Brokenshire overrules inspector to dismiss South Oxfordshire 120-home appeal

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has overruled an inspector's recommendation and refused permission for 120 homes in South Oxfordshire after giving "very significant weight" to a recently-made neighbourhood plan.

Secretary of state James Brokenshire
Secretary of state James Brokenshire

In his 11th planning decision since taking on the housing brief at the end of April and the first that conflicts with an inspector's advice, Brokenshire ruled that the applicant’s proposals did not accord with the local development plan and the appeal should be dismissed.

South Oxfordshire District Council refused permission in May 2017 for up to 120 homes, of which 40 percent would be affordable, on a site in the village of Benson. Applicant RJ & S Styles appealed the decision and a public inquiry was held over four days from 20 February 2018.

Inspector John Felgate recommended that the appeal be allowed and planning permission be granted. He concluded that paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework, known as the ‘tilted balance’, applied due to the council’s lack of the required five-year housing land supply, as well as the absence of relevant development plan documents and the "out-datedness" of the housing policies in the 2012 South Oxfordshire Core Strategy.

However, the secretary of state ruled that the appeal be dismissed, noting that the council has since demonstrated a five-year housing land supply, is bringing forward new allocations and policies in a replacement local plan, and that the Benson neighbourhood plan allocates a number of sites for housing.

RJ & S Styles and South Oxfordshire District Council had agreed that housing sites amounting to 4.1 years’ supply had been identified. Then, in April 2018, the council published a revised housing land supply figure of 5.4 years. The applicant disputed whether the figure was accurate but the secretary of state accepted a five-year land supply had been demonstrated.

The Benson neighbourhood plan, which at the time of the inquiry was at examination stage but was adopted on 28 June, "seeks to resist proposals on unallocated sites outside the existing built up area". The inspector gave this "significant weight" while the secretary of state attached "very significant weight" to this conflict.

Brokenshire ruled that "the relevant policies in the development plan are not silent or absent or out of date on the matter of housing allocations in respect of Benson, and considers that the tilted balance does not apply".

He concluded the application was not in accordance with the development plan and that planning permission should be refused.

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