Cumulative effect of housing would erode significant gap

An outline scheme for 32 dwellings in rural Worcestershire was rejected, an inspector deciding that it would erode the gap between a village and a town.

The site was a field of just over two hectares that was located a short distance from the main built-up part of the village. To the northeast of the site there was a slightly larger field that was also in the control of the appellant and which benefited from outline planning permission for residential development. The appeal site was included within an area of open and essentially undeveloped land between the village and the town identified as a significant gap in the local plan. The purpose of the policy was essentially to control the shape and prevent the coalescence of the two settlements, the inspector judged, rather than to protect any particular landscape qualities other than openness. He acknowledged that the site represented less than one per cent of the total area of the gap, and was located on the edge of that policy designation. He also considered that, provided that the dwellings were not excessive in scale and that existing vegetation around the site was retained, the proposal would be largely screened from vantage points both nearby and further away in the surrounding area. He reasoned, however, that a series of inconspicuous developments within the gap would cumulatively lead to the harmful erosion of it meaning that lack of visibility would neither reduce the harm caused to the policy objective nor diminish the weight to be attached to that harm.

The inspector concluded that the erection of 32 dwellings on the site, in combination with the adjoining permitted development, would have a substantial adverse impact on the open and essentially undeveloped character of the land between the village and the town. The council acknowledged that it could not demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites as required by national policy. The inspector decided, however, that the environmental harm would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the economic and social benefits of the proposal.

Inspector: William Fieldhouse; Written representations

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