The fundamental issue for the inspector was whether the protected open land status of the appeal site was sufficient reason to refuse the new homes when there was an accepted need for housing in the area. The council’s adopted local plan policies designated the appeal site as protected open land and also aimed to concentrate development in the town centre and on other sites in the existing urban area. These served the purpose of protecting the urban fringe of the settlement and encouraged the re-use of brownfield land. However, because of the council’s housing land shortfall, they could only show around a three-year supply of housing land, the inspector held he could only afford limited weight to the adopted policies, particularly as the site was an open field not designated for its landscape value and had no protected assets. The inspector therefore engaged the balancing exercise set out in paragraph 11 of the NPPF with the presumption in favour of sustainable development representing a material consideration outweighing the conflict with the development plan spatial strategy and policies to protect the character and appearance of the area that he had identified.
An award of costs against the council was refused, the fact that council members reached a different decision from their officer’s was not unreasonable, according to the inspector, especially as their decision was reasoned and evidenced.
Inspector: B Bowker; Hearing