As many residents will know, the application to build 50 houses on land behind 9 Church Road eventually came before MDC’s North West Area Planning Committee on 13 September. MDC Planning Officers had delayed having the matter referred to the Committee whilst they considered the many issues arising and had been in touch with the applicants about the percentage of affordable housing the development could provide, if it were to be approved. In the meantime, the Parish Council had sought the support of Dame Priti Patel MP who met MDC’s Head of Service Delivery and had written to him to argue strongly the case for refusal of the application. A separate Wickham Bishops Action Group had been set up, comprising concerned residents who lived both near and away from the site, together with a Parish Council Working Group sitting alongside the Action Group. The Action Group had commissioned reports from highways consultants and planning experts to assist in making the case against the proposed development. Over 200 letters of objection had been sent to MDC by residents.

The MDC Planning Officer had recommended that the application be approved. The Committee paper setting out the Planning Officer’s arguments ran to 57 pages but essentially the major point supporting the recommendation was that the offer to increase the percentage of affordable housing in the proposed development from 40% to 50% would be a significant benefit to MDC’s need to meet its District-wide target in this respect.

At the Planning Committee, after hearing from the agent representing the applicants, a member of the Action Group and a Parish Councillor, the District Councillor members of the Committee discussed the application at some length. It was clear that all the members had reservations about the recommendation for approval, for many reasons. In the event, a proposal to refuse the application was carried by 7 votes to 1.

The Parish Council wishes to thank the following for their support in resisting this application: Dame Priti Patel MP; members of the Wickham Bishops Action Group; residents who had written to MDC to object to the application; residents who attended the Committee meeting; and the District Councillor members of the Committee who refused the application.

This may not be the end of the story. The applicants have a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate and have 6 months in which to lodge an appeal. Appeals are currently taking many months to be dealt with, so this could be with us for some time to come. The Parish Council will keep you up to date with any developments.

Ian Wardrop

Chairman, Wickham Bishops Parish Council