AC Lloyd withdraws Whitnash project despite having secured resolution to grant reserved matters approval

A 200-home reserved matters application called in by Michael Gove last month on design grounds has been withdrawn by the developer behind the proposal.

Developer AC Lloyd has withdrawn its application for full planning for the scheme on the South Side of Chesterton Drive in Whitnash, near Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

A spokesperson for AC Lloyd declined to comment, however the decision to withdraw the application at the end of last month was confirmed on Warwick District Council’s website in the last few days.

AC Lloyd home

A development by AC Lloyd Homes

AC Lloyd’s decision comes despite having secured outline permission for the scheme in 2021, and the local authority having to resolved to grant reserved matters permission for the detailed design in December last year.

On May 11 the housing minister Rachel McLean decided to “call-in” the decision for determination centrally on behalf of secretary of state Michael Gove on design grounds, in the latest sign of an interventionist approach from the government over design.

>> See also Sandbach saga: meet the housebuilder standing up to Michael Gove

The letter states the secretary of state “particularly wishes to be informed about … the extent to which the proposed development is consistent with government policies for achieving well designed places.”

The decision on the Whitnash scheme came at the same time as another project, a planning proposal by Muller Property Group for 150 units on five hectares of land south of Old Mill Road, Sandbach in Cheshire East, was also called in on similar grounds. The developer of that scheme has pledged to fight Gove over the proposal.

Both interventions follow Gove’s attempt to block a 165-home Berkeley Homes scheme in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in part on the grounds that the design was “generic” – a controversial decision he now looks set to rethink.

Housebuilder representatives have previously voiced concerns over the impact of Gove’s interventions, with Steve Turner, director of communications at the Home Builders Federation, the representative body of the housebuilding industry, earlier this month describing Gove’s call-in decisions as “clever politics”.

However, he said central decisions were the opposite of the localist planning system Gove had promised councils. “The secretary of state is personally intervening to block developments that the local authority actually wants to see go ahead. Regardless of the supposed aims the outcome seems to always be the same: fewer new homes built.

He added: “This may be clever politics, but the long-term social and economic consequences will be huge.”