The council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land resulting in paragraph 14 of the NPPF being engaged. Nevertheless, the inspector found the cumulative harms of the scheme outweighed the benefits of the new homes.
In coming to this decision, the inspector considered the proposed housing layout would see the loss of a characteristic tree and hedgerow lined ditch, which although common in the AONB, was still a significant and landscape feature reinforcing local distinctiveness. Neither did he feel the layout reflected the prevailing pattern of development of the adjoining village, but rather appeared as very suburban. Overall, harm to the character of the AONB would result.
The inspector also found an absence of information through species specific surveys about biodiversity interests at the site regarding dormice, slow worms and grass snake habitats, making it impossible to be certain that the proposal would not result in harm to biodiversity as per paragraph 118 of the NPPF. He also found the lack of parking for certain plots on the site would result in on-street parking pressure near the entrance to the site resulting in concerns about highway safety.
Lastly, he found the mix of affordable housing dwellings proposed would not address the need for three bed houses as set out in the local housing needs register, as it only proposed one and two bed flats. Whilst not strictly contrary to local plan policy wording, the inspector did feel this aspect contravened chapter 6 of the NPPF.
Inspector: Cullum J A Parker; Hearing