DORSET Council has lost a planning appeal over a 67-home development – after it failed to come to a decision within a reasonable time.

The outcome means the development, off Salisbury Street at Marnhull, can now go ahead although will be subject to a further application to agree the details.

A Planning Inspector decided that the site, bounded by Salisbury Street, Tanzey Lane and Sodom Lane, was suitable for housing and that any potential flood risk could be controlled.

“The council accepts that, with a more carefully considered layout than shown on the illustrative plans, harm to the character and appearance of the area would not be significant,” said the Inspector in a summary of findings.

The council’s northern planning committee had decided they would have rejected the outline, or 'in principal', proposals if the decision had remained with them – but only came to the conclusion after the appeal process had started.

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At the time parish councillor Steve Winder said the lack of decision by Dorset Council within the recommended timeframe was an abdication of the Council’s responsibilities and an erosion of the democratic process.

He said the failure to decide the application in time had left the village in the hands of developers where more than 200 homes in the area had already been approved , exceeding the North Dorset Local Plan suggested figures, although the meeting heard the figure was a minimum, not a cap on building.

Marnhull parish council had claimed the “proposed development and layout would result in an unsatisfactory form of development not in keeping with the village character.”

Applicant Mr Paul Crocker from Seniors Farm, New Street, had been scheduled to speak to the committee a year ago, but later decided against it.

Cllr Carole Jones, who proposed rejection at the time, said that it could not be argued that the site was “sustainable” as the bus service was now “extinct” and anyone living on the site would need to drive for either work, or for a main shop.

In another appeal, for up to nine homes at Strangways Farm, Musbury Lane, Marnhull, also proposed by Mr Croker, the council was backed by a planning Inspector in deciding, once again after the appeal process had started, that the outline proposal would have been rejected.

Residents had addressed that meeting to express their safety concerns about additional use of the lane and worries about overlooking of existing properties.

Dorset councillors added their concerns about the effect of the proposed homes on Pond Farmhouse, a grade 2 listed building; the lack of designated affordable housing and what it described as “a significant adverse change to the character and appearance of the area” impacting on the tranquillity of the lane had the homes been allowed.