Derbyshire council complain after losing planning appeal over housing development which presents 'significant safety risks to children'
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At a Derbyshire Dales District Council meeting this week (November 14) councillors chose to write a complaint to the Government Planning Inspectorate over an appeal decision involving 15 homes off Biggin View in Hulland Ward.
This month, inspector Hannah Ellison overturned the council’s decision to twice reject the plans from private landowner John Yates, choosing to approve the 15-home plans.
Cllr David Hughes told the meeting that access to 15 homes would now be allowed over what was a private shared driveway for four properties.
He, alongside Cllr Dermot Murphy, moved a motion to formally complain about the inspector’s decision, stressing their “disappointment” that the “rights of children to play safely in their gardens” had not been properly considered.
Cllr Hughes said: “When playing, children, particularly small children, are often oblivious to traffic dangers. The danger to children in changing a private shared drive into a highway is manifest. It should be given due weight instead of ignoring it.”
Chris Whitmore, the council’s development manager, said the response from the Planning Inspectorate was most likely going to be a letter saying their concerns were understood and a judicial review option is available to the council should it wish to pursue one.
Cllr Murphy said: “I thought we were on quite safe grounds here. This application was tested twice, in reality, and the health and safety of children playing outside their properties and people walking on that access road, one had to question how safe it was going to be.
“The local people are very disappointed at this outcome.”
Kerry France, the council’s legal services manager, advised the meeting that the council can issue a complaint through the inspectorate’s website or it could pursue a judicial review through the High Court.
Mr Whitmore said: “I’d like to say I told you so because officers recommended approval of that item.”
He said the threshold needed for the appeal was demonstrable “unacceptable highways impact”, but this was not proven and the council did not have its own expert opinion to back up the refusal, with Derbyshire County Council also finding it acceptable.
Mr Whitmore said: “As harsh as it is, members are not experts and if experts are saying it is acceptable on highways safety terms it would be quite a bold inspector to go against that.”
The council had rejected the plans in September 2022 and March 2023, citing public safety issues – particularly for young children – on both occasions.
However, Ms Ellison wrote: “I see no reason why the safety of all road users would be unacceptably compromised by the proposal. The proposed access to the appeal site would not give rise to an unacceptable impact on highway safety.”
Mr Whitmore had said in March that rejection of the plans on highways safety grounds was not a “reasonable reason”, with highways officials finding the route viable for a car and an HGV to pass at the same time.
Highways officials were content that the route would be safe for use as a road, instead of a shared driveway, but would be unadoptable due to its restricted width – 5.5 metres.
Council officials said the windows of one property would extend 10cm into the new roadway if they were opened.
Cllr Hughes told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I would like to say how very disappointed I am that the planning inspector has dismissed concern for the safety of small children in coming to her decision to allow a developer to convert a shared private drive into a public yet unadopted highway.
“Her decision will have a big impact on the children’s ability to play safely in their open-plan front gardens.
“It also demonstrates the lack of control people now have over planning decisions that implicate their own property.
“The right of access the developer is claiming was originally for the occasional agricultural vehicle to access the land, not for regular use by an additional fifteen car-owning families and their visitors.
“I feel desperately sorry for the families affected by this decision.”