Thursday, 11 February 2016

Pickles approves homes at heart of planning row

A 2,000-home development at the centre of a planning row that temporarily derailed the government’s attempts to ban regional house building targets has finally been approved.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has given the green light to Cala Group’s plans to build 2,000 homes – 40 per cent of which will be affordable – at the Barton Farm site north of Winchester.

The scheme has been in planning for 14 years, and prompted Cala Group’s successful legal challenge of the government’s decision to revoke regional spatial strategies in 2010.

Mr Pickles originally turned down the latest application in September last year but reviewed the decision after Cala lodged a judicial review. He pulled out of fighting the court case in February.

Local politicians have opposed the plans. Council leader Keith Wood said: ‘Personally I am disappointed that the time has come to release this site for housing but the secretary of state has applied his own rules and we have no choice but to follow them.’

Winchester Council rejected the planning application in 2010 saying there was little evidence housing need and lack of development had reached such a level that it was necessary for Barton Farm to be built on.

The Planning Inspectorate disagreed with this decision, but Mr Pickles backed the council, overturning the inspector’s recommendation. This led to Cala Homes launching its judicial review of the decision to abolish regional spatial strategies.

Steve Brine, MP for Winchester & Chandler’s Ford, said he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ by the government’s decision.

He said: ‘Cala homes have very deep pockets and have relentlessly pursued Winchester over many years until they got what they wanted. Because of the appeal system it was always possible they’d win one day and today it looks like they have.’

Robert Millar, group land director of Cala, said: ‘Local people will benefit greatly from this decision. It will be a major contributor to stimulating the local economy and creating long term jobs. Furthermore, it will make a significant contribution to the chronic shortage of affordable housing enabling key workers and other local people to live in their own city.’

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