Aggressive Speculation in Oxspring?

13th Jun 2014

Oxspring is one of those attractive villages that is constantly at risk from inappropriate development proposals. Demand for ‘executive’ housing – that’s to say, expensive and unlikely to make any contribution to sustainable development – is high. There is also a burgeoning Neighbourhood Plan, which CPRE is keen to support, because the local community is taking a positive attitude to the challenge of providing land for new development in ways that will enhance the area. A planning application by Yorkshire Land (who have other sites in Oxspring and are likely to submit further applications) would throw a spanner in the works of the Neighbourhood Plan, and CPRE has objected to the proposals.

In planning terms, the main issue is that the site is in the Green Belt. The applicant contends that the site should not actually be in the Green Belt, but that's irrelevant, because it is in the Green Belt unless it's formally taken out, and taking it out or not is a matter for the Local Plan, not for this application. So the pertinent question is not whether the site should or shouldn’t be in the Green Belt, but whether there are special circumstances for residential development in a Green Belt.

The applicant argues that Barnsley’s housing requirement provides those special circumstances. In particular they make much of the bizarre notion that 1,000 ‘executive’ homes will somehow boost the local economy, when surely they will simply provide boltholes for a few wealthy commuters from Leeds or Sheffield. But in fact the Government is very clear on this point: the new Planning Practice Guidance issued in March 2014 states that ‘unmet [housing] need in a particular area is unlikely to meet the ‘very special circumstances’ test to justify green belt development’. So although presented with great confidence, the applicant’s case is spurious.

That the applicant makes no reference to the emerging Neighbourhood Plan is typical of developers' dismissive attitude to an essential plank of the planning process, namely securing community support for the types and locations of development they wish to see. This application is a clear and shameless attempt to pre-empt both the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan. As such it should be refused and the Borough Council should send out a clear signal to developers that aggressive speculation of this kind will not be entertained.

Case Notes: Planning application Barnsley 2014/0482: 4 detached houses on Green Belt land in Oxspring