Heritage assets and local biodiversity sufficiently safeguarded in housing approval

49 new homes on the edge of a village in Essex were allowed as sustainable development in an area of housing need with no adverse impacts identified with respect to heritage assets and local biodiversity.

The council had conceded that they did not have a five-year housing land supply on the day of the inquiry following the decision of an allowed appeal in the same district. The inspector went on to consider whether any adverse impacts of the proposal would outweigh the benefits in terms of impact on heritage assets and local biodiversity.

The site abutted a grade II registered park and garden and could be seen in the context of a conservation area in the historic core of the village. Whereas the main parties in the appeal had agreed there would be less than substantial harm to the significance of these assets, the inspector disagreed and felt there would be no harm, the change of use of the field not detracting from their significance and the integrity of the assets remaining undiminished. He held the proposed housing would accord with the development plan and NPPF in this respect.

In terms of biodiversity, the inspector again found no adverse impacts, despite the loss of some trees and resident European Protected Species such as bats, dormice, slow worms and grass snakes, at the site. A statement of common ground between appellant and council had agreed measures to address the bats and reptiles but disagreement existed over the measures to protect dormice. The inspector held that as only one dormouse had been recorded in 2016, the proposed measures put forward by the appellant including further hedgerow and native wild flower planting, would be sufficient to conserve the population at the very least and again concluded on policy compliance. In the absence of any adverse impacts form the proposal, the inspector found the benefits of the housing paramount.

Inspector: Cullum J Parker; Inquiry

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