A government inspector is hearing the case for whether 40 new homes should be built in the grounds of an historic mansion.
Last year, East Hampshire District Council’s planning committee turned down plans to build the homes in the grounds of Grade II-listed Cadlington House, in Blendworth Lane, Blendworth, Horndean.
This was despite a public consultation and the council’s planning officers strongly recommending permission for the development be given.
Councillors refused the application on the grounds that the area’s housing quota had already been filled – in part thanks to nearby 700-home Hazleton Farm Estate.
They also said it would have affect the setting of Cadlington House and they would lose the green gap which separates Horndean from Blendworth.
Jonathan Clay, for the developer Sunley, urged planning inspector Mark Dakeyne, to uphold the appeal and said: ‘The appellant accepts that this development affects the setting of Cadlington House.
‘But the harm caused is, at most, less than substantial and the impact is to be weighed against public benefit.’
Mr Clay said that at first the council’s planning officers endorsed the proposals and praised the ‘high quality design’.
And he said the strategic gap between Horndean and Blendworth was not a ‘fixed thing’ and had yet to be determined.
Mr Clay added: ‘The need for affordable homes in East Hampshire is so acute that it justifies setting a housing requirement in excess of the latest demographic projections.
‘The less than substantial harm does not remotely outweigh the benefits of this development.
‘The housing could be delivered now – within the next two years.
‘It is our case that the planning authority (East Hampshire District Council) is not able to demonstrate a five-year housing supply. There is a pressing need for affordable homes.’
Responding to accusations from Mr Clay that the council had been blowing ‘hot and cold’ over planning permission and was playing a ‘game of snakes and ladders’ with Sunley, Tim Leader, for the council, said the councillors on the planning committee were right to reject the planning officers’ advice.
He added: ‘The planning system is run by elected members or delegates.
‘The wonderful thing about this is their local knowledge and common sense.
‘These members were plainly right. It just offends common sense to put 40 houses here.’
He added: ‘Planning is a common-sense discipline and perhaps a useful question to ask at the outset is, is it very sensible to plan to fill a strategic gap between two settlements with 40 houses?
‘And, at the same time, do so in the grounds of a listed building, in a conservation area?
‘You have to be something of an optimist to think this is a good idea.
‘But that is what the appellants propose to do.’
The hearing, at Festival Hall, Petersfield, concludes today.