Jeakins Weir planning inquiry on homes in Uppingham Road, Oakham, draws to a close

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AN inquiry into plans to build 96 homes on the outskirts of Oakham closed on Monday.

Jeakins Weir wants to build the homes in Uppingham Road and went to appeal because Rutland County Council did not make a decision on its planning application in time.

The council’s planning committee said it would have refused the plans because the site was in open countryside and outside the planned development limits for the town.

On Monday last week about 50 people heard the closing statements at the inquiry from the developers, Rutland County Council and protest group Oakham Action, which was formed by residents to oppose the plans.

The inquiry began in May but was adjourned until the final version of the county council’s core strategy for its Local Development Framework became available. It determines where developments can take place and has allocated land to the north of Oakham for 1,100 homes to be built by Hawksmead.

The core strategy has now been approved by a Government inspector and was adopted by the council on Monday night. But Jeakins Weir claims it shows the council cannot meet Government targets for the number of new homes to be built over the next five years.

Jeremy Cahill QC, representing Jeakins Weir, said the core strategy had not even attempted to identify land in a 10-year period, as required by the East Midlands Regional Plan. He said even if Jeakins Weir’s proposal was permitted, there would still be a deficit in the housing supply.

Mr Cahill said the development would not adversely affect the landscape and should not be ruled out altogether because it is outside the area earmarked for development.

He added: “This appeal has always been based on the simple but important premise that Rutland County Council does not have a five-year housing land supply.”

He said the plans for 96 homes had been “proven to be necessary and appropriate”.

A letter submitted to the inquiry on Monday from Oakham North developer Hawksmead said it could build houses more quickly than the council had anticipated.

The county council’s QC Brian Ash said the inquiry had already heard there would be a shortfall but that Hawksmead building homes more quickly would help to address this. He said the council’s former Ashwell Depot was likely to be developed for housing within five years and that more sites could be allocated if needed as part of the site allocations plan within the Local Development Framework.

He said the Uppingham Road site was greenfield agricultural land in a particularly attractive area of countryside.

Satnam Choong QC, representing Oakham Action, said a shortfall in housing land did not justify developing this site as it would “cause unacceptable landscape and visual harm”.

He said the core strategy inspector had found there was a five-year supply and that it is “flexible enough” to deal with any shortfall. He added that the development would conflict with Government and local policies protecting the countryside.

Mr Choong said the level of opposition displayed at the inquiry showed “there can be little doubt this area is enjoyed and valued by local people as countryside”.

A decision is expected in mid to late August.