Mixed scheme approved in ancient woodland

The secretary of state has granted permission for a mixed development in Kent in line with an inspector's recommendation that its benefits clearly outweigh a small loss of irreplaceable habitat.

200-004-239 (Image Credit: Barton Willmore LLP)
200-004-239 (Image Credit: Barton Willmore LLP)

The outline application proposed up to 500 dwellings, including affordable homes, and safeguarded land for an education facility and a community centre. The council could not demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, the secretary of state recorded. While the exact access route would only be decided at reserved matters stage, he found that at worst it would result in an absolute loss of 0.03 hectares of ancient woodland, equating to only 1.8 per cent of the designated area.

He recognised that the loss of ancient woodland would technically infringe an adopted local plan policy requiring the retention, without qualification, of trees and woodland. However, he agreed with the inspector that the ecological effects of the "worst case" access option would be acceptable, despite the minor loss.

The secretary of state concluded that as the relevant policies for the supply of housing in the development plan were out of date, the proposal should be tested against paragraph 14 of the NPPF. The social and economic benefits of the new homes would be very significant, he judged.

In his view, the scheme’s effect on landscape character would be acceptable and lead to a positive overall environmental balance. The harm to biodiversity would not be significant and paragraph 118 of the NPPF did not indicate that development should be restricted, he found. Overall, he decided that the proposal’s significant benefits would not be outweighed at all, let alone significantly or demonstrably, by the limited adverse impacts.

Inspector: Paul Clark; Inquiry

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