Housebuilder Rapped for Planning Breach

Residents at the southern end of our village have sent an official complaint to Rushcliffe Borough Council (RBC) after it became clear that a Ruddington property developer is allowing the first households to move into its new homes in violation of agreed planning conditions.

Avant Homes (Midlands) is currently building 175 dwellings south of Musters Road – a new 15.89 acre estate, controversially approved on our former Green Belt, called ‘Wilbur Chase’. Existing villagers were alerted to the company’s transgression by its own social media last week, which pictured a couple who were “…the first to move in at our Wilbur Chase development in Ruddington on Friday! They couldn’t look more excited to start living in their gorgeous new Lathbury.”

Some existing villagers are not quite so happy. To cope with the anticipated increase in traffic flow through Ruddington, RBC’s approval for the new estate was conditional upon financial contributions being made by Avant Homes to the Local Highway Authority. These were for off-site highway improvement works to the A60/Kirk Lane/Flawforth Lane junction and to the High Street/Kirk Lane/Charles Street junction – to be carried out before any of the new homes could be occupied. Unfortunately, as previously reported, the village centre junction {pictured below} has turned out to be problematic- with plans to add traffic lights and three pedestrian crossings right in the middle of High Street proving very difficult to accommodate.

Due to this delay, back in March, Avant sought a “variation of planning Condition 9” 18/00300/OUT until the first 35 dwellings at Wilbur Chase have been occupied. The latest update to this application is a letter from the Highways Authority dated 24th August 2021. It does not object to this requested variation from the developer and concedes “…any capacity benefits offered by the signalisation are not significant and hence the overall benefit of the proposal when compared to the issues it creates would be considered marginal at best.”

However, the letter to RBC goes on to say: “…we do recognise there is a need to mitigate the traffic impacts of the development on the village centre. In this regard we welcome the offer to provide a financial contribution in lieu of the works. We would expect this contribution to be spent on works in and around Ruddington Village Centre to reduce single occupancy car use and sustainable transport measures which encourage non-motorised transport such as cycling and walking. No indication has been provided as to the value of the contribution. For clarity we would wish to see any contribution provided to be of an equivalent value what would have been the full implementation cost of the signalised junction, including design costs, legal fees, commuted maintenance sums, etc.”

It is because the amount of this ‘Section 106’ contribution has not so far been agreed, nor permission for the ‘variation’ yet granted by RBC, that Avant Homes now finds itself in trouble for allowing at least two households to move in.

Residents say that other imposed conditions are still outstanding, too. Jonathan Machin, comments: “I am astounded by the lack of serious action against these clear breaches of planning conditions. This is a massive call by both Avant Homes to firstly blatantly breach the conditions, and also by local planning if they allow such breaches to go unpunished. It will set a precedent that could affect many other developments!”

After learning last week that Avant Homes had allowed occupation of its new houses to commence, residents sent an email of complaint to RBC’s Principal Planning Officer, Emily Dodd, asking for urgent action. She responded by saying that the authority is now taking steps, after being alerted to this breach.

She wrote: “I can confirm that Avant have already responded to our initial communication on the matter and are taking steps to address the outstanding conditions as soon as possible. We have advised that no further plots should be occupied and that their sales team should be informed of the same. As with any enforcement investigation, the Borough Council must assess what is a proportionate response to the breach. At present Avant seem keen to resolve matters so we will work with them to address the breaches as soon as possible. Clearly if they continue to allow plots to be occupied, as you have suggested in your email, we will need to re-assess, and I intend to speak to the Borough Solicitor today to make her aware that her assistance will potentially be needed for service of formal notices.”

Ms Dodd continued: “Regarding condition 9 in particular, you have quite rightly identified that this will likely be a longer process, we are currently awaiting Avant to prepare some costings so that negotiations with County Highways can take place as to a S106 financial contribution. Once agreed a deed of variation is required to be drawn up to vary the terms of the original legal agreement and the planning application will also need to be written up and go through either a delegated or committee process.”

Cllr Walker

Existing residents are keen to stress that it’s nothing personal against their new neighbours – just that they should not yet have been allowed to move in. Two of Ruddington’s Rushcliffe Borough Councillors are backing the call for urgent action to be taken against Avant Homes. Cllr Jen Walker says: “Although this planning breach is completely outrageous it has not surprised us on a development that has been plagued by controversy from the start – a development that was forced upon the village, bypassing local democracy, by the Planning Inspectorate. What IS shocking is that the Planning Inspectorate’s own conditions are now being breached. There has been a serious lack of planning and joined up thinking that unfortunately we are having to tolerate as a village but now we see the serious lack in the Borough’s ability to enforce conditions on developers who seem to ride roughshod over conditions put in place to protect the services we all rely on.”

Cllr Gaunt

Cllr Mike Gaunt adds: “All money owed by the developers should be paid to our community immediately as our infrastructure continues to struggle under the weight of rampant homebuilding in and around Ruddington. Incidentally, some of the people living closest to the new Avant development have been the most affected by it in their day to day life but have also borne the brunt of a separate development from Edwalton when their children didn’t get places at Rushcliffe School. Providing this money immediately is the least Avant can do, to try and mitigate some of the worst impacts of this housing estate.”

A spokesperson for Avant Homes told us: “We made an application to the local authority earlier this year for a variation of Condition 9 of the planning consent regarding timing of offsite works at our Wilbur Chase development. We are in contact with the council regarding these variations and are working closely with highways and the planning department to resolve the current situation as quickly as possible.”

The construction of Wilbur Chase continues

This breach follows a catalogue of concerns which local residents have raised since the construction of Wilbur Chase first began. These include the ripping out of hedgerows and mature tree removal, onsite flooding, and construction vehicles accessing the site via Asher Lane and Musters Road, rather than by using route agreed in the approved ‘Construction Method Statement’ along Distillery Street. will bring you further updates on this – and more news about the other major housing construction taking place in our village – as we receive it.

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