Councillors were finally convinced to reject plans for seven retirement bungalows in a village conservation area after being told they had a legal duty to consider the advice of their experts.
Members of Bedford Borough Council’s planning committee invited the applicants at the site off High Street, Riseley, to have another go when the policy cards were more stacked in their favour.
“Unfortunately at this stage the application is refused,” said Cllr Jonathan Abbott (Lib Dem, Oakley), who chairs the planning committee.
“But we would certainly encourage, though we can’t guarantee the application will be approved, once the Riseley neighbourhood plan reaches a stage where significant weight can be put to it.
“I appreciate you have put a lot of hard work to get it to this point. We do hopefully look forward to seeing you at some point in the future.”
The committee was told that even though the plan has support in the village, experts for both the applicant and the council had advised that it would harm the conservation area and the setting of listed buildings.
Janine Laver, the council’s development manager, said a High Court decision this week had ruled that councillors have to give “great weight” to concerns and be able to justify their decisions.
In this case, the council officers were unable to identify issues that would outweigh those concerns.
Villagers are developing a neighbourhood plan and at the last meeting it was said that this site had been identified as an option for housebuilding. That meeting had decided to visit the site and report back.
But this week’s meeting was told that the neighbourhood plan had not even got to the stage where local residents are being formally consulted about it. Councillors were told that 19 sites are being looked at.
That turned out to be the deciding issue for Cllr Alison Foster (Cons, Harrold) who said: “I hadn’t appreciated quite how far along they had not progressed with their neighbourhood plan.
“It is premature given that the neighbourhood plan isn’t sufficiently progressed.”
She added that she would “like the applicant to consider coming back once it is one of the preferred sites in the neighbourhood plan.”
Ward Cllr Martin Towler (Cons, Riseley) again queried the consistency of expert advice, saying that one of the listed buildings was masked from the site by a hedgerow while another one looked modern.
“It seems a wrong tool for this job when we’ve passed other developments where they are right next door,” he said.
Councillors voted to refuse permission, with none voting to give the green light to the plans.