The first scheme was for 180 residential units on a 7.4 hectare site and the second was for 140 units on a 4.8 hectare site. Both schemes were on class 3b agricultural land at a farm on the approach to a settlement identified as a key service centre. However, although both sites were located in the countryside the schemes would not appear isolated as they would be set opposite an existing ribbon of housing and other development and would be well screened by hedgerows in the wider landscape, preserving the character and appearance of the surrounding rural area.
The relevant local plan policies on housing land supply were out of date and a significant shortfall in the 5 year supply, with only 3.1 years identified, engaged the presumption in favour of sustainable development. The secretary of state considered that the housing provided by the developments in a sustainable location would be a substantial benefit that would comply with national planning policy. Whilst there would be a loss of countryside, the secretary of state agreed with his inspector’s view that both developments could be satisfactorily landscaped and considered that they would not cause harm to the character and appearance of the area. When assessed against the NPPF as a whole, he concluded the schemes would comprise sustainable development, provide a good mix of housing including affordable, and that their benefits would significantly outweigh any adverse impacts.
However the secretary of state was only minded to approve the 140 unit component as he had identified deficiencies in the unilateral undertaking submitted as it was neither the original or a certified copy; the space provided to date the undertaking on the first page had been left blank; and the annexed plans had not been signed by the parties to the undertaking.
Inspector: Julia Gregory; recovered appeal