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Council lodges complaint over Holy Vale decision

The Isles of Scilly Council has lodged a formal complaint after its decision to refuse permission for a development at Holy Vale was overturned on appeal.

The Planning Inspectorate ordered the Council to pay Ian Sibley (on behalf of the Holy Vale Partnership) costs of £6,028.80 when he successfully appealed after the original application was rejected in September 2016.

The original application - for the reconfiguration of five existing dwellings and the conversion of outbuildings to create three unrestricted new dwellings at Holy Vale - was refused because Members felt it was contrary to the Local Plan's policy of tying new builds to specific local need.

The Holy Vale Partnership had claimed that a heavily restricted scheme would not justify the significant capital investment, nor permit access to loan finance and so the buildings would continue to deteriorate and fall into disrepair. They therefore asked that the Planning Committee consider the application on the basis of national, rather than exclusively local, planning policies.

Senior Manager for Planning Craig Dryden has now accused the Planning Inspectorate of "misinterpreting" the issues facing the islands and damaging the reputation of the Local Planning Authority with its decision to allow the development.

He wrote: "Delivering affordable homes is fundamental to making the island communities more sustainable and as self-contained as possible. Currently the Local Plan, through Policy 3, endeavours to ensure that housing is available to meet the needs of the community in perpetuity and to promote sustainable communities on the inhabited islands and therefore no general open market housing will be permitted."

He argued that the Holy Vale decision was in "complete contrast and totally inconsistent" with the Planning Inspectorate's decision in July 2017 that considered similar issues in relation to the rear of the Ropewalk at Porthloo. In that instance, the Inspector was "clearly giving continued weight to Policy 3, [saying that] 'Policy 3 is fundamental to the current plan".

Craig went on: "Clearly the approach and decision making of the Planning Inspectorate is inconsistent and has placed the LPA in a difficult situation when considering similar applications in the future. The ambiguity and uncertainty resulting from this appeal decision could undermine the exceptional environmental quality and sustainability of these fragile islands by paving the way for more open market housing outside the reach of the islands’ communities.

"This decision has damaged the reputation of the LPA and cost the authority over £6,000, which equates to more than a third of the total income it receives annually from planning fees, and has therefore had a significant impact on our already stretched budget."

The complaint concluded by saying that the Council is "extremely concerned" about the decision relating to Holy Vale and its implications. It then requested a detailed explanation of how two inconsistent decisions were made within a month, as well as advice on how to deal with future similar applications and an independent assessment explaining why the Planning Inspectorate considers that the Council acted "unreasonably".


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