Village homes blocked in top landscape

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 main parties agreed that the council could only demonstrate four years' supply of housing land. Local residents argued that the supply backlog should be spread over the whole local plan period, thus providing a supply of more than five years. The inspector found no justification for this approach and concluded that the council could not demonstrate an adequate supply.

He noted that the core strategy identified the village as having potential to accommodate between 51 and 150 dwellings and allocated an additional 70 dwellings to it. The appeal proposal would equate to less than half this allocation and just one-fifth of the settlement's maximum growth potential, he calculated.

The inspector rejected objectors' assertions that the scheme should be classified as major development, thus engaging the provision in paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework that development in nationally designated landscapes should be refused unless there are exceptional circumstances and approval is in the public interest.

However, he 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 an 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 a road, he observed.

He found that connections between the site and the village would be acceptable and that no adverse impact on existing residents would result.

However, in refusing permission, he questioned 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

Comment The dispute between the main parties and concerned residents over the basis on which the district's housing land supply should be calculated also raised the issue of whether historic rates of windfall permissions would persist. Residents pointed out that even in recent months, the area's historically high rate of windfall consents had been maintained. However, the inspector endorsed the council's view that windfalls represented a "finite resource" of housing consents and could not be relied upon to continue, given the significant environmental and infrastructure constraints facing the district.

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