QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF WYCOMBE DISTRICT COUNCIL||(CLAIMANT)|
|FIRST SECRETARY OF STATE||(DEFENDANT)|
|KINGSOAK HOMES LIMITED|
|(Trading as KINGSOAK THAMES VALLEY)||(INTERESTED PARTY)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
THE DEFENDANT DID NOT APPEAR AND WAS NOT REPRESENTED
MISS S ORNSBY (instructed by Sharpe Pritchard) appeared on behalf of the INTERESTED PARTY
Crown Copyright ©
"RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT MUST CREATE ATTRACTIVE LIVING ENVIRONMENTS WHICH SAFEGUARD OR ENHANCE THE SURROUNDING AREA, AND SHOULD PROVIDE APPROPRIATE STANDARDS OF RESIDENTIAL AMENITIES FOR FUTURE RESIDENTS. THE COUNCIL WILL HAVE REGARD TO THE GUIDELINES SET OUT IN APPENDIX 8 WHEN DETERMINING WHETHER PROPOSALS WILL ACHIEVE THIS."
"PROPOSALS FOR RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT SHOULD NORMALLY INCLUDE CONVENIENTLY LOCATED, USABLE AMENITY SPACE. THE COUNCIL WILL HAVE REGARD TO THE AMENITY SPACE GUIDELINES SET OUT IN APPENDIX 8 WHEN ASSESSING SUCH PROPOSALS."
The supporting text in paragraph 7.37 provided that all residential development should include amenity space for residents that was attractive, usable and conveniently located and of an appropriate size. It was said that the Council considered the best amenity to be where dwellings had their own individual private gardens but it was accepted that in the case of flats communal provision might be necessary and considerable care needed to be taken over layout and design. It again referred across to the guidelines in Appendix 8.
"PROPOSALS FOR NEW HOUSING DEVELOPMENT WILL BE EXPECTED TO ACHIEVE A HIGH STANDARD OF DESIGN AND RESIDENTIAL AMENITY AND TO:...
(IV) PROVIDE AMENITY SPACE IN ACCORDANCE WITH POLICY H20 AND THE CRITERIA SET OUT IN APPENDIX 1."
The supporting text stated in paragraph 3.27 that it was essential that any new development should achieve a high standard of design and residential amenity and that, as was indicated by revised PPG3, good design and layout could help achieve the government's objectives of making the best use of previously developed land and improving the quality and attractiveness of residential areas.
"IN THE APPLICATION OF THESE DENSITY CRITERIA IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT DEVELOPMENTS ACHIEVE ATTRACTIVE, HIGH QUALITY RESIDENTIAL ENVIRONMENTS, COMPATIBLE WITH THEIR IMMEDIATE LOCAL CONTEXT. FAILURE TO ACHIEVE HIGH QUALITY ENVIRONMENTS WILL RESULT IN PROPOSALS BEING REFUSED, EVEN WHEN ALL OTHER CRITERIA ARE SATISFIED."
The annotation again makes clear that revised PPG3 and the document called "By Design" had been taken into account in formulating that policy.
"PROPOSALS FOR RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT SHOULD INCLUDE CONVENIENTLY LOCATED, USEABLE OUTDOOR AMENITY SPACE. THE COUNCIL WILL HAVE REGARD TO THE AMENITY SPACE CRITERIA SET OUT IN APPENDIX 1 WHEN ASSESSING SUCH PROPOSALS."
"Private amenity space should be provided for each dwelling, although for some flats and other developments it may be provided communally in part, and in part as private amenity space for the exclusive use of the occupants of the dwelling. More important than quantity is the quality of private amenity space and its useability. Private amenity space for flats may be simply a balcony, a patio or veranda, or as a small enclosed garden for ground floor flats, generally with enough space to allow two people to sit out (about 4sqm)."
Specific design guidelines were given for high density residential development which, it is accepted, was the case with the development in issue in these proceedings. Amongst other matters stated in relation to such development was that not all dwellings would be expected to have significant private amenity space. The guidelines went on, however:
"Where the scheme is predominantly made up of houses, private amenity space should be provided in rear gardens. There is no guideline as to size, but rear to rear privacy criteria must be observed. If an adjacent dwelling has a long back garden, a short rear garden in the new dwelling may still achieve the same privacy. As a minimum, the garden must allow for two people to sit out in reasonable privacy and daylight, and be of suitable gradient and orientation. As with other types of residential development it is the quality of space rather than the quantity that is important. With flats every effort should be made to give units private amenity space with patios, balconies or verandas or small gardens for ground floor units."
No specific figures by way of size standards were laid down.
"Good design and layout of new development can help to achieve the Government's objectives of making the best use of previously-developed land and improving the quality and attractiveness of residential areas. In seeking to achieve these objectives, local planning authorities and developers should think imaginatively about designs and layouts which make more efficient use of land without compromising the quality of the environment."
Reference on the need to focus on quality but also to avoid inflexibility is made in paragraph 56. Paragraphs 57 and 58 focus on the need to avoid the inefficient use of land and on the encouragement of development which involves greater intensification of land use.
"Whether the proposals offer an acceptable living environment for the proposed residents, particularly in respect of the provision of external space."
The case for the Council included evidence, given in particular by the Council's Planning Officer, Miss Nicholson, in support of the Council's position that the development made inadequate provision for external amenity space and was in conflict with the adopted and emerging local plan. I think it unnecessary to set out the details. Suffice it to say that there was detailed evidence as to why the Council considered that the development was not in compliance with the plan.
"The Council also expressed concern about the amount and quality of 'amenity space' available to the prospective residents of the development. To my mind this criticism is misplaced. First of all it was confirmed that the apartments would be offered for sale in the normal way. Clearly if prospective purchasers did not feel the outside sitting areas were adequate in size or in the level of privacy they offered then they could exercise choice and choose to approach elsewhere. Secondly, the Council's stance seems to ignore the point that there are those who would prefer not to have to maintain a larger outside space of their own. Notwithstanding the standards in the Local Plan, the appendices thereto and the Local Plan review, PPG3 points to need to widen choice. The provision of smaller residential units with little or no private outdoor space seems to me to cater for those who would prefer not to have a larger garden.
I was pointed to two appeal decisions that deal with broadly similar issues ... While I have considered the content of these decisions, I have dealt with the proposal before me on its own merit."
It is to that part of the Inspector's decision that the challenge is mounted.