Valued landscape policy held no bar on homes

Concerns over substantial harm to landscape character and the rural setting of a Buckinghamshire town have led to dismissal of outline plans for 175 homes, despite a housing land supply shortfall.

The main issues covered impact on landscape character, the setting of an adjoining area of outstanding natural beauty, coalescence between settlements, whether the council could show a five-year supply of housing land and whether the site could be regarded as a valued landscape for the purposes of  paragraph 109 of the NPPF.

The inspector considered that the judgment in Stroud District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2015] suggested that a site’s landscape value might be due to its relationship with adjacent land, rather than on its own merits. She noted that the appeal site was seen in the context of an adjoining AONB and site of special scientific interest which ultimately, in her view, afforded its valued landscape status.

While affording weight to this element, she felt that stating that a site is part of a valued landscape does not amount to a specific policy requirement for development to be restricted. In her view, paragraph 109’s requirement for the planning system to contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment "by protecting and enhancing valued landscapes" comprises an aspiration rather than a restriction.

On that basis, she decided, the tilted balance in the first limb of paragraph 14 of the NPPF still applied. She concluded that moderate to substantial adverse harm to the area’s landscape character and the town’s rural setting, along with some limited harm to the setting of the AONB, cumulatively outweighed the scheme’s benefits, despite the acknowledged need for more homes in the area.

Inspector: Karen Ridge: Inquiry

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