A DUPLICATE housing application submitted by a resident seeking permission in principle to build a house on a sizable plot has been rejected by the council after a long debate.

The application sought permission to build a single residential dwelling on a 0.06-hectare plot at Harrow Drive, in Headley, near Thatcham.

It is a repeat of an application submitted in February 2023, which had been rejected by planning officers because the proposed development would introduce an inappropriate and contrived form of residential development into a countryside location.

The applicant then filed an appeal against the decision, which is currently pending a decision by a planning inspector.

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The appeal statements have been submitted and the closing comments have taken place so a final decision should be issued shortly.

The applicant then decided to resubmit the same application which the officers recommended for refusal again.

But it was brought to a development control committee meeting upon the request by Cllr Ken Rhatigan.

During the meeting held on Wednesday, January 10, officers cautioned councillors that the planning inspector might award costs against the council if they approve the duplicate application.

Planning development manager Mike Townsend said: “Where the council as a local planning authority has decided on an application, and the subsequent application is essentially the same, then the consistency put in the first decision is absolutely material to the consideration for the new application.”

Cllr Michael Howard-Sorrell expressed discomfort with the situation.

He said: “The comment that the officer made me deeply uncomfortable. The fact that we have been, not threatened, but warned that costs might be awarded against the council if we approve this because the officers have previously made a recommendation. It has rendered me unable to vote on this. So I'm going to abstain which I think everybody else should do. I don't think we can make a decision.”

Cllr Sven Godesen said the council should not make a decision until a result of the appeal is issued. 

Cllr Rhatigan proposed the idea of deferring the decision until confirmation from the applicant about the withdrawal of the appeal could be obtained.

However, committee chairman Cllr Andy McCormick - based on the officers' advice - insisted that a decision must be made because it is a live proposal.

The councillors also expressed surprise at the applicant's intention to build only one house on a large site.

Cllr Rhatigan told the members of the committee that there were ransom strip constraints from Bloor Homes, preventing a major development on the proposed site.

A ransom strip is a small piece of land that has been retained when a larger piece has been sold. 

Commenting on it, Cllr Nick Robinson said: “I'm really struggling with this one. To put one house in that field seems absurd. It doesn't make a significant contribution to our housing stock. It doesn't help the five-year housing land supply. I would be considerably more sympathetic to put 30 or 50 in there, but to put one is just really weird.

“We have heard that there are some ransom strips that are preventing that happening. But that is not something we can consider. That's not our problem.”

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In response, Cllr Rhatigan defended the proposal and said: "What is in front of us is a decision of the officer who feels this is not appropriate. It says this is a countryside location.

"But it is next to the biggest housing development in Headley. It is next to an industrial unit which provides tyres for the whole community. It does fit in with the character and visual quality. In fact, the scenic quality of the existing development are not so pretty. Apart from the land issue and the better use of land, I think it is appropriate. I can't agree with Cllr Robinson. I think this is most appropriate for this house.”

Cllr Paul Miller said: “We don't want to place the council in jeopardy if we do go against the official recommendation. So I second the recommendation for that particular reason.”

The committee decided to reject the application, with seven members in favour of refusal, one against, and two abstaining.