Planning Inspectorate decides that Locks Hill building works cannot restart

The Planning Inspectorate has turned down an appeal to vary a previous planning permission on the Locks Hill site at Kingsbridge.

The Inspector concluded that the developer Garden Mill Ltd (formerly known as Blakesley Estates) had not complied with a planning condition on the planning permission to build 32 homes on the Locks Hill Site. The planning permission had lapsed, so it cannot be varied, and the appeal was dismissed.

Cllr Dan Thomas, South Hams District Council’s Executive Member for Planning,said: “We have known about the issues at Locks Hill for a very long time. During that time, both our Legal and Planning teams have carried out some fantastic work behind the scenes. 

“Ongoing legal proceedings mean that we cannot say too much at this time. However, the decision by the Planning Inspectorate has shown our full understanding of the issues surrounding the site and has vindicated the decisions we’ve made around the breach of the planning condition.

“There has been a longstanding commitment on behalf of the Council, supported by our local MPs, to take robust action regarding breaches of planning.

“This has been an issue that has gone on for many years, and we have worked tirelessly to reach this very satisfying outcome.”

Planning permission for the Locks Hill site was granted by the Planning Inspectorate on appeal in 2017, after it had originally been refused by South Hams District Council in 2016.

The green light for the development hinged on the importance of retaining and adding to the trees and vegetation on the edge of the site, to limit the impact that building work and the development would have on Buttville House, a Grade-II listed building that neighbours Locks Hill. Trees on the north-east corner of the site were particularly important to screening and sheltering Buttville House from the development.

Conditions on the planning application agreed that “no site clearance, preparatory work or development shall take place until a scheme for the protection of the retained trees (the tree protection plan) and the appropriate working methods (the arboricultural method statement)” were in place.

The developer informed the District Council that work would begin on the site on 27 May 2021, but evidence has proven that “substantive activity” began on the site began before this date, without adequate tree protection fencing that met the requirements of the tree protection plan.

In their decision to turn down the appeals, the Planning Inspectorate noted that this lack of adequate protection for the trees meant “a breach has clearly taken place”. It added that any work done on the site before 21 December 2022 was “not lawful and the host permission lapsed at that point”.

The Planning Inspectorate also awarded South Hams District Council a partial award of costs from the developer.