Taylor Wimpey have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against South Oxfordshire District’s Council decision to refuse their Lawful Development application in January 2022 for ground stabilisation works at Thames Farm.
The refusal from SODC stated, “The proposed ground stabilisation works are not authorised by the existing planning permission; they are not part of the foundation works nor ancillary to the development granted by the outline permission for 95 homes. The proposed groundworks are of a nature, scale and extent that they represent a separate activity of substance and are an engineering operation beyond the construction of foundations.”
The underpinning work is needed after Taylor Wimpey discovered in October 2020 that the chalk bedrock could not drain away the surface water through soakaways as originally planned as it was prone to developing sink holes.
The Thames Farm Action Group (TFAG) only found out about the Appeal on the 20 September after two members received a personal letter from SODC. The letters stated that the appeal had started on 19 September with the deadline for comments to be received by 3 October despite the Planning Inspectorate receiving the Appeal in mid July. The TFAG asked for an extension to the deadline to allow them to review the new documents from Taylor Wimpey which was refused. They have sent a complaint letter to The Planning Inspectorate on the way the Appeal has been handled and questioned why this appeal has been allowed after 18 months which is against their guidance. The Appeal has no public hearing only written representations and the decision date has yet to be confirmed. SODC have until 21 November 2023 to submit their final comments.
Taylor Wimpey’s grounds for appeal are that the undertaking of the ground stabilisation works “as a matter of planning law would amount to lawful development, as they are authorised by the Outline Planning Permission and are part of the foundation works ancillary to the development granted by the outline permission for 95 homes. The works are not a separate engineering operation requiring the grant of planning permission.”
TFAG state in their response to the Appeal that the new evidence submitted by Taylor Wimpey should not be considered as part of the Planning Inspectorate’s review because this is also contrary to their guidance (only original documents should be part of the Appeal). Their continued argument is that at the time of the Outline Planning Permission was granted in 2016, this planning site was considered to be a ‘typical’ residential development, requiring no intrusive and extensive ground remediation and would not disturb the drinking water aquifer on the site. Their recommendation is that a new detailed planning application for the ground stabilisation work should be submitted so that all the responsible authorities including the EA can comment on the impact of these works and satisfy themselves and the public that there will be no physical disturbance to the drinking water aquifer.
Peter Boros Chair of TFAG said, “TFAG has used a leading firm of Hydrological Engineers to comment on matters as they have developed – JBA is the one that SODC originally used to prepare their flood map database/risk assessment. They have raised a large number of points about the deficiency and unsuitability of the data and information generated by the developers.”