In Focus - Urban extension falls foul of localist approach

In turning down a 93-hectare urban extension to Winchester, the secretary of state has supported the city council's attempts to place residents' views at the heart of decision-making on a new housing strategy for the area.

Barton Farm: housing plans rejected as risk to bottom up planning strategy
Barton Farm: housing plans rejected as risk to bottom up planning strategy

CALA Homes (South) appealed after the council failed to determine its proposal for 2,000 homes, a primary school, a retail store, a nursing home and a district energy centre at Barton Farm within the statutory period. It claimed that the council could not show an adequate supply of housing land and that, irrespective of the government's intention to abolish the South East Plan, there was still a need for more homes to serve the city.

The local plan reserved the site for homes but specified that it should only be released if a "compelling justification" was shown. The council argued that the government's localism agenda required its housing strategy review to be generated by communities, rather than at regional level. But its view that housing figures for the area should be significantly cut had yet to be subject to public scrutiny or adopted in a development plan document.

The appellant maintained that a higher level of provision was required. The inspector found that the scheme would make a vital contribution to housing land supply and create many affordable homes and jobs. She found sufficient evidence to conclude that a compelling justification had been demonstrated and recommended granting permission.

The secretary of state responded that the government's desire to promote plan-making at local level was a significant factor against the appeal. The council had already started consulting local communities on the scale and location of new homes, he noted. In his opinion, allowing the scheme would prejudice the council's ability to establish a new bottom-up strategy.

The scheme would not answer any immediate land shortage as only 150 homes would be built by 2014/15, he reasoned. Other drawbacks included the loss of a greenfield site and harm to the landscape and the city's setting, he found. He saw no compelling reason to release the site now.

Inspector: Christina Downes; Inquiry.

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