The proposal involved redevelopment of 3.2 hectares of redundant and rundown buildings on part of the Building Research Establishment campus on the fringe of a village. The appellant argued that it would have no greater impact on openness than existing buildings and would improve the position due to its decreased scale and improved layout.
All parties recognised an acute shortfall in the area’s five-year housing supply, particularly for much needed affordable housing. The secretary of state shared the inspector’s view that, in light of paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework, relevant housing policies could not be considered up to date, so the presumption in favour of sustainable development applied.
The secretary of state agreed with the inspector that a design could be achieved that would not harm the area’s character and would not undermine the spatial distinction between two nearby villages or their character of. He identified some concerns over the site’s distance from a train station and limited provision of bus services. However, he was satisfied that the site’s overall sustainability was positive, concluding that new residents would still have real travel choices.
He also noted that the proposal would add to the vibrancy of the local community, open up new rights of way and enhance the local economy through job creation and support for local services and businesses. On balance, he concluded that the proposal would not be inappropriate or harmful to the green belt, while the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the significant unmet need for housing were persuasive and weighty factors in favour of granting permission.
Inspector: Frances Mahoney; Inquiry