Alstone, Somerset

In conjunction with The Silverwood Partnership, we entered into a promotional partnership arrangement with the owners of this 2 acre site, most of which is a scheduled ancient monument. We undertook extensive preliminary archaeological investigations and, following lengthy discussions with English Heritage and Somerset County Council Archaeological Department, agreed that part of the site could be developed, subject to an archaeological investigation being undertaken before construction commenced.

During the course of these discussions, Government Policy in relation to Flood Risk Assessment changed, with the introduction of a new Planning Policy Supplement (PPS25). At the time that we entered into the promotion agreement the site met all relevant criteria for development in areas of flood risk. However, under the new regime, the Local Authority deemed that it failed one of the newly introduced tests. Our planning application was refused, primarily on these grounds, leaving us with costs to date in excess of £60,000.

During the course of these proceedings, we met on a number of occasions with the Environment Agency and, following detailed 3D flood modelling of the site, the agency agreed that the site is not at risk from flooding, despite the Local Authority’s using this as a reason for refusal. We are confident that we will win an appeal against this reason for refusal and are preparing to go down this route, subject to confirmation that the completed houses will be insurable. This will be clarified by a government flood risk statement due to be published in the autumn of this year.

We are naturally very disappointed at not achieving a planning approval at this stage, as this represents a very rare failure. Nevertheless, this case study illustrates the very real risks that are inherent in promoting land for development, often due to circumstances entirely beyond the control of the promoter or the land owner. It also demonstrates the significant cost of properly promoting even a relatively small site to maximise the likelihood of achieving a successful outcome.