The scheme included a range of employment, education, open space and ancillary retail development. After weighing the evidence and the results of cross-examination, the inspector decided that an annotated area on the proposals map simply reflected an extant consent for housing development on part of the appeal site, including a golf course and open space. She found that the map key and references in the local plan text made clear that this part of the site was viewed as a committed development, but the remaining area lay within the countryside.
A masterplan proposal to develop almost 35 hectares of this area would comprise a major incursion into the countryside and largely engulf a hamlet, she noted. In her view, this would undermine an emerging spatial strategy for smaller settlements and the borough’s rural area, prejudicing future distribution through a site allocations plan.
The council acknowledged that it could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land using the traditional methodology. But it proposed that by addressing the shortfall over eight rather than five years, an adequate supply could be provided. This approach appeared to have been accepted by an inspector undertaking an examination into its draft local plan, it pointed out. The secretary of state agreed that the council’s estimate of supply was to be preferred.
He also accepted that the potential need for more homes as a consequence of construction of High Speed Two was a matter for the development plan process and carried no weight in determining the appeal. While ruling that the presumption in favour of sustainable development applied because some adopted local plan policies were out of date, he concluded that significant harm, including the fact that the scheme was premature ahead of a new local plan, outweighed the benefits.
Inspector: Claire Sherratt; Inquiry