunthorpe Parish Council urges the Planning Committee to reject this application as non-compliant, having regard to the provisions of the Middlesbrough Housing Local Plan 2014 and the National Planning Policy Framework.
January 2021