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We’re delighted to announce that the Planning Inspectorate dismissed the Persimmon appeal for 120 dwellings (including the realignment of part of Macclesfield Main Road and its junction with Leek Road).

Andrew Wood, CPRE planning officer, said “This is a really robust decision by the Inspector, and we’re delighted. He has recognised how unusual and prominent the site is, and he has understood how the lie of the land would make any residential development here very incongruous. Importantly, he has also provided a very clear interpretation of the planning policies that Persimmon were trying to make holes in, so this should keep other sites in the High Peak countryside safe from speculative planning applications.”

Reasons cited, which relate to our objections, include:

  • The site lies outside the Built-up Area Boundary of Buxton and therefore lies within the countryside.
  • From the elevated roads, the site is open and its relationship to the settlement and surrounding countryside can be readily appreciated. This is also the case in views from a number of PRoWs and other publicly accessible land within the NP.
  • The site has a much greater affinity with the rural environment than to the built-up area. The site forms an important and attractive part of the rural scene at the settlement edge and reflects the character of the wider landscape.
  • It is clear from the evidence that the proposal would result in the loss of some of the dry-stone walls within the site. These are an intrinsic feature of the Peak District along with field hedgerows and are a traditional upland method for containing livestock. They are a positive landscape feature within the site and one of its key components in linking it in both visual and character terms to the wider surrounding landscape.

Thanks to everyone who supported our appeal to make this great result possible.

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Persimmon vs Landscape. A personal view

After attending the public appeal inquiry in Buxton, our Planning Officer, Andrew Wood, writes…

I confess I fell a little under Buxton’s spell, living there for six days to work on the Leek Road appeal inquiry. My ten-minute walk to and from the inquiry venue took me across the Pavilion Gardens, in beautiful spring sunshine (usually), admiring the heavy-lidded architecture that seems to somehow have been carved straight out of the rock and formed its own version of civilisation.

This short but hypnotic love affair was made all the more poignant by what I was there to do battle against: those dogged purveyors of distinctive, exciting developments, Persimmon Homes. Forgive my mocking tone, but it highlights the irony of the situation.

The appeal concerned an outline development for 120 homes on an unusual, bowl-shaped fragment of a once much more expansive area of pasture land between Burbage, on the south side of Buxton, and the junction of Leek Road and Macclesfield Main Road. From within the site, the grander hills loom over you, denoting the boundary of the National Park. Make a 50 metre ascent to the east or west of the site, and you immediately see how it stands in a pivotal position, defining the relationship between town and country.

The application was refused by High Peak Council last year, on the grounds that it would cause an unacceptable intrusion into open countryside. In their appeal case, Persimmon took what we might generously call a creative approach. It’s worth looking at their tactics in some detail.

Firstly, they tried to re-open decisions made by the Local Plan, which was adopted in 2016. The site was rejected as a site allocation then, despite Persimmon’s protestations, because it was deemed to be unsuitable in landscape terms. Considering the emphasis that Government places on local authorities having an up-to-date Plan, it is disappointing but unsurprising that developers are unwilling to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Secondly, they put forward a perverse interpretation of a particular policy in the Local Plan. This policy allows for the possibility that small, unallocated sites may come forward during the life of the Local Plan, on the edges of settlements, and these could be considered for development if they meet strict criteria. It’s self-evident from the Plan that this policy was never intended to give an opportunity for large sites, rejected when the Local Plan was being prepared, from having another bite at the cherry.

Thirdly, Persimmon suggested that any greenfield development will inevitably be an intrusion into the countryside, so you can’t judge one proposal against another on that basis. This is plainly nonsense. The amount of ‘inevitable’ intrusion has already been established by the Local Plan and the settlement boundaries it marks out. And the scheme was refused because the intrusion was deemed ‘unacceptable’, meaning judgements were made about the location and nature of the intrusion.

Finally, the appellant sought to downplay the value of the landscape that would be harmed, suggesting that if land is not within the boundary of a National Park, or other landscape designation, then it cannot be considered to be valued. Again, this is a dogmatic misinterpretation of national policy which has already been given short shrift by the courts. But it’s a deeply worrying idea. People place great value on all kinds of landscapes, all over the country, depending on their context, their history, how they use them day-to-day. If planning was only empowered to consider landscape value in the small proportion of land protected by designations, our relationship to landscape would be greatly impoverished.

Reflecting on the inquiry after it closed, the more I think about it, it’s very clear to me that a victory for Persimmon at Leek Road would be a travesty, and a diminution of what planning is supposed to be about. We must hope the Inspector sees that too.

We extend our thanks once again to everyone who donated to our fundraising appeal to help us fight this case.