Campaigners warn ‘fight is not over’ despite Stamford housing plan being refused again

Stamford! Protect Our Green Spaces campaigners outside South Kesteven District Council
Stamford! Protect Our Green Spaces campaigners outside South Kesteven District Council
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Campaigners have vowed their two-year fight to stop housing being built on land off Kettering Road in Stamford will not stop until the greenfield site is no longer designated for residential development.

Their resolute vow came minutes after South Kesteven District Council’s development control committee unanimously voted to refuse plans for 29 houses on the site.

It was the second time the district council had refused plans for housing on the same land by the same developer, Kier.

Kier originally submitted a planning application for 48 homes on the site in 2014 and The Stamford! Protect Our Green Open Space group was formed to fight the proposals - and contest the decision to earmark the land for housing development.

The plans were refused by South Kesteven District Council’s planning committee in a majority vote in 2014 - a decision which was upheld by the Planning Inspector in June 2015.

But Kier had already submitted a new plan for 39 homes and this was amended down to 29 in November 2016 - with changes to the house designs and layout of the site.

It was this plan for 29 homes that was the subject of a three-and-a-half hour debate by the district council committee on Tuesday.

Dozens of people packed the public gallery and 14 people each spent well over their allocated three-minute time-slot to set out their objections, with only one person speaking in favour of the application - Ian Mitchell, who was acting on behalf of Kier.

The committee was told that Kier had worked alongside the council’s construction architect to address some of the issues that were raised by the Planning Inspector in June 2015, who had concerns about the density, layout, scale and appearance of the proposals for 48 homes, as well as concerns about the impact on the nearby Stamford conservation area.

In response, the amended plans for 29 homes had included changes to the design of the scheme and removing some car parking. Kier had also resolved to fix a broken pipe that causes frequent flooding in Kettering Road and had agreed to build a footpath linking the development with Kettering Road.

Kier had also agreed to provide 44.8 per cent affordable housing but the committee heard that only four affordable houses would be based in Stamford, with the other nine being provided at the Elsea Park estate in Bourne.

Much was made of Historic England’s comments, which said the application “appreciably reduces the impact on the nearby heritage assets”. The body had previously objected to the scheme for 48 homes.

Planning officers asked committee members to weigh up the public benefits of the proposal, which provides “much-needed affordable homes” against the harm caused.

The planning committee was also told that the district council’s core strategy, which lays out the development needed in the district between 2006 and 2026, had set out a need to build 1,114 homes in the Stamford area during that time. Of that, 751 were in the process of being built or were complete and there was a commitment to build a further 454 homes.

Coun Judy Stevens also told the meeting about an exhibition being held today and yesterday in Stamford on plans for up to 100 homes on the former Mirlees Blackstone site, next to Morrisons, which is a brownfield site.

Among those speaking out against the application was ward councillor Matthew Lee, whose letter of objection was read out, where he said the development would not “benefit people in Stamford”.

Stamford Town Council’s David Taylor spoke about the neighbourhood plan which is currently being developed for Stamford, with research stating that residents want to see development to the north of Stamford.

Chairman of Wothorpe Parish Council Douglas Henderson said the development was “simply not necessary” and the committee heard that Barnack Parish Council and Stamford Town Council also objected.

Graddon Rowlands, of Stamford Civic Society, said that conservation had never been more important than this year when Stamford marks the 50th anniversary of it becoming the country’s first conservation town.

David Pennell, of Burghley House Preservation Trust, raised concerns that the same constraints were not being put on Kier as on the housing development underway opposite on the former Daniels’ football ground.

He said: “We do need new homes but it is not where and how many, but what they should look like.”

Sarah Delaney, a parent of children who attend Stamford Endowed Schools, was concerned about the traffic implications of the new development and told the committee that just last week, a girl had been hit by a car. She only sustained minor injuries but Sarah said she was worried the increased traffic would “put children at significant risk”.

These concerns were echoed by Stamford town councillor Max Sawyer, while Tim Rimmer, who told the committee he moved to Stamford after seeing it featured on Middlemarch, said there was not a need for further housing.

James Heesom was worried about the design of the scheme while Susan Moss said Kier had not given enough consideration to bus routes and cycle facilities and she mocked the statements made in their transport plan.

