Cliffe Woods is a planned garden village (with shops, school etc.) on a scattered plotland site, assembled and developed by CPO from 1967. It has around 2,700 residents and one bus route to the Medway town with two services between 7 and 8 am. A planning application to expand by 222 houses has just been refused on a recovered appeal.
If the SoS was seeking to make a message on unsustainable locations in terms of the new NPPF this is an interesting one as it is by far not the most unsustainable site that could have come forward.
The Secretary of State notes that the site is located close to the village of Cliffe Woods which has a range of shops, services and community facilities (IR101). He agrees with the Inspector (IR109) that residents are likely to travel further afield for larger food supermarkets, specialist shops, leisure, employment, and secondary schools, and that this is likely to generate trips by car.
The Secretary of State has carefully considered the Inspector’s analysis of available public transport (IR102-104). He has taken into account that bus services do not operate in the very early morning or after early evening, that cycling is not a realistic option for most or an attractive option, and that the nearest train station is 2km away.
He has further taken into account the proposals to improve accessibility of the scheme (IR105-7), and whilst he agrees that the proposed measures will go some way to facilitating sustainable travel modes, given the uncertainty around the operation of the ‘Arriva Click’ service (IR106) he gives these measures limited weight.
20.The Secretary of State has further taken into account the Framework’s statement in paragraph 103 that the opportunities to maximise sustainable transport solutions will vary between urban and rural areas, and he agrees with the Inspector that given the rural character of the area, a realistic approach to the general travel method of residents is required (IR109). However, in the Secretary of State’s judgement, the proposed development does not limit the need to travel or offer a genuine choice of
transport modes, and is therefore in conflict with the Framework’s policy on promoting sustainable transport (paragraph 103 of the Framework). His concerns are not overcome by the proposed mitigation. He therefore disagrees with the Inspector’s conclusion that there is no intrinsic conflict with the requirement of Policy BNE25 that development should ‘offer a realistic chance of access by a range of transport modes’
(IR110). The Secretary of State considers that these conflicts carry substantial weight against the proposal.
So if your planning a garden village of a few thousand houses and a primary school and a single bus route with a couple of services at peak hours only forget it. This appeal sets a clear precedent. It seems the ministry only want larger developments. As the ‘form’ for applying for a Garden Community makes clear, less than 10,000 dwellings your in trouble, less than 5,000 ‘garden village’ (a term Eb Howard or Raymond Unwin never used) forget it.
Although I disagree that cycling to Higham station only 2km away is not practical, the gradient is not hard and its not busy a or b road. Highham itself though is a much better candidate for growth as was Medway’s position in their emerging local plan.