County growth deal cited in urban edge decision

Conflict with strategic locational and landscape policies has led to dismissal of outline plans for 245 homes on the edge of Reading, despite the Oxfordshire council concerned being unable to show a five-year housing land supply.

The council’s overall housing strategy, dating from 2012, directed development to other settlements in the district rather than the appeal location, which fell within an area of restraint. The inspector first considered whether the tilted balance in paragraph 11(d) of the NPPF applied in relation to existing local plan policies and the area’s housing land supply position. He determined that the strategic policy itself was not out of date, even though related policies referring to housing numbers were out of date because they were based on housing requirements in the former regional plan.

He noted that the site was not supported through the emerging local plan being prepared as part of the growth deal for the Oxfordshire authorities. He also referred to September’s written ministerial statement introducing flexibility in housing requirements in Oxfordshire for the short term, in order to facilitate enhanced longer-term housing growth in the county in a fully planned fashion.

In considering the housing land supply situation, the inspector concluded that a three-year supply could be shown using a five per cent buffer against underdelivery and taking into account unmet needs from the city of Oxford. He felt that a 20 per cent buffer was unnecessary, as any potential shortfall calculated was not significant. He also remarked that the government’s forthcoming housing delivery test would result in a three-year provision being achieved. On this basis, he concluded, the tilted balance was not engaged.

The weight afforded to the conflict with the development plan proved pivotal. The inspector judged that harm arising from the scale of the development on the setting of an AONB some 750 metres away and the area’s general appearance and character indicated further conflict with the adopted plan’s landscape policies. The balance of overall harm outweighed the scheme’s very significant benefits in contributing to the area’s housing needs, he concluded.

Inspector: Nick Palmer; Inquiry

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