Housing secretary throws out 1,500-home Essex development

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has refused permission for 1,500 homes to be built near Braintree in Essex, saying the downsides of the scheme outweighed any benefits it might bring.

It comes days after he refused permission for Hutchinson & Partners’ 471-home redevelopment of a supermarket site in east London – against the advice of his planning inspector.

James Brokenshire

James Brokenshire

The proposal at the centre of his latest rejection is the 56ha Brook Green development, masterplanned by consultants Turley for Acorn Braintree and due to have been built by Kier Living, Kier’s housebuilding arm which the contractor recently announced was up for sale.

An outline planning application was refused by Braintree council, a decision which Turley then appealed.

As well as the homes, nearly a third (30%) of which would have been “affordable”, the scheme would feature a new community centre, a new primary school, public open space and infrastructure.

Brokenshire appointed a planning inspector, Richard Clegg, to look into the project. Clegg’s investigation, which included a view that the proposals conflicted with the local development plan, concluded with a recommendation that the appeal be thrown out. The minister then backed that decision.

Local residents also believed that while there was a need for housing in the area “this should not be at any price. This development would be in the wrong place”.

In a letter outlining the reasons for refusing the appeal the government said the secretary of state had also paid special regard to the desirability of preserving listed buildings potentially affected by the proposals and the “desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of conservation areas”.

A 17th-century timber-framed house called Naylinghurst located at the western edge of the proposed site would have also been impacted by the development.

Flitch Way

Brokenshire, the letter added, “concludes that the adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the [National Planning Policy] framework taken as a whole”.

The planning inspector had highlighted Braintree’s housing supply situation, which amounted to around four years, below the government’s recommended figure of five years, but said the local planning authority was “taking what steps it can to meet local needs and reduce the shortfall”.

The proposed site is bisected by the Flitch Way (pictured), which follows the route of a former railway line.