Distribution strategy not compromised by outstripping rural development targets

An outline proposal for 130 dwellings on the edge of a rural settlement in Somerset has been approved to boost the supply of housing in the area despite nearly a 20 per cent increase in the size of the village and conflict with the locational policies of the adopted plan.

The scheme would extend the village, a lowest tier settlement in the council's distribution strategy where development was restricted to that which met identified housing needs only, by nearly 20 per cent. The inspector held this would be a significant increase in the size of the village, being a greater number than any requirement in all but one of the higher order centres above it in the plan hierarchy. And whilst the proposal would provide for 35 per cent affordable housing which was above that identified as being needed in the parish, the inspector accepted the whole scheme would greatly exceed the scale of development that would be necessary to meet identified need overall. However, he noted the village did meet the policy requirement regarding access to at least two listed services.

The inspector ultimately concluded the proposal was not policy compliant. However, the council had not alleged the proposal would cause any harm to the character and appearance of the area, so the inspector did not address this issue. The council had expressed concern that their overall distribution strategy might be compromised as more housing had been built already in the rural areas than was required in the strategy. The inspector discounted this concern, stating that the increase was slight and the overall housing targets were minimums, so the proposal would not prejudice the strategy overall as there was still half of the plan period to go. A four-year supply of housing land in the area triggered paragraph 11(d) of the NPPF and the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The inspector found that the proposal would not prejudice the overall distribution strategy and that it would have a reasonable degree of accessibility by sustainable means of transport. He gave limited weights to the conflict with the development plan and to the harms identified. He concluded the limited weights were not sufficient to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the significant weight afforded to the benefits of the new homes. 

Inspector: Nick Palmer; Inquiry

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