An appeal to build 97 homes in West Sussex close to an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate due to fears over increased traffic pollution.
Gleeson Developments Ltd had sought to construct 97 homes, of which 30% would be affordable, on 5.3 hectares of undeveloped land on the western edge of Hassocks village.
However, the proposed development lies close to an AQMA centred on nearby Stonepound Crossroads, where levels of nitrogen dioxide have been found to exceed the national objective of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre (ugm3).
And, as a result of concerns over increased traffic and a lack of enough affordable housing in the plans, Gleeson had its initial planning application turned down by Mid Sussex district council in May 2014.
The developer subsequently appealed this decision after carrying our work to address some of the concerns, and the council resolved to withdraw its reasons for planning refusal in January 2015.
Air quality modelling assessments of the proposed development area predicted that the baseline concentrations at all three residential receptors would fall below 40ugm3 even if the houses were built – a reduction expected as a result of forthcoming Euro 6 vehicle emissions regulations.
But local residents – including chartered engineer Bob Brewer – fought the appeal, arguing that the modelling forecasts were overly optimistic in comparison to measured NO2 levels.
In addition, Mr Brewer also cited minutes from the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee last year, which suggested that compliant Euro 6 diesel cars may in fact produce levels of nitrogen dioxide around seven times higher than the regulated limit in the real world, adding that the EU is currently seeking to bring in real world driving emissions test procedures.
The Inspector, Louise Phillips, described this evidence as “most significant”, adding that Mr Bewer was a “highly credible witness” drawing on “authoritative data sources” in making his case.
And, following an inquiry in March and subsequent site visit, the Planning Inspectorate dismissed Gleeson Development Ltd’s appeal yesterday (July 2), thereby rejecting the proposal to build the 97 homes.
The Inspector’s Appeal Decision states: “The Stonepound Crossroads is the only designated AQMA in the council area and this is indicative of the particular sensitivity of the locality. I am also mindful of Mr Brewer’s suggestion that ‘Sussex-Air’, a partnership of local Councils to deal with air quality issues, requires that new developments should not worsen air quality in existing AQMAs. Even on the basis of the appellant’s latest Assessment, it is clear that the situation would be worse in 2018 with the development than without it.”
It concludes: “on the basis of all the information before me, I cannot conclude with confidence that the proposed development would not have a negative effect on air quality within the Stonepound Crossroads AQMA.”