The Building Research Establishment (BRE) had appealed against the decision of St Albans City & District Council to refuse outline planning permission for the demolition of existing buildings and construction of the new homes, associated facilities and access at BRE’s site at Bucknalls Lane at Garston near Watford.
In 2000, an outline planning application for 50 homes on the site was refused by the then secretary of state for reasons including that the site was not considered to perform well in sustainability terms, with regard to access by means other than the car; and that the proposal was considered to be inappropriate development in the green belt.
Following a public inquiry, an inspector recommended that the latest plans for the site be approved. A decision letter issued on behalf of Pickles today said the secretary of state agreed with this decision.
The letter said Pickles noted that the proposals are for the redevelopment of a previously developed site and agreed with the inspector "that the conclusion that the appeal proposal is not inappropriate development and is not harmful to the green belt is reasonable".
The letter said that Pickles agreed with the inspector that the council does not have a five year supply of housing land, "and that there is an acute need for housing (including affordable housing) within the district".
He also shared the inspector’s view "that these are circumstances where National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 49 sets out that relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date".
The letter added: "The secretary of state further agrees: that the proposed development would contribute to the identified unmet housing need within the district and in addition much needed affordable housing would also be included as part of the development; that both these factors should weigh positively in the balance of the decision; and that the presumption in favour of sustainable development as set out in the [NPPF] applies in this case".
The letter said that, in terms of sustainability, the distance of the site from a train station did "weigh against the proposal", but that this represented "limited harm".
Overall, the letter concluded: "[Pickles] has found ... that the distance to Bricket Wood train station and services beyond, along with the limitation of bus services late into the evening and at the weekend weigh against the proposal.
"However, overall he concludes, like the inspector, that the proposed development has been shown to be sustainable development and that there would be few adverse impacts in allowing the appeal and granting planning permission".