Blanket ban on countryside housing restriction lifted

Despite a local planning authority's claims to the contrary, an inspector has ruled that two local plan policies failed to accord with national planning policy and allowed an appeal for up to 110 dwellings on the edge of a village in Derbyshire.

The council accepted that a five-year supply of housing land could not be demonstrated but nonetheless stated that an environment policy could be given significant weight in determining whether housing in the countryside was permissible. The policy stated that the character of the countryside should be protected and this was consistent with a housing policy which sought to direct new development to within settlement limits. On this basis the protection of the countryside was not directly related to housing land supply, it asserted.

During cross-examination of the council’s witnesses it was accepted that the need to improve housing supply would mean that some land outside existing settlement boundaries would be needed and its housing policy was therefore restrictive in nature. The national planning policy framework sought to significantly boost the supply of housing land and any policy which sought to protect the countryside for its own sake was clearly intended to be used as restricting supply. It was an attempt to impose a ‘blanket ban’ on housing outside settlement limits and paragraph 49 of the framework sought to neutralise such restrictive practices.

Overall, the site occupied a sustainable location, the village being designated as a key service centre, with the impact on the character of the area and setting of the village being acceptable. The scheme would also deliver much needed affordable housing units and create jobs. In so concluding the inspector refused to make an award of costs in favour of the appellant, concluding that the council had provided sufficient information to justify its position and had undertaking an appropriate balancing exercise.

Inspector: Mike Fox; Inquiry

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