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Gated communities, a planning balancing act

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A recent Planning Inspectorate decision (APP/Z4310/W/19/3224223 dated 24th May 2019) approached the contentious question of gated communities. The case is an interesting one as it highlights the fundamental issue in such developments: namely that they create an immediate planning advantage for those within the community, and a simultaneous disadvantage to those outside and beyond. How then should decisions on such applications be approached?

The appeal site was a cul-de-sac of eight properties forming part of a larger estate. Existing boundaries were formed of brick walls, railings, gates and fences with a number of properties having high railings and gates in front of the dwelling. In the absence of specific local plan policies, the relevant policy was found in the National Planning Policy Framework ("NPPF"). Paragraphs 91 and 127 require high quality development that functions well and maintains a strong sense of place; is visually attractive; creates places that are safe, inclusive and accessible; and which promotes health and well-being.

So, were the gates promoting or obstructing these goals?

In support, the Inspector found strong evidence of criminal activity, a trend which was on the increase. This was having a compelling effect on residents' fear of crime and their health and well-being. It was also recognised that the proposed gates would help address these matters and improve the quality of life for those whose homes would be behind the gates (even though the gates would not prevent all means of entry).

Conversely, the proposals would introduce a physical barrier across the entrance to the cul-de-sac. Even though the design of the gates would respond to the local area and allow views in and out of the cul-de-sac, the Inspector highlighted that the concept of 'good design' went beyond aesthetics. While gated entrances were common in the area, there were no examples of any across whole cul-de-sacs. The estate as it stood was 'an attractive, inclusive and welcoming place to live and visit'. Most importantly, "whilst the proposal would improve the security of occupants [on the inside] the gates […] would undermine the overall cohesiveness of the community and social interaction by segregating the eight properties from the rest of the community. This may in turn increase the risk or fear of crime for neighbours not within the gated cul-de-sac, and thus their quality of life."

As such, even though the Inspector recognised the proposal's benefits in relation to crime, the fear of crime, and well-being, overall the proposed development would have a detrimental effect on the character and appearance of the area, social interaction, community safety, crime and the fear of crime. On this basis, it did not accord with the relevant paragraphs of the NPPF and was refused.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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