Poorly connected neighbourhood rejected

Up to 80 houses on land outside a Bedfordshire town were rejected by an inspector who decided the outline proposals would not achieve an accessible neighbourhood and housing needs were being met on other sites in the area.

The council’s refusal referred to the housing scheme as not being sustainable development because the site lay in open countryside outside of the settlement envelope and an absence of direct footpath and cycleway connections would lead to a development heavily dependent upon car journeys. The appellant challenged the council’s five-year housing supply and assessment of need, considering the settlement envelope policy out of date as the most important for determining the application and so triggering the NPPF titled balance.

On the issue of housing need and land supply, the inspector did not find compelling evidence to justify overturning the full objectively assessed housing need figure provided by the SHMA and even when excluding a site intended to contribute to the unmet housing needs of a neighbouring authority, he was satisfied the council could still demonstrate a five-year supply.

In terms of accessibility, the inspector noted the only access to the site was at the furthest point from the town centre and local schools such that walking and cycling was not a convenient option, and the infrequent bus service would not provide a realistic alternative to private car use, despite the appellant’s assertions on these points and use of national guidelines. He also considered that the residents of the proposal would not easily interact with the rest of the town, a requirement of paragraph 91 of the NPPF. Overall the inspector concluded development would not achieve an accessible sustainable neighbourhood and gave substantial weight to this weakness of the scheme. He decided the benefits arising from the 80 houses and 35 per cent affordable homes did not outweigh the harm to the development plan and dismissed the appeal.

Inspector: Melvyn Middleton; Inquiry

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