Land to the rear of High Stell, Middleton St. George

Dear Resident

As many of you will be aware, a scheme to build 198 houses on land to the rear of Grendon Gardens and High Stell, Middleton St George, was given approval with a variety of conditions by Darlington Borough Council, but committee members blocked plans to have just one access point to the new estate.

However, developers Homes by Carlton launched an appeal to overturn the Planning Application Committee’s decision.

The housing developer lodged three appeals following the planning committee’s decision in January.
A site visit was made by the Planning Inspectorate and the conditions were overturned (Inspector Appeal Decision dated 30th July 2019).

Outlining the reason for allowing the appeals, planning inspector Beverley Wilders said: “As planning permission has already been granted for the development of the site for housing, any comments made in relation to the principle of the development are not relevant in relation to these appeals which relate solely to the discharge of conditions.
“I note that the development and the various applications have generated a significant amount of interest locally with a number of concerns having been raised. Though I have had regard to the concerns raised regarding access, for the reasons stated above, it appears to me that it was always the intention that the development would be phased.”

The Appeal was not to be decided by a Public inquiry, but by Decision based on Written Representation. The Parish Council had submitted a Written Representation to the Planning Inspector, making the following points (with supporting evidence):
– Two accesses should be provided at commencement
– There had been no evidence that the appellant would provide the High Stell access
– The Parish Council was concerned, in light of all evidence and complaints from local residents, of “Nuisance” (impact on amenity in terms of construction and other traffic, dust and noise). Even “perceived nuisance” has cause excessive harm (courts have upheld this in various other cases).
– The future of this development must now be made crystal clear
– A way must be found to ensure that a nuisance is not caused to residents of Middleton St George, either in Grendon Gardens and The Greenway, High Stell or elsewhere.

Following the Appeal, a Special Meeting of the Parish Council was subsequently convened for 12th August to consider the Planning Inspector’s decision and discuss the ramifications.
A large number of local residents were in attendance, with some speaking on various points of the decision and the development (situation regarding the disposal of foul water, construction vehicles, traffic, etc.).
An email, received from Adrian Hobbs the Planning Case Officer that day (12/08/2019), was read out to the meeting by the Chairman. The email read as follows:
“The appeal decision means that the developers can carry out the development in accordance with the approved plans and associated conditions. The salient condition being that they can build out 50 dwellings using the Grendon Gardens access only. After that, they will need to create a further access off High Stell. You will need to contact the Inspectorate directly to query the actions of their Inspector in considering the appeals. This Council does not intend to do so.
If no additional access is provided via High Stell after 50 dwellings are complete, then any further development will be unauthorised under the terms of the planning permission for this site, and appropriate enforcement/stop notice action will be likely to be taken by this Authority.”

Following discussion, resolutions were taken by the Parish Council:

– In terms of investigating whether we have a case for a judicial review.
• Obtain information (which documents DBC sent to the Planning Inspector, and which were omitted). Cllr Doris Jones offered to obtain this.
• Contact the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), for legal advice re the case, likely timescales and likely cost, chance of success, etc.

– Other matters
• Drains (request clarification from DBC)
• Noise and Nuisance (see whether/how Environmental Officer response to Gladman can be used re High Stell)
• Gladman The Greenway application (verify what DBC policy position is on the site within the Draft Local Plan, and also check the situation regarding the planning application on the site)
• Traffic (find out DBC traffic mitigation proposals for MSG)
• Look at all other traffic and parking issues and how these relate to the High Stell development
• Investigate if there is any expertise available to help with all the above points

Investigating whether we have a case for a judicial review

Regarding the documentation DBC sent to the Planning Inspector, it turned out that the documents submitted to the Planning Inspector were those uploaded on DBC website under the reference number 18/00959/CON (and these were the documents the Parish Council had access to when drafting our Written Representation). There was a Statement of Case submitted by DBC.

An email was received on 19th August from Adrian Hobbs:

“There was no additional statement submitted in this case, as is customary when Officer’s refusals are appealed against. The delegated report [Planning Officer’s Report to Planning Applications Committee] and other documents were seen as adequately explaining the Council’s position.
The paragraph below is taken from an Inspector’s decision letter from another case by way of illustration.

“The Council are not bound to submit an appeal statement and were satisfied that the Officer report presented their case sufficiently.” He noted that “The officer report and decision notice gave reasons for the refusal of the application and identified where the Council considered the proposal was contrary to local and national policy.”

