Inspectors’ letter relating to development sites in Hockliffe.
Q. Which sites have just been given the all clear for development?
A. 27 houses on the Duke of Bedford’s land adjacent to the A5 north of the school and 14 houses on the Anker land behind the Harvester/White Hart.
Q. Who made the decision?
A. The Inspectors appointed by the government to approve the new CBC Local Plan.
Q. Did CBC support this decision?
A. No. On the contrary, CBC asked the Inspectors to remove all development sites in Hockliffe from the Local Plan and to allow the residents of Hockliffe to decide which sites, if any, should be developed through its emerging Neighbourhood Plan.
Q. Did Hockliffe Parish Council support the Inspector’s decision?
A. No. Hockliffe Parish Council supported CBC’s position, as above, which is why there was no need for the Parish Council to appear at the hearings.
Q. So why didn’t the Inspectors agree with CBC and the Parish Council?
A. The Inspectors decided that a legal technicality prevented CBC from delegating development decisions to the Hockliffe Neighbourhood Plan.
Q. But why did the Inspectors support the two sites anyway, when no one, except the developers, supported them?
A. Because CBC had proposed them back in 2018 and there was no good reason to take them out, except for flooding problems, which could be dealt with by reducing the number of houses.
Q. So is that it, then – nothing can be done?
A. No, not necessarily. The Inspectors said that their decision would stand unless CBC comes up with a good reason to change it.
Q. Great – we can tell CBC about the flooding and the sewage and the traffic and CBC will tell the Inspectors to remove the sites?
A. Probably not, but it’s worth a try. All those questions have already been decided in the earlier hearings in 2019. Those issues cannot be raised now, unless anything has materially changed. Those issues will have to wait until an application for planning permission is made and may constitute a reason for refusal of planning permission.
Q. So can nothing be done?
A. There is a possibility to get these sites removed now. CBC and Hockliffe Parish Council could remind the Inspectors that they have agreed that the question of further development in Hockliffe should be left to the Hockliffe Neighbourhood Plan (see above). So it would be wrong to decide this prematurely now. Far better to remove the sites now and the big question of development in Hockliffe can then be dealt with on the first review of the Local Plan, when the legal technicality referred to above will not exist.
Q. But won’t that just mean that the sites will come back again later?
A. Not necessarily. It is really important to remember that persuading CBC to allow development decisions to be delegated to Hockliffe through its Neighbourhood Plan is a huge benefit to the village. The Hockliffe Neighbourhood Plan cannot become effective unless there is a majority of Hockliffe residents voting in favour of it at a formal “election-type” referendum. So if, as some people say, Hockliffe residents are not in favour of development, then development cannot possibly happen through the Neighbourhood Plan for the very simple reason that the Plan won’t get the necessary majority vote. The only Neighbourhood Plan which can become a reality in Hockliffe is one which the majority of the village votes in favour of, as tested through a formal referendum.
Q. So, if the majority of the village is in favour of no more development, it won’t happen?
A. Unfortunately, not necessarily. Although that would mean that any Neighbourhood Plan promoting development would fail, there would be nothing to stop CBC stepping in again on the basis that the Neighbourhood Plan had failed to deliver.
Q. Is there any reason to go ahead with the Neighbourhood Plan now?
A. Yes. CBC suggests we proceed now, but without allocating any sites for development, and just concentrate on green spaces, environment, conservation issues, heritage and extra planning conditions. Then Hockliffe will have a Plan in place which can be reviewed in line with the Local Plan review.
Last updated: 8th February 2021