Herefordshire villagers in fight over executive homes

Residents of an off-the-beaten-track south Herefordshire hamlet say they are considering legal measures to overturn plans approved by Herefordshire Council to build three “executive style” homes there.

They say the decision goes against the agreed neighbourhood development plan for Welsh Newton Common, which lies between Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth and is only accessible by a single-track road.

“This will be a test case for the sustainable future of Herefordshire’s small communities,” the residents claim.

Earlier bids to develop the two sites in the village had been rejected first by council planners, then by a government planning inspector.

However the applicant, Hilary Boughton, submitted revised plans intended to address the issues of design and scale, and compatibility with the neighbourhood plan for parish, approved in 2019.

Boughton said she had been surprised at the opposition to her proposals, which drew nearly 40 letters of objection. “Some of the objectors have already built houses on their own greenfield sites,” she claimed.

Officers agreed the new proposals met the neighbourhood plan’s requirement that house sizes should be limited to two or three bedrooms, and that ridge heights should not exceed 6m.

But local parish councillor Debbie Clarke told the meeting that the demands on the roads, drainage and damage to the habitat of protected species still counted against them.

And summarising objectors’ views, ward councillor Elissa Swinglehurst said the proposals were “not in the spirit” of the neighbourhood plan.

“Welsh Newton Common has no services, to broadband speed is glacial, the water is on a pump supply, there is no mains drainage and there is no realistic alternative to car travel,” she said.

However committee chair Coun Terry James warned councillors: “Some of these issues were not raised by the planning inspector as grounds for refusal and are not sufficient grounds to refuse.”

Planning service lead development manager Kevin Bishop confirmed: “Issues of ecology, drainage and traffic are not sustainable reasons for refusing the application.”

He added: “Welsh Newton Common is an area identified for development, and the neighbourhood development plan supports new market housing.”

Councillors passed both proposals with large majorities. But Green councillor Toni Fagan, who voted against them, wrote on Facebook afterwards: “Am so gutted to not be able to help protect Welsh Newton Common from over-development.”

Residents’ spokesman and ex-lawyer Matthew Hall claimed afterwards that Mr Bishop had misled the planning committee in telling them only to consider the outstanding issues identified by the inspector, rather than assessing the applications against all possible criteria.

“This has opened the way for us to now consider a judicial review,” he said. “But we will first ask Herefordshire Council to reconsider the application properly.”

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said the two applications had been amended from previous planning submissions to fit with the neighbourhood plan, and ecological concerns had also been addressed.

Hereford Times