Home News New homes in Thornbury spark accusations of developer ‘deception’

New homes in Thornbury spark accusations of developer ‘deception’

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Unpopular plans for 336 homes in Thornbury hang in the balance after a heated meeting in which the developer was accused of “arm twisting” and “deception”.

Residents and local councillors said Miller Homes had tried to evade planning constraints with its detailed design proposals for housing at a planned new neighbourhood in the South Gloucestershire town.

Members of a planning committee said they shared residents’ concerns about the heights of some of the homes when they met last Thursday (August 19).

READ MORE:Thornbury homes will be built after High Court overrules council

They agreed to visit the 22ha Cleve Park site to see for themselves the impact of the new housing before making a decision.

A disputed number of the homes are up to 0.5m higher than permitted by outline planning consent and a condition set by a planning inspector, the South Gloucestershire Council strategic sites delivery committee heard.

Thornbury residents and councillors also raised a number of other objections, including concerns about the narrowing of a wildlife corridor.

But planning officers who recommended the design plans for approval said they thought the “slight deviations” from the consented outline plans were justified and “acceptable”.

They said the plans were the result of “extensive negotiations” with the developer, who submitted eight revisions, as well as a last-minute change to reduce the height of one house.

A senior planner for Miller Homes said: “Following successive engineering reviews, any deviation has been minimised and it should be noted these rare instances are due to existing topography, the drainage and the incorporation of good design principles.

“As set out within your officer’s report, the planners accept that the proposals are consistent overall with the earlier parameters.”

But Colin Gardner from campaign group TRAPP’D (Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Development) accused the developer of “deception” and “arm-twisting” to convince officers that the designs accorded with the set height limits.

He added the council had “failed to do its due diligence” on the heights of the homes, relying instead on the developer’s submission.



Colin Gardner from TRAPP'D addresses South Gloucestershire's strategic sites delivery committee on August 19, 2021
Colin Gardner from TRAPP’D addresses the strategic sites delivery committee on August 19

Thornbury councillor Maggie Tyrrell said she found the developer’s alleged reluctance to comply with planning requirements “rather disturbing”.

“It’s been bit by bit by bit rather than the applicant accepting right from the beginning what the restraints and constraints were,” she said.

Miller Homes bought the land, along with the outline planning permission, from Landform and Welbeck Strategic Land in early 2020, the committee heard.

Landform and Welbeck won the planning permission at appeal in 2018, when an earlier council refusal was overturned by a planning inspector. The local authority challenged the inspector’s decision, but it was upheld by a High Court judge in 2019.

The planning inspector imposed a condition requiring buildings to meet the height limits set out in the consented proposals, which described three zones for heights up to 5m, 9m and 12m.

The submitted designs included one apartment 12.5m high in the central 12m zone, and a small number of height “deviations” in the southern area, according to the officer’s report.



Overall layout of new neighbourhood at Cleve Park in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire
Overall layout of the planned new neighbourhood at Cleve Park

The case officer said the council’s planning team thought the impact of the “slight” height increases would be both insignificant and “offset by design quality benefits”.

“The proposal is therefore considered to be acceptable in terms of scale and building heights,” she said.

But Mr Gardner said the designs included no “definite” roof ridge heights. A chartered building surveyor associated with TRAPP’D had calculated that 55 of a sample of 98 homes exceeded the height limits by up to 1.8m, he said.

‘Prominent site’

“The council has simply failed to do its due diligence on this point,” he said. “Residents will be watching this and wondering on what authority a case officer can overrule a condition set by an inspector.”

Cllr Tyrrell also questioned the judgement of planning officers.

She said: “[The Cleve Park site] is very prominent in the landscape. So to suggest that the odd building here and there going above the parameter height is insignificant seems to be completely false.



Thornbury councillor Maggie Tyrrell addresses South Gloucestershire's strategic sites delivery committee on August 19, 2021.
Thornbury councillor Maggie Tyrrell spoke at the meeting

“A height is a height. It affects the view. It affects the character. It affects the whole outlook from the ridge and across Thornbury, which is acknowledged to be a very special view.

“I think there are so many issues with this that remain despite the best efforts of our officers and I would really like the committee to consider whether there are reasonable grounds – and I believe there are reasonable grounds – to turn this down today.”

Committee members voted six to two to defer their decision so they could visit the development site beforehand.

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Cllr Adrian Rush said they needed to see the site to understand the impact of the proposals, noting that a site visit had been “called off” two weeks ago.

Cllr June Bamford said: “The parameters were set by the inspector not to go above 12m and obviously there was a reason for that so I am concerned.”

The council received 133 letters of objection from local residents about the design proposals. Thornbury Town Council also opposed the plans.

Detailed design plans for the rest of the new neighbourhood, which will also include a 70-unit elderly care facility and community/office buildings, have not yet been submitted.

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