Landscape impact blocks homes despite shortfall

Adverse impacts on the High Weald area of outstanding natural beauty have prompted an inspector to refuse plans for up to 31 homes in an East Sussex village.

The council accepted that it could only demonstrate four years' supply of housing land. Local residents argued that a historic supply shortfall should be spread over the whole local plan period, thus providing a supply of more than five years. The inspector found no justification for distributing the housing backlog over the whole plan period and accepted the council’s recognition that it could not demonstrate an adequate supply.

He noted that the local plan identified the village as having potential to accommodate between 51 and 150 dwellings and that 70 dwellings had been allocated to it. The proposal would equate to less than half the allocation and one-fifth of the maximum growth potential for the settlement, he calculated.

He rejected objectors’ assertion that the scheme should be classified as major development, thus engaging paragraph 116 of the NPPF. This states that permission for such development should be refused unless there are exceptional circumstances and approval is in the public interest. He found that connections between the site and the village would be acceptable and that no adverse impact on existing residents would result.

However, the inspector recognised that the scheme’s impact on the area’s natural beauty was a material consideration. In his opinion, its proposed density would result in a particularly urban grain in a small irregularly shaped field. Trees and hedgerows would need to be removed to open up the site and the impact would be exacerbated if a bank was removed and a footway installed along the road, he observed.

He expressed doubts as to whether adequate on-site parking could be provided, inferring that the density of development was too high. He also found that the risk of surface water flooding had not been adequately examined and a sustainable drainage strategy had yet to be formulated.

Inspector: Kenneth Stone; Hearing

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