The outline application was handed to the secretary of state for consideration after Harlow District Council failed to determine the proposals within the designated timeframe.
A planning inspector’s report following a public inquiry recommended that the proposals be approved and a letter sent on behalf of Pickles this week said the secretary of state agreed with the inspector’s decision.
Outlining his reasons for the approval, the letter said Pickles agreed with the inspector that "there is a pressing need for housing in Harlow" which the scheme would help to reduce and that this was "an important material consideration in the light of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)".
The letter also said that Pickles agreed with the Inspector that there is "clearly less than a five-year supply of housing land in Harlow and the housing policies in the local plan are out of date".
It said that Pickles agreed that the policies in the NPPF come into play "unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits".
Elsewhere, the letter said Pickles agreed that while there would be no material change of use from agricultural land to allotments, the change of use of part of green belt land to sports pitches, and the engineering works associated with that, "would be inappropriate development which would be harmful by definition and should not be approved except in very special circumstances." However, the letter added that "very special circumstances exist to justify the inappropriate development proposed in the green belt.
The letter concluded: "The secretary of state concludes that the proposal represents sustainable development, the adverse impacts of which would not significantly and demonstratively outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the framework as a whole. He is satisfied that it would help to make up the shortfall in the five-year supply of housing land in Harlow and that very special circumstances exist to justify the inappropriate development proposed in the green belt."
The decision letter (DCS Number 100-079-743) can be purchased from DCS Ltd (tel) 01452 835820 or email firstname.lastname@example.org