Robert Jenrick has approved plans for 500 homes in the green belt around Bradford, despite rejecting the scheme fewer than 18 months ago.
Developer CEG’s plans for the Burley-in-Wharfedale development were refused by the Housing secretary in the build up to the 2019 general election – going against the advice of the planning inspector and following opposition to the homes by local Conservative MPs.
While the planning inspector, local authority, and developer had all accepted that the scheme represented “inappropriate development”, the inspector had agreed with CEG that this assessment was outweighed by the need to build more homes in the area.
Last year, CEG challenged Jenrick’s initial refusal of the scheme against this advice, and the decision was overturned by a court order from the High Court last August.
Jenrick had originally justified going against the inspector on the basis that the plans would undermine the integrity of the green belt in the area, despite the site being well-located to mitigate significant visual impacts.
However, in a decision letter published yesterday following his re-assessment of the case, Jenrick said he now agreed with the inspector’s conclusion that the proposal could be accommodated while maintaining the integrity of the green belt.
Under government planning policy, planning applications need to demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” to be permitted on green belt land.
Jenrick had been urged to block the plans by local Conservative politicians including Shipley MP Philip Davies, who described his original refusal of the plans as a “victory for common sense”.
The decision was “wholeheartedly” welcomed by CEG, with Steve McBurney, head of Planning (North), at the company saying the decision reflected the inspector’s strong recommendation for approval in 2019.
He said: “It now enables the delivery of 500 much-needed new homes, including affordable homes for local people, and a new primary school, alongside investment into secondary education, public transport and other local improvements.”
The planning for the development includes a provision for 30% affordable housing and will trigger payments of nearly £1m for local transport and environmental improvements.
There will also be a CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) charge of £4.4m.
Jenrick’s U-turn comes less than a year after his controversial decision over the Westferry Printworks scheme in Tower Hamlets, where he went against the inspector’s advice following lobbying by media mogul and Conservative donor Richard Desmond.
Desmond was the head of the developer that had initially proposed the plans.
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