Decision on whether to build hundreds of new homes in Whitnash will be made in the next few weeks

An independent planning inspector has this month heard evidence at an appeal hearing this month

A decision on whether hundreds of homes will be built in Whitnash will be made next month.

An independent planning inspector has this month heard evidence at an appeal hearing over plans to build 200 homes - which could rise to 500 homes.

The East Whitnash development on land south of Chesterton Gardens have been thrown out on two occasions this year after Warwick district councillors voted against them, following mass opposition.

Matt Western MP at the Chesterton Gardens site.

But developers AC Lloyd appealed to the Secretary of State and was granted a public inquiry - which was heard this month.

The planning inspector said the decision is expected to be made on or before August 25.

Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has opposed the development since it was first proposed in 2015.

Mr Western met with the inspector who visited Leamington on July 19 to examine the road network and hear from concerned residents.

The appeal hearing lasted from Tuesday, July 13 to Friday, July 16.

Evidence was heard from developer AC Lloyd and those opposed to its plans such as the Warwickshire Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and campaigning residents.

Mr Western said: “It feels as if I have been fighting this plan for an eternity.

“I was grateful to have the opportunity to speak in evidence and deliver a closing statement at the appeal hearing as well as discussing the plans with the inspector during his site visit.

“It is unsustainable, contrary to the wishes of residents and surplus to requirements.

“Without a second access road, the plans for an initial 200 homes – rising to 500 thereafter – would suffocate Sydenham residents and make many lives miserable – including on the existing Chesterton Gardens estate.

“In 2013, the previous planning inspector stated that any further developments below the Chesterton Gardens would place unacceptable strain on the already limited capacity of the Sydenham road network.

“Nearly 4,000 surplus homes are being built in Warwick district and doubts about Coventry’s population figures mean this number could rise significantly if they are reviewed.

“It would also be an insult to local democracy for the decisions of the planning committee to be disregarded – and for hundreds of residents who signed a petition against the plans to be ignored.”

Mr Western also criticised the highly unusual decision of WDC not to submit evidence to the planning inspector in opposition to the development given that it was twice rejected by its own planning committee.

Talking in May, Warwick District Council leader Andrew Day said the council received legal advice that the planning committee’s decision to refuse this application was not supported by sound technical or planning reasons, is contrary to the expert evidence considered at the meeting and therefore may be 'irrational or unlawful'.

In light of this advice, he said: "This council will not commit significant sums of public money contesting this appeal with the additional risk of being ordered to meet all of the substantial costs incurred by the appellant should they be successful.

"The decision not to object to this appeal is a careful and considered judgement on where best to apply scarce public funding, given the strong legal advice about the very limited chances of defending the grounds on which the committee’s decision was taken."

Developers AC Lloyd said it believes the resubmitted plans do address the concerns over traffic and access.

Talking in April, Des Wynne, a director at AC Lloyd, said: “We accept that the delivery of these much-needed houses will have some impact on the residents of Chesterton Gardens but we have done our utmost to mitigate these issues.

“There is a substantial mitigation package agreed to address traffic and noise issues and as a result neither the County Highway Authority or the District Environmental Health officers have raised objections.

“We also remain in dialogue with Campion School to buy a strip of land to create a road alongside the railway line to Chesterton Gardens for a further access route.

“We have a national housing problem in the UK, delivering far fewer houses than are required, and the local authority is in danger of breaching its five-year housing land supply numbers if this scheme is not delivered.

“This is an allocated site in the Local Plan which is drawn up by the district council and the development will provide a significant contribution to the identified housing needs of an area as established through the plan.

“The scheme also delivers a significant extension to the green infrastructure at Whitnash Brook through a public open space and encouraging walking and cycling. This area of enhanced public open space will ensure the development delivers an overall net gain in biodiversity.

“There are also wider economic benefits since we are a local employer employing local people. A significant number of jobs will be retained and new ones created as a result of this scheme.

“As part of the usual section 106 agreements, our package would include funding a comprehensive traffic calming scheme, providing a dedicated parking space and external wall plug for electric vehicle charging at each home and creating pedestrian and cycle links within the site as well as funding a nearby cycle network to improve connections to the site.”