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Landowner’s New School Offer Wrongly Disregarded by Planners

Village 2It is only right that offers made by developers to put part of their profits back into the community should be taken into account when making planning decisions. One High Court case on this subject concerned the proposed construction of up to 200 new homes and the landowner’s offer to provide funds and a site for a new village school.

The site of the planned development was a large field some distance from a market town. The local authority refused planning consent on the basis that such a large-scale housing estate would be harmful to the character, appearance and intrinsic beauty of the conservation area and open countryside.

The village had very limited facilities and the council was concerned that residents of the development would have to make numerous motorised trips to town. It also had concerns about the impact of the development on three listed buildings in the area, including a historic church. The council’s decision was subsequently upheld by a government planning inspector following a public inquiry.

As well as making provision for affordable and self-build housing as part of the scheme, the landowner had offered to provide land for a new village school and to contribute more than £370,000 towards the cost of its construction. The inspector, however, found that there was no pressing need for a new school and viewed the offer as an inducement designed to make the housing proposals more attractive.

In quashing the inspector’s decision, however, the Court found that he had fallen into error in disregarding the social benefits of a new school, which would provide 50 additional places for local pupils. The new facility would benefit both the children of new residents and those already living in the village. The landowner was entitled to have its planning application considered afresh in the light of the Court’s ruling.

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