Editor's pick: Community plan prospect blocks housing release

The secretary of state has rejected an inspector's advice to allow up to 350 dwellings and a local centre in a Wiltshire town, finding that the need to address the housing land shortfall is outweighed by the desirability of supporting community-led planning.

The secretary of state agreed with the inspector’s view that there was only 4.1 years’ housing land supply in the housing market area, so the National Planning Policy Framework requirement for a deliverable five-year supply was not met. However, he accepted that this figure might alter as a result of further work on the core strategy. He also found that the site’s capacity to accommodate 350 dwellings was greater than needed to make good the five-year supply.

While agreeing with the inspector that the site would be of an appropriate size to help to meet the area’s outstanding requirement for the plan period as a whole, he considered that it would be inappropriate to permit its release now given the stage of preparation of an area neighbourhood plan.

The secretary of state agreed with the inspector that, although the development would be outside the limits of development as originally defined in the local plan, the harm caused would be limited to the principle of development beyond the urban boundary as currently defined. He agreed that the scheme would cause little tangible harm to the countryside’s visual character or other important qualities.

He also agreed that the development limits in the local plan should now be considered out of date and that, due to the land supply shortfall, greater weight should be given to housing needs than to upholding out-of-date development limits. However, he disagreed with the inspector that the desirability of entrusting decisions to community-led planning and encouraging neighbourhood plans was outweighed in this instance by the need to rectify the land supply shortfall.

He paid regard to the stage of preparation of the neighbourhood plan, the content of the consultation statement, the quality and effectiveness of the three consultations carried out prior to submission of the plan, evidence of local support for the plan and the fact that the site came second bottom in a site preference exercise. He gave significant weight to the opportunity presented by the neighbourhood plan process for local people to ensure they get the right types of development for their community.

Inspector: John Felgate; Inquiry

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