Community led plan fails to prevent village expansion

A community-led plan in Somerset was relevant in his determination of an appeal involving 41 houses, an inspector concluded, but it should not be used as a means of preventing otherwise acceptable development.

The site comprised a field on the edge of the village and the council accepted that it could not demonstrate a five year supply of housing. Nonetheless, it asserted that the creation of a housing estate would adversely affect the character of the area and users of a public right of way which crossed the land. It was also concerned about the limited facilities within the village and relatively infrequent bus service. These objections were supported by some villages who stated that the community-led plan supported smaller scale developments of up to 10 houses and consequently the planned expansion was excessive and contrary to locally agreed policy.

The community-led plan was a material consideration, the inspector accepted, but it did not overrule the need to determine the appeal in accordance with the development plan. Moreover, the government had also highlighted the need for local communities to act responsibly in preparing plans for their areas and which also took into account future housing need.

The scheme, by providing 16 affordable units, would increase the supply of housing to those in need while the 25 open market units would also boost supply. The fact that the character of an open field would be altered was not of overriding concern given the council’s acceptance that greenfield land would be required to meet housing targets. Similarly, although the site was not as accessible as one within a town centre, there was access to a pub, shop, post office, primary school and village hall and consequently it comprised a sustainable location for the scale of development proposed.

In so finding the inspector refused to make an award of costs in favour of the appellants. The planning application had been recommended for approval but the council’s statement had highlighted the potential visual impact on the character of the area and the setting of the village. This was a matter of judgement which it was entitled to take. Similarly, it had provided evidence on the issue of sustainability and had not relied on public opposition without being able to substantiate its two main reasons for refusal.

Inspector John Wilde; Hearing

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