Housing held prudent use of natural resource

In granting outline permission for up to 135 dwellings on farmland in Devon, an inspector has noted that it would provide about 20 per cent of the council's annual housing supply needs.

Since the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites, the inspector decided that its housing supply policies could not be considered up to date. He applied the NPPF core principle that planning should recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside but found that the harm caused by the proposal would be limited.

The economic role of sustainable development is to ensure that sufficient land of the right type is available in the right places and at the right time to support growth, he remarked. He considered that the proposal, being greenfield, would not be of the right type. Nor did he think it would it be in the right place, being adjacent to but outside a local centre, thus exacerbating its lack of self-containment.

Even so, he noted that the council’s policies would permit development of a greenfield site for housing where there was a need to increase the supply of land to meet strategic housing requirements. The conflict with these elements of the economic role of sustainable development therefore need not be fatal to the proposal, he reasoned.

He considered that the site would be available at the right time, given the housing land supply shortfall, and that the scheme would be coordinated with development requirements, including the provision of infrastructure, through a planning obligation, The proposal would therefore fulfil the economic role of sustainable development, he found.

He had no doubt about the scheme’s ability to fulfil the social role of sustainable development, as it would contribute to the supply of housing required to meet the needs of present and future generations. Also, nothing in the outline proposal suggested to him that it would not create a high-quality built environment.

Despite the need to travel, he accepted that local services reflecting the community’s needs would be easily accessible by a variety of transport modes. In addition, he was satisfied that great care had been taken through an environment statement to protect and even enhance the natural environment. While recognising some inevitable loss of countryside to built development, the limited harm caused suggested to him that the scheme amounted to a prudent use of a natural resource.

Inspector: Paul Clark; Inquiry

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