Employment land protected in face of out-of-date housing policy

Redevelopment of a part of a trading estate with 125 houses in a Northumberland town was rejected by an inspector who found loss of employment and conflict with neighbourhood plan policy overriding.

Reviewing the weight to be attached to development plan housing policies, the inspector found no relevant saved policies in the local plan and the core strategy out of date. He therefore decided the tilted balance of NPPF paragraph 11(d) applied to his decision and the main issue was whether or not the adverse impacts of allowing the proposed housing development, including in respect of the effect on the supply of employment land, would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the scheme.

A neighbourhood plan which had been made after the council had refused permission for the outline scheme made provision for around 1,100 new dwellings but did not put a specific cap on numbers. However, the plan also set out a policy preventing redevelopment of main industrial areas such as the appeal site for non-employment uses. The inspector noted that although the appellants made representations to the neighbourhood plan examination that the site had no reasonable prospect of continued employment use, the examiner found no substantive evidence to conclusively demonstrate this.

The inspector found the council could show a healthy 9.8 years of housing land supply and gave limited weight to the boost to market housing supply in his decision, although he gave significant weight to a policy-compliant level of affordable housing because it would be likely to benefit people living in the town. Of further benefit would be construction jobs and support for the local economy and use of brownfield land. Set against this the inspector decided the significant conflict with the neighbourhood plan and loss of employment land, as well as possible prejudice to employment uses on the remaining areas of the estate, outweighed the benefits of the scheme and he dismissed the appeal.

Inspector: Nick Palmer; Inquiry

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