A committee’s decision not to dig its heels in over a plan for 95 homes in a village near Milton Keynes was a huge mistake for the city according to a councillor who was objecting to the scheme.
Housebuilder David Wilson Homes had already been granted permission for the principle of building the houses off Olney Road, in Lavendon, when it defeated Milton Keynes Council at a planning appeal earlier this year.
But it still had to apply to the council for what is called reserved matters, things like access, and house design.
However, on Thursday, at MK Council’s Development Control Committee it became clear that the councillors could do nothing to impose their policies on the mix of houses on the site.
The council has a policy on the numbers of bedrooms it wants to see in homes, to provide for local needs.
But a recent change in planning law means that the housing mix policy cannot be demanded of developers at the reserved matters stage. It should now be done at the earlier outline stage.
Cllr Peter Geary (Cons, Olney) said: “We should be building for a need. To have only 14 three-bed houses on this site is nowhere near where MK needs. This is going to change the community.”
Cllr Geary said that the committee should have deferred the decision to receive legal advice on what it would mean and how widespread the impact might be in Milton Keynes.
“The impact on the wider community of MK is enormous,” he said.
And Cllr David Hosking (Cons, Olney) argued that the decision would leave the borough “exposed to scrupulous builders”.
“Do we just cave in, or do we or refuse it and ask applicant to come back with a better scheme? Do the right thing and refuse this application,” he said.
The meeting was told that the housing mix had been changed to increase the number of three-bedroom homes from two to 14.
Cllr Andrew Geary (Cons, Newport North & Hanslope) said: “We’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
“I fear that we lost this one long ago.”
But he warned that the council could be left “at the mercy” of developers who could get away with their own housing mixes.
“The village needs a mix of smaller housing. I’ll stick my neck out and support Lavendon.”
But Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem, Campell Park & Old Woughton) said: “We’re fighting the last war, we lost this one at outline.”
Councillors approved the application, but Cllr Peter Geary said, after the meeting, that the decision would allow other developers, who already have outline permission, to get whatever they wanted in housing sizes.
“Developers can now build mansions all over Milton Keynes,” he said after the meeting. “The committee will be squealing about this in future.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the council about the issue after the meeting, including whether there were other sites in Milton Keynes where this could be the case.
A council spokesman did not answer that but said the planners were now insisting on a housing mix condition at the outline application stage.
A statement said: “Recent appeal decisions and case law provide that only those matters defined as “reserved matters” within the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) Order 2015 may be considered as part of reserved matters approvals – housing mix does not fall within this definition.
“This means that the council will now attach a housing mix condition when applications are granted outline planning permission to ensure this issue can be considered at the reserved matters stage.”