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Embattled housing development dealt another blow by council

SA Updated
Embattled housing development dealt another blow by council

Lock's Hill development in Kingsbridge has had its application for a certificate of lawfulness refused. 

Blakesley Estates, the developer for the Lock's Hill site off Derby Road in Kingsbridge, applied to South Hams District Council for a Certificate of Lawfulness, to "establish that the planning permission has been lawfully implemented". 

This application has been denied. 

The application states that the developer "sought to establish the lawful commencement of the development for 32 dwellings" and that "all pre-commencement conditions have been adequately discharged and the development which has been carried out on the site". 

The Lock's Hill site has already been given a Temporary Stop Notice, an Enforcement Notice, and a Stop Notice relating to the breaching of planning conditions. 

While the report, by planning officer Steven Stroud, outlines issues with the site that have been brought to the attention of the planning department, the refusal of the certificate of lawfulness focuses on one condition, the tree protection order, known as Condition 6. 

The report states: "The approved details for Condition 6 required further actions from the applicant developer prior to any development commencing.

Those actions included the "installation of tree protection barriers as identified on the Tree Protection Plan (TPP)". The TPP also "required tree protection signs to be secured to the protection barriers and for those barriers/fencing to be in place before any materials, plant, or other machinery were brought onto the site".

"If development was commenced on 27 May 2022, then the above matters needed to be complied with. The evidence adduced by the applicant does not demonstrate compliance with these requirements before the first operations to commence development were undertaken. The new evidence submitted by the applicant does not further their position." 

The report brings attention to two paragraphs in a statement submitted by the site manager. The paragraph states: "Access through to the Southwest field was gained on 23 September in accordance with the approved layout plan and the AMS and TPP and [SHDC planning officer] was notified of the works.

"Initially access to the field was prevented by security Heras fencing, and no vehicles were entering the
field or works taking place, so additional Tree protection fencing was not required within the boundaries of the field. This was discussed with the project arboriculturist and was considered to be an acceptable approach."

The report then explains: "It is not clear whether the manager is referring to September 2021 or September 2022, but it is presumed to be 2022. If it were 2021 then this would predate the stated date of commencement and the dates when pre-commencement condition details had been approved.

"On that basis and presuming that the manager refers to access being gained on September 2022 this also undermines the application. This is because the statement appears to accept that works were being undertaken on the site without compliance with the approved AMS/details approved pursuant to Condition 6, where no fencing had been erected in the southwest field."

Dan Stathers, spokesperson for the Save Lock's Hill campaign group, said: "This is the second refusal for lawful commencement in quick succession, however, what’s pertinent on this occasion is an acknowledgement by South Hams District Council that planning permission has now lapsed. 

"The council argue that tree protection was at the heart of the permission and there appears to be irrefutable evidence proving that this particular pre-commencement condition has been breached. Rather ironically, the second refusal seems more robust than the first aided by the addition of the developer’s supporting evidence. 

"The site still has an active stop notice in force relating to multiple breaches, something that will be debated before a Crown Court judge. 

"Companies House tells us three of the Blakesley Estates (Kingsbridge) directors have now resigned, the site is nearly two years old and still on a muck away shift, High House Lane is hanging on the edge of a cliff along with some of the proposed houses (if the approved plans are anything to go by), and parts of the Devon hedgerow are in a state of collapse. On top of that, people aren’t sure what’s actually being built?

"We’ll no doubt be told by the developer that good progress has been made but the reality is the site looks like a scene from Mordor and must be haemorrhaging money daily. It remains sad and troubling that Blakesley Estates thought it appropriate to take on the project in the first place.

"The government planning inspector who approved Garden Mill should return to Derby Road to witness the impact of the decision."

Lee Bonham, another local resident, expressed astonishment that, "after so much work at Lock's Hill and months of noise, disruption and removal of earth, it now seems that Blakesley Estates may not have proper planning approval to proceed or build anything at all".  

John Freeland of Blakesley Estates said: "Planning issues at the Locks Hill/Derby Road site are currently the subject of an ongoing court case between SHDC and Blakesley Estates. As such, further comment at this time would be inappropriate and could prejudice the outcome of the case." 

The full report can be found on the South Hams District Council planning portal HERE

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