George Hetherington called the land a “gem of Stamford” and “Stamford’s green lung”. He repeatedly told councillors: “You’ve done it before, you can do it again.”

He said a biodiversity study had found 70 species of wild flowers and he had also seen 43 varieties of birds, including nine on the RSPB’s red list, from his garden opposite the site, adding: “This area is more important than you realise.”

Deborah Hewson told the committee the harm that would be caused by the scheme would be “significant and permanent” and Paul Redfern said the new development would be seen from all the nearby heritage assets, including Bottle Lodges.

He said: “It would harm the setting forever and all that has changed is the number of houses. Is a nine inch gash on your leg any less harrowing than a 13 inch gash? Refuting it would preserve our heritage.”

Ian Campbell, one of the lead campaigners and founder of the Stamford! Protect Our Green Space group, spoke about recent case law in which High Court judges had refused cases because of the harm caused to heritage assets.

He said: “Kier, Historic England and your own planning officers have all admitted this proposal will cause some harm.”

Mr Mitchell spoke last - a lone voice in the objections - and although he acknowledged the strength of feeling against the application, he said this was not reason alone for refusal.

As well as those speaking out against the proposals at the meeting, the council also received a petition with 1,135 signatures and nearly 400 letters of objection, which committee chairman Martin Wilkins said was “virtually unprecedented”. But he added: “All planning applications that come before us are contentious in some way.”

This took more than an hour and a half and within minutes of the debate restarting after a short break, a proposal had been put forward by Coun Mike King (Con) to refuse it on the grounds that “the need for housing and the public benefit did not outweigh the demonstrable harm” that would be caused to the approach to Stamford and nearby heritage assets, including Bottle Lodges, Burghley Park and Gardens and Fryer’s Callis.

And there was no shortage of councillors willing to second the proposal - with half the councillors in the room putting up their hand when a seconder was asked for.

In putting forward his proposal to refuse the application, Coun Mike King said: “There has been an extraordinary amount of well-articulated arguments made and it is a sensitive location.”

The council’s legal officers asked him to amend his proposal to say that the application was contrary to the EN1 of the council’s core strategy, and did not comply with paragraph 17 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Coun King agreed but said the application raised so many issues, “the question is where do we stop quoting policies?”

Coun Helen Powell added: “If we wish to dismantle and destroy everything that creates a sense of place, this is the way to do it. Stamford is very special and this is an iconic view that is always seen on television programmes that would be ruined. I feel very strongly that this should be refused.”

Coun Brenda Sumner asked for a recorded vote, which Coun Brian Wilkins said would be setting a precedent.

But Coun Judy Stevens said: “There is clearly a strong level of feeling in Stamford and all these people have come here. The least we can do is show them how we’re going to vote.”

Coun Rosemary Kaberry-Brown said: “It is very obvious to me that there is strong feeling about this and I want to support the people of Stamford, so can we get on with the vote now please?”

Coun Mike Cook praised the eloquent speeches given by objectors, shortly before the committee unanimously voted to refuse the application - a decision that was greeted with a round of applause.

Afterwards, Ian Campbell said the campaign group was “naturally delighted” and would be celebrating with a drink at The Bull and Swan in Stamford.

But he added: “We still contest strongly the allocation of the piece of land for housing development and during the meeting several comments were made by councillors who were also concerned.

“We are going to continue to ask questions and see what can be done to have that site deallocated and we hope to get the backing of the councillors. The fight is not over yet.”

Kier put out a statement on Wednesday following the decision on Tuesday by South Kesteven District Council to refuse permission to build 29 homes on land off Kettering Road, Stamford.

A spokesman said: “We are disappointed at the council’s decision to reject our plans, which is against the recommendation of its professional officers. We have proposed an exemplar scheme of the highest design quality and proposed more affordable housing for local people than required by the council’s policies. We are reviewing our position and an appeal is a possibility.”

January 2014 - Kier Homes submits planning application for 49 homes

May 2014 - The application is refused by SKDC

October 2014 - Kier Homes submits a revised plan for 38 homes

November 2014 - Kier Homes lodges an appeal with the Planning Inspector on the 49-homes application

June 2015 - Planning Inspector refuses the appeal

April 2016 - The revised plan for 38 homes is amended again

November 2016 - Kier Homes submits a new application for 29 homes

February 2017 - SKDC refuses the application for 29 homes