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Planning Inspector Lets Moat Homes Proceed with Controversial Swale Development

Swale councillors and residents are angry after an independent planning inspector gave the green light to the controversial housing development on Seager Road.

Housing association Moat Homes had received permission to build 35 new homes in 2011 on land off Seager Road. Neighbours soon noticed, however, that the new buildings were higher than permitted and overlooked their back gardens.

The planning committee rejected both applications made by Moat Homes for retrospective planning permission. Angry councillors ordered the whole estate to be knocked down within six months, but the housing association appealed and in May planning inspector Chris Preston decided that the homes should be allowed to stay.

Mr Preston conceded that the design and height of the estate diverged significantly from the approved plans and thus represented an unauthorised development, but stated that if such developments met planning terms, planning permission should be granted.

The inspector did insist that no one should be allowed to move in until water sewage drains had been completed and approved by the council.

Sue Holmes, a lead campaigner against the development, expressed anger, stating that Moat Homes was “out of order” to build without proper planning permission.

 

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Cllr Bryan Mulhern, planning committee chairman for wale, said that the decision would undermine people’s faith in the planning system. He added that the council was seeking legal advice on the possibility of challenging it.

Planning committee vice-chairman Andy Booth said that he was “bitterly disappointed”. In his opinion, the ruling made the committee look incompetent and practically invited large developers to come to Swale and do as they wished. Cllr Mick Galvin agreed, warning, “It will open the floodgates for other developers.”

Cllr Roger Truelove said that in his opinion the government was out to undermine the development control duties of local government.

MP Gordon Henderson said that he empathised with Swale residents but felt that the council should also accept responsibility for the debacle. He admitted to being disappointed, especially since the inspector admitted that the development will have a negative impact.

However, he agreed with the inspector’s argument that any type of development of that particular site would have an effect on local residents, and said it begged the question of why the council had granted the original planning permission after so many local people were clearly opposed to it.

A spokesman for Moat Homes said that the housing association was pleased with the decision issued by the Planning Electorate. He said it meant that the 35 homes, which were badly needed in Swale, could be delivered.

The controversial decision came two weeks after the High Court overruled Swale after the community spent £20,000 trying to prevent a group of travellers from setting up a caravan camp in Hartlip. When the group ignored a posted stop notice, the council dragged them into court, but a judge dismissed the case and allowed the travellers to submit a retrospective planning application.

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