Secretary of state rejects 2,200-home Filton project that ‘would not ensure high-quality design’

The government has signalled that it is serious about enforcing rules to improve design by throwing out a 2,200-unit Bovis Homes scheme that it said failed to respect “local character and distinctiveness”.

Ruth Kelly, in one of her last decisions before losing responsibility for planning in last week’s Cabinet reshuffle, refused plans by Bovis Homes to redevelop the former Filton airfield near Bristol.

Bovis Homes, with BAE Systems, the owner of the 84 ha site, also wanted to build 66,000m2 of employment space on the airfield where Concorde was developed.

The letter from the communities department criticised the design and access statement drawn up by consultant Barton Willmore.

It said the statement was not clear enough about how the design principles outlined in the document would feed through into the detailed layout, scale and appearance of the scheme.

It said: “The masterplan gives insufficient detail about the location and scale of the buildings. The proposal would not ensure a high-quality design that respects and enhances local character and distinctiveness.”

The airfield is the first strategic development site to be judged by the secretary of state since the introduction of “design and access” statements in April. These must now accompany every significant planning application for housing.

Selina Mason, Cabe’s head of architecture and design review, welcomed Kelly’s stance. She said: “This decision accords well with Cabe’s view that the design and access statement should record clearly how a good-quality design will be delivered.”

A Bovis Homes spokesperson said: “We are of course extremely disappointed with this decision, which followed a full and thorough public inquiry last November. We are now reading the reports issued by the secretary of state and the planning inspectorate and once we have reviewed these documents we will consider our options.”