Homes blocked after passing habitat test

A conflict with national policy on sustainable transport has led to dismissal of plans for up to 225 homes outside a Kent village, despite findings that the integrity of internationally protected habitats would not be undermined.

The site lay close to estuaries and marshes designated as a special protection area (SPA) under the European Union habitats directive and a Ramsar site. Natural England had confirmed that, subject to appropriate mitigation, the proposal was not likely to have a significant effect on these protected areas. However, the secretary of state, after recovering the appeal, then had to take into account this spring’s European Court of Justice ruling in People Over Wind and Sweetman v Coillte Teoranta, issued after the inquiry closed last winter.

He undertook his own screening exercise under the directive. This concluded that the proposal had potential to contribute towards a significant effect on the SPA and Ramsar site. He then carried out an appropriate assessment, which allowed him to "safely conclude" that the development, which included mitigation measures to alleviate recreational pressure,  would not adversely affect the integrity of any European protected habitat.

The secretary of state noted that under paragraph 177 of the NPPF, the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply to development requiring appropriate assessment, even though the parties agreed that there was no five-year supply of housing land in the area.

However, he disagreed with his inspector’s view that the scheme presented no intrinsic conflict with local policy requiring access by a range of transport modes, finding that this did not accord with paragraph 103 of the NPPF on promoting sustainable transport. Giving substantial weight to this policy conflict, he found no material considerations to indicate that the proposal should be determined other than in accordance with the development plan and dismissed the appeal.

Inspector: Matthew Nunn; Inquiry

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