Sensitive negotiation avoided public inquiry
Following refusal of planning permission for a partially developed housing project, Baker Consultants was brought in by Commercial Estates Group (CEG) to re-assess the issues and suggest a way forward.
Ecology issues had been raised by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) and were listed in the reasons for refusal. The site, a former military camp, had been partially developed for housing and the project was the final phase of development. The undeveloped area supported some ecological interest, notably the presence of protected species and grasslands which supported some botanical interest.
With the project heading towards a public inquiry, our remit was to ensure that ecological data that had been collected by another consultancy was robust and could withstand the detailed scrutiny of the inquiry. At the same time, CEG was preparing a parallel planning application with the hope of addressing the issues that had been raised by the previous submission.
At first glance, the ecological issues were significant and included loss of or impact on great crested newt habitat, a bat roost and badger setts. In addition, the site was located next to a county wildlife site that, while substantially outside the development area, was perceived to be affected by the development.
Early on in the project, Baker Consultants established a very constructive dialogue with the LPA’s ecologist. By providing further clarification to the county ecologist on the nature of the ecological impacts, we were able to both agree a statement of common ground that removed ecological issues from the scope of the public inquiry and, through the construction of carefully prepared planning conditions and a Section 106 agreement, ensure the parallel application was granted permission and consent secured.
Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, commented: “It was clear at the outset of the project that the LPA had legitimate issues, but these were far from insurmountable. We achieved a negotiated settlement that suited all parties (developer, house builder and the LPA) and importantly avoided the need, and costs, of going to a public inquiry.”
“Over the last ten years CEG has worked with Andrew and his team secure in the knowledge that we will always get a pragmatic and detailed approach to the task. The team at Baker Consultants has shown significant skill in negotiating on points of science with important stakeholders.”