Javid approves 120 homes rejected by his predecessors for neighbourhood plan conflict

Sajid Javid has approved a 120-home scheme in a West Sussex neighbourhood plan area that was turned down by the two communities secretaries that preceded him.

The communities secretary Sajid Javid | David Devins
The communities secretary Sajid Javid | David Devins

Mid-Sussex District Council refused planning permission for the Sayers Common development in October 2012.

Developer Woodcock Holdings appealed the decision and a planning inspector subsequently recommended approval in January 2014.

However, the then communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles rejected the appeal that September, before the High Court quashed his decision in May 2015, ruling the minister placed too much weight on the importance of an emerging neighbourhood plan.

Pickles' successor Greg Clark reconsidered the case. But in February 2016, he also refused permission, saying that the scheme was in conflict with the Mid Sussex local plan and the Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common Parish 2031 neighbourhood plan. This decision was also quashed by the High Court in June 2016.

This led to a further inquiry, which led to an inspector recommending that the appeal be allowed. Yesterday, Javid said he has allowed the appeal and would grant planning permission.

One factor cited by Javid in his decision was a recent permission for 40 homes and an extra care home on part of the site. He agreed with inspector who had handled the most recent inquiry that this was "a fall-back position that did not exist when the appeal was previously considered".

He also agreed that this permission meant that the principle of building homes on much of the current appeal site had now been established. Similarly, he accepted that the impact of the 120 home scheme on the character of the area would now be significantly less than would have been the case at the time of the previous decisions.

Nonetheless, he found that the scheme was "not in accordance with the development plan overall". But he gave only moderate weight to its conflict with local plan and neighbourhood plan policies, on the grounds that these were based on out-of-date development boundaries.

He gave significant weight, however, to the social benefits of the proposal "in an area without a five year housing land supply".

He also gave significant weight "to the economic benefits in terms of employment opportunities during construction, expenditure by the occupants of the dwellings and the New Homes Bonus".

Overall, Javid concluded that the adverse impacts arising from the proposal did not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole.

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