Homes approval on high-grade farmland upheld

An inspector's decision to approve plans for 330 homes in Shropshire has been upheld in a High Court case involving national policy protection for top-grade farmland.

The inspector (DCS Number 200-004-917) had concluded that the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land. He considered that the scheme’s impact on the setting of an historic park and garden was less than substantial and gave only modest weight to the loss of the best and most versatile (BMV) agricultural land.

In reaching his decision, the inspector rejected the council’s contention that paragraph 112 of the NPPF indicated that "development should be restricted" on BMV land within the meaning of paragraph 14 of the framework. Mrs Justice Lang considered that paragraph 112 does not fall within the remit of footnote 9 to paragraph 14, which says local plans should meet objectively assessed needs unless specific policies in the framework indicate that development should be restricted.

The judge reasoned that paragraph 112 is simply an instruction to take into account the economic and other benefits of the value of agricultural land and to prefer the use of lower-quality land if available and suitable. The language used in this paragraph is very different to the "specific policies" of restraint identified in footnote 9, she remarked.

In her view, the inspector had been entitled to take into account the council’s decision to grant permission for other developments on BMV land. She ruled that he had been correct in applying the weighted presumption in favour of sustainable development in paragraph 14, given that relevant policies in the development plan were out of date.

Telford and Wrekin Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Gladman Developments Ltd

Date: 1 December 2016

[2016] EWHC 3073 (Admin)

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