The conservation area comprised a narrow valley which contained six surviving flint mills, their watercourses, mill ponds, weirs and sluices including adjacent fields and woodlands. It had a distinctly rural quality the inspector decided, rejecting a claim by the appellants that it had a more suburban character due to its proximity to a town. In his opinion it had a tranquil and unspoilt quality which was particularly noticeable at night, with a pervasive darkness, remoteness and peaceful solitude. In his opinion the planned housing would appear as an intrusive and incongruous urban projection into the open setting of the conservation area. This would also be harmful to the setting of a listed mill, the inspector concluding that its conversion to residential had not diminished its importance as part of the wider industrial complex.
Turning to housing land supply the inspector noted a suggestion by the appellants that the buffer should also be applied to the backlog, since the national planning policy framework and the practice guidance provided no advice on this matter. In preferring the Sedgefield approach to assessing future supply the inspector determined that the council had made a cautious and through assessment of how many houses could be delivered. Irrespective of whether the buffer was applied to the backlog the council was able to demonstrate an adequate supply of housing. As a consequence paragraphs 49 and 14 of the framework were not engaged and relevant policies for the supply of housing were not out of date. In so concluding considerable weight was given to the need to protect the setting of heritage assets.
Inspector: Anthony Lyman; Inquiry