In February this year a planning application on land behind The Elms, Upper High Street Thame, for 78 high-end homes with care for older people was refused permission by the District Council. This land is allocated in the Thame Neighbourhood Plan for “up to” 45 mixed homes and has had permission for 37 homes since August of 2015, of which some 14 are affordable homes. The applicants Rectory Homes Limited and FirstPort Retirement Property Services Limited appealed against the District Council’s decision.
Following a public inquiry, the Planning Inspector appointed to decide the appeal announced on 21 October 2019 that he agreed with the Town and District Councils, and did not grant approval. The Inspector gave several reasons for refusing the grant of planning permission, many of which were based on policies contained within the Thame Neighbourhood Plan.
- The applicant had argued that their proposed scheme was providing residences with an element of care aimed at meeting the needs of older people. The Inspector found that the homes were not sufficiently distinguishable from normal homes, and that this argument could not be applied.
- As the Inspector found that the 78 dwellings were homes the scheme was immediately contrary to the allocation of the land in the Thame Neighbourhood Plan, which is for no more than 45 homes.
- The proposed scheme would have been harmful to the Thame Conservation Area, and the setting of The Elms listed building.
- There was no evidence to suggest that affordable housing could not be provided on-site, although none was offered. A financial offer to help provide affordable homes elsewhere was deemed inadequate as the applicant had linked the quantity offered to that of the original, 37-home scheme, while seeking 78 homes.
- The proposed homes would not provide a mixed community on the site, contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan, and other planning policy and guidance.
For the avoidance of doubt, the above planning applications do not refer to land at Elms Park, the public park next to John Hampden Primary and Nursery Schools