Harm to setting of village trumps need for affordable housing

An outline proposal for 41 dwellings on the edge of an Oxfordshire town was refused for harm to the character and appearance of the area outweighing the benefits of the new homes, including 35 per cent affordable ones.

Firstly, the inspector considered the appropriateness of the site for housing in relation to the local plan spatial strategy policies. Part of the site was previously developed land comprising an isolated farmstead, but the majority was not. The inspector considered the river valley side site related more to the neighbouring countryside around the town than the built-up area. On this basis, he did not feel it met any of the exceptions to the spatial strategy set out in the local plan, despite the area being considered a sustainable location in terms of access to services.

In terms of impact on character, the inspector held the open landscape of the site reflected the character of the countryside to the west and made a significant contribution to the rural character of the setting of the town. Against the surrounding woodland and the expansive open fields near the site, the development would appear in public views as an urbanising incursion of the town into the agricultural landscape of the countryside which provided its distinctive setting. This, the inspector concluded, would conflict with the local plan policy which aimed to conserve or enhance intrinsic character of the local landscape and village setting. This conflict was sufficient in terms of environmental harm to outweigh the social and economic benefits of the scheme, despite the significant need for affordable housing in the area.

Inspector: Patrick Whelan; Hearing

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