An Essex council has supported planning officers’ decision to refuse a major application sent to the Planning Inspectorate, which had previously been dismissed at two separate appeals.

The application - seeking permission for the erection of five new houses on land at Eastfield Stables in May Walk, Stansted - had been lodged directly with the Planning Inspectorate due to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) being designated by the Government as a result of its poor performance in terms of decision making in relation to major applications.

Despite only being authorised to fulfil the role of a consultee, UDC rigidly supported case officers’ recommendations to refuse planning permission on the grounds of the proposal’s proximity to Stansted Airport and busy B roads and placement within an identified flood zone.

The site’s previous appeal dismissals include a refusal to permit an agricultural initially approved for construction and the change of use of a redundant animal shelter to a residential dwelling.

It was noted in the officers’ report that agricultural buildings which had been erected on the site had never been used for agrarian purposes.

Former bids for dwellings had also been made to convert agricultural structures rather than create new homes that would contribute to the district’s housing supply.

Applicant NB Investments UK Limited had proposed a financial contribution obtained through a section 106 agreement in lieu of a provision of affordable housing.

The council’s generally accepted minimum provision is set at 35 per cent.

Despite numerous failed endeavours to obtain planning permission for dwellings, a commercial ‘wellness hub’ was approved and construction commenced soon after.

Officers’ criticisms of the proposal did not stop at its location less than six kilometres from Stansted Airport or its car-dependent nature due to a lack of safe footpaths.

In their report, they said the prospective houses would "have identical design and scale that creates a visually monotonous environment without character and identity".

"The footprint of the bungalows would be too large for their bedroom numbers and their scale would not be compatible with the scale of the surrounding buildings that are smaller semi-detached or detached properties."

In combination, it was determined that these elements would cause harm to the rural character of the area.

Despite UDC demonstrating a marginal five-year housing land supply as of October this year, councillors raised concerns over whether the authority’s lack of clarity from an up-to-date adopted Local Plan and policies had prevented a proposal from being created which would better suit the needs of prospective residents.


In response, planning committee chairman Councillor Richard Freeman said: "Planning is one million shades of grey… I don’t want to go down this rabbit hole. The matter is in hand."

Councillor Judy Emanuel acknowledged that in the latest application, "reasons for (earlier) refusal have not been overcome".

Councillor Nick Church said that if the authority was to consider future applications, "this site could be good for a community space or something less obtrusive".

Once the item went to vote, UDC formally supported the officers’ recommendation that permission should be refused.