by Debesh Banerjee and Wenyi Wang
Poole Council has refused permission for a controversial affordable housing scheme in the Talbot Heath area, after a public inquiry.
The Talbot Heath development proposal laid out plans to create housing for students and residents near the sensitive heathland.[minigallery link=”file” columns=”5″ orderby=”rand”]
Local residents, the Talbot Village Association, the Dorset Wildlife Trust, Natural England, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and MP Conor Burns all lobbied against the plans and were delighted with the outcome.
Nicki Hoar, Communications Officer of Dorset Wildlife Trust said: “It’s a very good decision, showing that common sense has prevailed for once in a ruling. We are not only saving the wildlife that may be affected but also setting a landmark decision for the future.”
The application was proposed by Talbot Village Trust, and planned to provide 378 new housing units, 450 student units and 3,500 square metres of academic floor space at a cost of more than £100,000. Permission was initially approved by Poole Borough Council in 2010. Facing growing pressure from the public both locally and nationally, a public inquiry was called in July last year.
Bob Cooper, from Talbot Village Association said: “The reasons for our objection include its effect on Talbot Heath, increased traffic congestion in Wallisdown Road and the effects on local services. We did not feel that those conditions had been met.” Mrs Hoar also mentioned that building houses too close to heathland could harm the vulnerable wildlife environment.
Talbot Heath has been designated as a Ramsar Site and a Special Protection Area for its bird populations. The heath has also been designated as a Special Area of Conservation for its reptile populations and heathland habitats.
Trustee James Gibson Fleming from Talbot Village Trust explained that its application included measures to improve and protect the adjoining heathland. He said: “We’re extending it on to farmland and we’re providing a lot of accommodation for local people.”
But, Branksome East Cllr Stephen Rollo-Smith said the whole plan was flawed from the start. He said: “The borough of Poole officers submitted inaccurate document work to the planning committee in 2010. The fact is that this land is protected by habitat regulations similar to those in Stonehenge and no development can be undertaken on it.”
Cllr Mike White, Poole’s Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regeneration, who defended the plan, expressed his disappointment: “The council accepts the Secretary of State’s decision but is extremely disappointed at the outcome, as the application put forward by the Talbot Village Trust offered an opportunity to provide much needed affordable housing and family homes for the town.
Councillor Stephen-Rollo Smith explains how the development plans were poorly conceived by Poole Borough Council:[audio:http://www.thebreaker.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/talbot-heath.mp3|titles=Councillor Stephen-Rollo Smith]
How do you balance the protection of environment with the demand for more housing? Tell us what you think.