Neighbourhood passed as gap harm held limited

A neighbourhood comprising up to 680 homes, a local centre and associated infrastructure has been allowed in the Hampshire countryside against a local gap policy.

The development plan consisted of the saved policies of an out-of-date local plan. The intended replacement had only reached issues and options stage and attracted little weight. The local plan included the 45 hectares of urban fringe pasture land in a designated local gap, so the scheme conflicted with policy preventing its physical or visual reduction.

However, the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land, reducing the weight that could be accorded to the local gap policy. The parties essentially agreed on the approach required by the NPPF, as interpreted by the courts, that if policies are out-of-date the presumption in favour of sustainable development in paragraph 14 applies but the final weight to be given to policies is for the decision-maker.

Having regard to an independent landscape study forming part of the evidence base for the emerging local plan, the inspector found that the weight attributable to the appeal scheme’s conflict with the local gap policy should be reduced. He found a lack of harm to the identity of settlements, limited viewpoints from which harm to the local gap could be experienced, a significant landscape buffer to complement a railway line separation and a precedent in the shape of other development allocated in local gaps.

After recovering the appeal, the secretary of state agreed with these findings. He concluded that the moderate weight attributable to landscape harm and loss of countryside should not outweigh the benefits of a significant contribution towards meeting housing need.

Inspector: David Nicholson; Inquiry

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