Settlement boundary breach unsustainable development

Outline planning permission for up to 140 dwellings in Hampshire was judged to represent an unsustainable form of development since it lay outside a settlement boundary and would adversely impact on the character of the area.

The council was able to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land and both parties therefore agreed that in applying paragraph 14 of the NPPF it was necessary to assess simply whether the benefits outweighed the harm. The appellant argued that the breach of the settlement boundary was simply a minor or technical breach in a location with good accessibility to a wide range of services and employment opportunities.

An inspector decided that the settlement boundary had an important function. It sought to protect the countryside and direct development to the most sustainable locations. In his opinion therefore the breach was more than minor in nature, a point which had been confirmed by one of his colleagues when examining the local plan. The scheme would bring about a complete change in the landscape character of the two fields that comprised the site. Buffer planting would not mitigate the loss of open landscape over time and although a scheme for up to 320 dwellings and an extra care facility on an adjoining site would alter the site’s physical context, the inspector decided that this did not lessen the weight attributed to the landscape and visual effects.

Turning to the social and economic benefits the appellant’s offer that 50 per cent of the houses would be affordable attracted only moderate weight. The local plan inspector had accepted that the council was not able to meet in full the affordable housing needs of its area. Increasing the amount of open market housing would lead the plan to becoming undeliverable and unsound, the local plan inspector had concluded, and this remained relevant. Nor was the site well located to meet the bulk of the current housing need for affordable units, the appeal inspector concluded. The harmful impacts outweighed the benefits and the appeal was dismissed.

Inspector: David Prentis; Inquiry

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