Land off Station Road – Story Homes

Dear Residents
The Parish Council were informed on Thursday afternoon that Story Homes will be distributing a leaflet to households in the village regarding their plans for the Station Road site.  The leaflet says that they plan to submit a full detailed planning application.
The Parish Council feel it is important to explain our current position regarding this site, based on previous decisions of the Parish Council, and therefore this is set out below.
The Parish Council objected to the outline planning application (ref. 16/00976/OUT) (Parish Council letter dated 6th November 2016).
This first version of the outline planning application contained space for a school.  The Parish Council’s grounds for objection included increased traffic risk (including relating to the proposed space for a school), 
Highways England put a holding recommendation on the application for a long period of time “recommends that planning permission not be granted for a specified time…” (several sequential letters were issued by Highways England over a period of time).  The reason for the holding recommendation was “to ensure that the A66 Trunk Road continues to serve its purpose as part of a national system of routes for through traffic in accordance with Section 10(2) of the Highways Act 1980 by minimising disruption of the trunk road network and in the interests of traffic safety.”
After some time, Highways England lifted this holding recommendation (March 2019).
However, with regard to the village roads and traffic safety risk, the Parish Council consider that this development would still constitute a high risk.
A revised outline application was submitted in 2019.  This time, the proposal omitted the space for a school, but instead included more houses.
The Parish Council again objected (letter of 26th February 2019), including on the grounds of traffic, impact on Public Rights of Way, and the Roman Road.
This revised outline application was meant to be considered by Darlington Borough Council Planning Applications Committee  on 5th June 2019, but was withdrawn from the Agenda at the last minute along with the large Coniscliffe applications “on legal advice” (Darlington Borough Council announced shortly after this that they would be looking at the Darlington Local Plan and the housing figures).   The Parish Council (3rd June 2019) and the Campaign for Rural England (31st May 2019) had written to the Planning Applications Committee prior to 5th June stating that a) the application conflicts with existing policies (outside the current development limits), b) Darlington Council can prove more than a five year supply of housing land (so the number of houses are not needed), and c) the Draft Darlington Local Plan can be given little or no weight, give the amount of opposition to the housing target and allocations.  The Parish Council also objected on the grounds of effect on the Public Rights of Way, the Roman Road, and on impact of traffic on safety (the Parish Council had now carried out a traffic monitoring survey on existing number of vehicle movements at the site).
As the Story Homes leaflet says, this site is a housing allocation site within the draft Darlington Local Plan (site 099 on the Policy Maps).
During the [Regulation 19] consultation on this Darlington Local Plan in September 2020, the Parish Council submitted comments which included the recommendation that this site be taken out of the Local Plan because we now had an evidence-based document (Housing Needs Assessment for MSG) proving that the proposed housing on this site was not needed in the village.
The Housing Needs Assessment was carried out by a Government approved body in 2020 for the MSG Neighbourhood Plan (on which the Parish Council consulted both the residents of MSG parish as well as other statutory consultation bodies in Autumn 2020).  The Neighbourhood Plan, as a result of the Housing Needs Assessment, consequently excluded the Station Road site from its settlement boundaries.
The current status of the Neighbourhood Plan is that, following that consultation in Autumn 2020, the responses have been taken into account, and the Plan documents have been updated.  Once the updated documents are approved by the Parish Council at its meeting on 12th April 2021, it is will be progressed to the Examination Stage.
So, the latest proposals by Story Homes for the Station Road site will be considered by the Parish Council in the context of all of the above.
Based on its previous decisions, the Parish Council considers that this site is a) not required based on housing numbers, b) still poses an increased traffic danger, c) will still impact on the Public Rights of Way over the site, d) will still impact on the Roman Road over that site (archaeology).
And in regards to the Darlington Local Plan, which is currently being examined by the Planning Inspector, there is still a strong case to say that Darlington’s overall housing targets are way out of line with both the Government’s own recommendations and with Darlington’s own needs.
Cllr Catherine Gilsenan
Chair, Middleton St George Parish Council