Harm to AONB paramount in settlement edge housing scheme refusal

Two linked proposals for 30 and 72 homes in open countryside on the edge of a historic village in an area of outstanding natural beauty in Berkshire were refused for their significant landscape harm, less than substantial harm to the adjoining conservation area and loss of local green infrastructure.

Amongst other issues, the determining factors in the case were the impacts of the proposals on landscape character in the AONB and on the setting of the adjoining conservation area. The inspector also considered the issue of whether the larger scheme, being agreed as "major development" in the AONB, could be allowed as an exceptional circumstance as per paragraph 116 of the NPPF.

The site and adjoining village had been "washed over " by the AONB designation and the inspector held this to be an important factor in the landscape context of the site in its agrarian relationship with the adjoining historic settlement. Although the site was already well screened and extensive new planting proposed, he felt both the proposals would still be visible, particularly in winter months, and would ultimately detract from the landscape beauty of the area.

In relation to the heritage assets affected, the inspector felt the site formed a key interface between the historic village and the open countryside at the very boundary of the conservation area causing less than substantial harm. He did not feel this harm would be overcome by the benefits of the new market and affordable homes (40 per cent) proposed.

Ultimately he concluded, regardless of the housing land supply position, specific policies in the NPPF and development plan aimed at protecting landscape character and heritage assets were being breached. This conclusion significantly diminished any suggestion that exceptional circumstances existed justifying the larger scheme.

Inspector: David Morgan; Inquiry

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