Cherished village setting and quality of local environment compromised by housing plan

Despite winning an argument that a local authority in Berkshire could not demonstrate five years supply of housing land, an Inspector nonetheless rejected an appeal on the basis that it would significantly affect the setting and size of a village.

200-007-058 (Image Credit: Wokingham BC)
200-007-058 (Image Credit: Wokingham BC)

The council had attempted to demonstrate that after reviewing its procedures for assessing the supply of housing and after adding in a new site to the calculations that it had 5.1 years. It also asserted based on another appeal decision that there was no justification for adding in a 20% buffer to the back-log of housing caused by persistent under-delivery.

The inspector had some sympathy for the council’s position noting that developers and housebuilders should provide realistic predictions of delivery and scare public resources should not have to be used to teasing out information on option agreements and equalisation agreements. Nonetheless he concluded that the 20% buffer should be applied to past shortfalls since the aim was to ensure choice and that the need was met in full as soon as possible. Including an additional site within the calculations was partial in its approach since it did not move forward the base date for all sites. This was likely to result in an unreliable and unsound assessment.

The proposal exceeded 4ha and would result in a sizeable enlargement of the village and the extension to the settlement’s edge and encroachment into the countryside would detract from the immediate surrounds and the setting. The rural character of the site would be lost, the built development and human activity resulting in a distinct suburban form. The loss of a cherished rural border carried considerable weight in the planning balance together with its harm to the setting of grade II listed building. The environmental impacts meant that it did not comprise a sustainable form of development.

Inspector: Neil Pope; Inquiry

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