Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has agreed with a planning inspector who recommended refusal of a Berkshire housing scheme appeal on ecological grounds.
The proposals involved the demolition of existing B1 offices and the redevelopment of the site at Ascot, Berkshire, for 23 dwellings plus associated access, car parking and landscaping.
The location was in the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) where consideration has to be given to the impact of development on nationally important breeding populations of Nightjar, Woodlark and the Dartford Warbler. New housing development can increase recreational pressure on the SPA.
In the decision letter the minister acknowledged that the scheme represented needed residential development and off-site affordable housing provision.
However, the letter said planning permission would only be granted if the minister had ascertained that it would not adversely affect the integrity of the SPA or if there were “imperative reasons of overriding public interest”.
The letter concluded that the proposal “in combination with other plans and projects, would be likely to have an adverse effect in terms of the conservation objectives of the site, and that it is not possible to be certain that the proposal will not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the site. In the absence of effective avoidance measures, the possible effect on the SPA would not be removed by imposing conditions or restrictions.
“No alternative solutions that would have no effect on the site’s integrity have been put forward, and there are no imperative reasons of overriding public interest why the permission should be granted.”
13 October 2011