Advice was sought from Richard Cowen from CPRE, on whether we would be likely to have a case to take to judicial review. It seems that a case would be difficult to prove in this instance.

1) An “appeal” can only be on a point of law on the basis that the Inspector has misapplied the law. It is not an appeal on fact except in the very exceptional case that not decision maker, properly directed, could possibly reach that decision (although the Inspector’s Decision seems unfair, it is highly unlikely that the Inspector has made an error in law).

2) Any appeal MUST be lodged with the court within 6 weeks of the date of the decision letter.
Also, the likely costs, and the timescale would work against us (an application for judicial review would have to be filed at court within 6 weeks of the appeal decision, and even this was done we would then have to have a legal expert look over the whole complicated case, and the costs would be prohibitive).

Other Matters

Drains (Disposal of Foul Water)

At the Special Parish Council meeting on 12th August it was agreed that we investigate the situation regarding the Disposal of Foul Water, following mention by local residents that there seemed to be concerns regarding which drains were meant to be used for the disposal of foul water, and problems of access to those drains.

We have received an update and clarification from Northumbrian Water (and a copy of their sewerage grid is attached for reference):

“My colleagues in our pre-planning team and our adoptions team have worked closely with the developer and have agreed that the foul flows from this development site can discharge to the foul sewer network between manholes 3503-3508 in Grendon Gardens (this may be a reason for the surface water sewer being surveyed for asset protection purposes). In addition, we have agreed that the surface water flows from the development site can discharge to our surface water sewer to the north of the site via manhole 8701 at a restricted discharge rate of 8.4 l/sec, before ultimately discharging to the watercourse.

I have attached a copy of our sewerage GIS which should hopefully show where the manholes are. 8701 is the manhole where the surface water sewer changes direction from heading West to North West (it is located in the South West corner of the ponds).”

Gladman The Greenway application (Ref. 19/00231/OUT)

In view of the fact that an application was pending on the site adjacent (south) to the High Stell site, which proposed to use a single access route along Grendon Gardens and The Greenway (as with the High Stell development), and would therefore impact further on the local residents, it was considered necessary to ascertain the current situation with regard to the site and the corresponding planning application.

At the time of the Darlington Borough Council Local Plan Consultation during Summer 2018, the Parish Council had objected to the inclusion of this site (no.375) being included in the Local Plan due to the further impact of traffic congestion through the centre of the village and increased danger to pedestrians. Neither the Parish Council nor local residents believe that access issues could ever be resolved, due to the many issues relating both this and the High Stell site.

We have received an update and clarification from David Hand, Head of Planning Policy as to DBC’s position regarding the “Gladman” site (375) within the Local Plan (and the last paragraph explains the current situation regarding the planning application submitted by Gladman):

“I can confirm that officers are recommending removal of site 375 as an allocation in the Local Plan as we believe there are issues with access and amenity which at this time officers are not convinced can be overcome. As you are aware this has not been considered by the Council at this time.

I stand by officers’ views that the site is a logical extension to the village with a housing site to the north, existing housing to the east, a track and field boundary to the west and a railway to the south.
The Parish Council and residents will have the opportunity to make representations regarding the Local Plan at the next stage and ultimately a decision will be made by a Planning Inspector.

In respect of the application being considered, a valid application has been received and the applicant has the right to a decision, otherwise they can appeal against non-determination. I believe the statutory determination time has now been exceeded, therefore they could appeal at any time unless they agree an extension of time.”

So, it appears that:
1. It is proposed to remove the site from the Local Plan, but DBC may still be considered for development in the future if access problems can be resolved, as it is viewed as a “logical extension to the village” (the Parish Council contests this view).
2. With regard to the current “Gladman” planning application for the site, the date by which the application should have been determined has now passed, so they may either ask for an extension or appeal (note that whilst the Local Plan has yet to be finalised, planning applications may still be considered by DBC).

Noise, Nuisance, Traffic and Parking

We are still pursuing these issues and their impact in connection with the High Stell Development, and will let you know the outcome. However, we have said to Darlington Borough Council that, with regard to any proposed traffic mitigation measures, we would have to consult with local residents before we agree to any implementation.

Please be assured that the Parish Council is doing whatever it can to reduce the impact of the High Stell development.

As soon as we have further news, we will let you know.

Cllr Catherine Gilsenan
Chaimanr, Middleton St George Parish Council

Northumbrian Water Drainage Grid 1

Northumbrian Water Drainage Grid 2