'There will still be valid grounds for refusal'
A PLANNING expert has predicted "intense activity" by developers as a result of the inspector's ruling.
Clive Miller (pictured right) of Clive Miller & Associates, based in Langport, said there is now a "window of opportunity" for building in areas previously ruled out for development.
He warned that some local control over planning decisions could be lost because South Somerset District Council cannot show it has planned for enough land to be available for future housing. But he said existing safeguards would prevent a housing free for all.
He said: "There are no doubt lots of proposals in the pipeline; sites where permission has been refused recently solely on grounds of prematurity and will be revisited, and sites where applications are already in the course of preparation.
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"Based on our experience elsewhere in the country, we would predict that until sufficient additional permissions are granted to bring the supply of housing land up to the required level, or the new draft local plan has gone through its examination in public and been adopted, landowners and developers will seize this limited window of opportunity to obtain planning permission. These could include some substantial new developments as well as smaller sites and individual plots.
"Unless the council finds it has legal grounds for a successful appeal to the Court of Appeal, we can anticipate that there will be a period of intense activity in the development industry locally.
"Until the new local plan has advanced sufficiently to carry sufficient weight in local decision making, there will not be any justification for refusing applications on sites, whether inside or outside of the proposed development areas, which are deemed otherwise acceptable in normal planning terms.
"An element of local control will be lost over the exact locations where development might occur. But if the proposals have any significant problems associated with them, there will still be valid grounds for refusal in the normal way.
"These could be because of adverse effects on highway safety, flooding, landscape, nature conservation and all the other usual criteria against which applications are assessed.
"The public will still benefit from these usual safeguards and from experience elsewhere this will not lead to a free for all, but may well result in more applications and appeals.."