Appeal to build 120 homes near Charminster REJECTED

Appeal to build 120 homes near Charminster REJECTED

Published by Maria Greenwood at 9:15am 19th December 2019.

Charminster residents are celebrating an early Christmas present.

A planning inspector has rejected an appeal over 120 homes for the village south of Westleaze.

Many of the homes would have been within sight of Wolfeton House one of the county’s most important historic houses with links to Thomas Hardy.

The appeal was launched by Land Value Alliances after the former West Dorset District Council turned down the outline application in May 2018.

The inquiry sat for seven days in March and another three days in June with additional site visits.

Emma Thimbleby

In her summary of findings Inspector Zoe Hill said the main points of the inquiry were around the effect on the setting of Wolfeton House, a grade 1 listed building, the Charminster conservation area, other landscape issues and highway safety.

She says there is no doubt that the housing would have an effect on Wolfeton and its setting:

“There would be permanent and persisting harm to the setting of Wolfeton House from the irreversible change of use of this agricultural land and from the visual intrusion caused by the proposed housing.”

Westleaze

On the effect on the conservation area, which includes a deserted medieval settlement, she said that there would be harm, but that it would “less than substantial.”

On highway issues she decided that although East Hill and West Hill had no safety features for pedestrians the proposed housing was unlikely to make the route any less safe than it already was and would be ‘acceptable’ in highway safety terms with the proposed ‘shared surface’ scheme put forward.

She also found that the development would ‘significantly impact’ on the enjoyment of walkers using rights of way in the area.

Westleaze

The Inspector concluded that although the area was short of its five-year land supply target homes which were agreed and ‘deliverable’ within 5 years should be counted in the total – but even using this argument she put the figure at no higher than 4.12 years supply, much less than the 4.88 years claimed by the council, but higher than the 3.99 years claimed by Land Value Alliances.

During the inquiry both the Thomas Hardy Society, Historic England and an architectural historian expressed concerns about the effect on Wolfeton House, mentioned by Hardy in his novels: Emma Thimbleby, for the family which owns Wolfeton and has spent decades restoring it, claimed the house and its setting would be ruined forever by the new homes.

Land Value Alliances argued at the inquiry that the scheme would bring economic benefits to the area with more than a third of the homes classed as ‘affordable.’

East Hill towards Westleaze where calming measures are proposed
East Hill towards Westleaze where calming measures were proposed.

They denied their project would significantly affect Wolfeton House and claimed any increase in traffic would be far less than opponents estimated.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter