Ninety-five homes for a site off Estover Road in March are set to get the go-ahead despite a groundswell of opposition from residents across the town.
And a report to Wednesday’s (28) Fenland planning committee argues the development should get the go-ahead without the developer having to pay for all the necessary infra-structure to ensure the scheme is viable.
In all 266 objections have been made against the outline proposals by St John’s College to build the homes on a 5.52 hectares north of 75 to 127 Estover Road - land that was previously earmarked for 450 homes during the draft stages of the Local Plan, but was subsequently removed from the plan following huge local opposition.
But the application by St John’s College aims to take advantage of the “land windfall” rule - which enables developers to use land outside the Local Plan.
Planning officers are recommending approval despite the swathe of opposition that also comes from March Town Council which “strongly recommends refusal”.
The town council lists a number of reasons for its opposition including problems with infra-structure which have not yet been addressed including sewerage issues.
“Severe road congestion problems” are also highlighted by the town council, with the parish authority arguing more homes will add to traffic congestion. They are also worried about shortages in doctors, dentists and school places adding “development in this area is completely contrary to the requirements specified in the emerging March Neighbourhood Plan.”
Residents’ objections, which came from people living in all parts of March, also include the development being contrary to the Local Plan and also that the “proposal is not sustainable”, will result in the loss of agricultural land as well as concerns over traffic, flooding and lack of footpaths in the area.
However, officers point out the government requires local planning authorities to have a five year supply of housing.
A planning inspector recently ruled that Fenland does not have that supply following an appeal in relation to plans for six homes on land south west of Syringa House, Upwell Road, Christchurch.
The inspector in that case upheld the appeal and granted permission and concluded applications should be determined in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework, which means that while Fenland does not have a five year supply of housing land there should be a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.
The report points out that as a result “refusal can only be given “where adverse impacts of approving a scheme would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the planning policy framework.”
A transport assessment submitted with the application argues: “Development should only be prevented or refused on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe. In this case it is not considered that the impacts would be severe.”
The officer’s report points out that a viability assessment has been undertaken with regard to Section 106 contributions - cash paid by developers for infra-structure - and it was determined that “for viability reasons” the proposal is “unable to provide all of the infra-structure that would be necessary”.
It says: “In this case it is considered bringing forward the development now is sufficient to outweigh the deficiency in infrastructure which this development cannot provide at this time.”