Ruth Stockley, instructed by Mark Iveson at Gateley has successfully acted for Story Homes at an inquiry into an application under section 257 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for the confirmation of an Order to stop up a public footpath to enable the implementation of planning permission for 224 dwellings on a site in Cockermouth. The footpath was a well-used, locally important part of the network leading to the summit of Slate Fell and beyond to paths within the Lake District National Park. That link was intended to be preserved via the adopted estate roads under a section 38 agreement.
The Inspector’s decision is of particular interest in relation to the Objectors’ contention that it was not necessary to stop up the footpath within the meaning of s.257 as it could have been diverted instead. She concluded that despite it having been possible, and even preferable, to have diverted the path, that was not the proposal before her. Stopping up was still necessary to enable the development to be implemented in accordance with the approved planning permission.
Crucially, in ascertaining the merits of confirming the Order, the Inspector weighed in the balance the public interest in a significant number of new homes being built as soon as possible. She further noted the planning conditions imposed which ensured the preservation of public access through the site.
The decision is a useful reminder of the critical importance of the material weight attributed to planning benefits in the determination of whether to confirm a stopping up order under s.257, in contrast to where the alternative procedures under sections 116 and 118 of the Highways Act 1980 are used and such benefits are not taken into account.
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