Whether a five-year housing land supply existed was the inspector’s first main concern. After favouring the Sedgefield method for dealing with past shortfalls, removing draft allocations, adjusting lead times and build rates, the inspector held the housing supply stood at less than five years and rendered the council’s housing policies out of date. Paragraph 14 of the NPPF therefore applied.
In considering the landscape impact of the scheme, the inspector felt the interplay of the land form, the winding river course, and the mosaic of different land cover types, with water bodies, woodlands, tree groups, and open spaces, all combined to create a landscape that was both distinctive and attractive and worthy of being treated as a valued landscape. He disagreed with the appellant’s argument that the 2004 adopted local landscape designation policy affecting the site was out of date, saying that it was a saved policy which did not conflict with the NPPF and was not about housing supply in any event.
As the proposal would result in the loss of around nine per cent of a designated wildlife corridor and a similar amount of a biological notification site, loss of grassland habitats and aquatic margins, the inspector found harm to wildlife, ecology and biodiversity which would not be adequately compensated for by the proposed replacement linear park as it would mean a loss of quality over quantity. He found conflict with the local plan and NPPF which looked to compensatory biodiversity measures only as a last resort. He concluded the adverse impacts of the scheme on landscape and wildlife demonstrably outweighed the benefits of the new homes to the local shortfall.
Inspector: John Felgate; Inquiry