The appeal site lay within AONB and Heritage Coast designations and notably included a former sand and clay extraction pit which had been given SSSI status due to its geological interest, with part of the quarry floor in use as a builder’s storage yard. The inspector noted the character of the appeal site was not typical of the surrounding landscape due to its previous use, but the part of the site surrounding the pit had blended in with the open landscape, and overall it had a sense of tranquillity similar to the adjacent estuary. The appellant suggested the character of the appeal site was strongly influenced by its proximity to the town and was not typical of the wider landscape. The inspector, however, while accepting that nearby housing provided part of the context of the site, the loss of openness and tranquillity would be harmful to the AONB and Heritage Coast, contrary to local policies and NPPF.
The inspector had regard to the NPPF stipulation that major development in an AONB should be refused other than in exceptional circumstances, recording a pressing need for more affordable dwellings to address the age imbalance of the population and enable local residents to remain in the area, given inflated local house prices and a high proportion of second homes within the town, but finding this situation common to many local authorities. As the scheme would provide only a policy-compliant level of affordable housing and the majority of the dwellings would be market housing, the benefits of affordable housing in this location did not amount to the exceptional circumstances necessary to justify major development within the AONB and outweigh the environmental harm. The inspector dismissed the appeal.
Inspector: Lesley Coffey; Inquiry