1 Home and school benefits support green belt release
Top of the pile was former communities secretary Sajid Javid’s decision in March to allow 295 new homes and a replacement secondary school on three separate green belt sites around Effingham, Surrey. Javid considered that the scheme’s educational and housing benefits outweighed harm to the green belt, a conservation area and the village’s rural context and loss of a green space. He gave substantial weight to the benefits of new market and affordable homes in the context of a district-wide housing supply of just over two years.
2 Garden village refused in fragmented green belt
In another case from the Surrey green belt, Javid’s successor James Brokenshire reached the opposite conclusion on the Drake Park garden village proposal, including up to 1,024 dwellings, near Walton-on-Thames in May. He accepted that there was little short-term prospect of a significant improvement in the council’s housing land supply, estimated at 2.65 years, as strategic sites in an emerging plan were unlikely to be delivered within five years. However, he was concerned that the proposal would cause significant harm to a narrow and already fragmented section of green belt.
3 Council secures costs as urban extension rejected
In June, Brokenshire awarded costs against the developers behind a 160-hectare urban extension on the allocated Lotmead Farm site outside Swindon, finding that their appeal had no reasonable prospect of success. He concluded that the scheme, which included 2,600 homes, was consistent with the design concept of a series of interconnected but distinct villages established by council policy, but failed to provide sustainable transport links, playing pitches and open spaces or to protect the setting of a scheduled ancient monument. The developers had sought to amend their proposals substantially during the appeal process, contrary to procedural guidance.
4 Barn conversion supported in light of isolation ruling
February’s decision to approve a barn conversion in an Essex hamlet was the most often downloaded of a number this year to discuss the court ruling in Braintree District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government , which held that remoteness from services and facilities does not define whether or not a new dwelling would be isolated. The inspector saw no conflict with paragraph 55 of the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework, since the site lay near existing dwellings.
5 Care community declared outside housing policies
In April, an inspector decided that general housing policies do not apply to 72 extra care units proposed on an unallocated site outside Buckingham. The council argued that the units formed part of general housing supply and the scheme, if approved, should make provision for affordable housing. But the inspector was satisfied that a unilateral undertaking restricting occupation to people over 55 and requiring a minimum care package would ensure the development functioned as a class C2 use, so an affordable housing contribution would not be justified.
6 Viability case justifies low affordable homes quota
Viability arguments justify allowing a very low level of affordable housing in a redevelopment scheme providing a replacement supermarket and 683 flats in Ilford town centre, Javid concluded in March. The council said the developers’ offer of just 27 affordable homes did not reflect the borough’s unmet needs and fell well below a 50 per cent strategic target. But Javid agreed that the developers’ detailed financial justification showed that this level of provision was the maximum reasonable amount the scheme could viably provide.
7= Eco-homes supported by isolated site court ruling
An inspector’s decision to allow nine eco-homes outside a Nottinghamshire village attracted a lot of hits when it was issued in January and still more after the council’s legal challenge was rejected in October. The inspector accepted that the proposal would not meet an up-to-date local policy on isolated new homes in the countryside, being neither technically innovative nor architecturally outstanding. However, referring to the Braintree judgment (see above), he held that the council’s restrictive stance clashed with national policy, giving greater weight to the scheme’s specific benefits.
7= Scheme approved despite lack of road contribution
Another case to attract multiple downloads at different points during the year was Javid’s conditional decision in March to support plans for 800 homes, along with commercial and community facilities, on an allocated site at Strode Farm near Herne Bay in Kent. Javid offered the developers an opportunity to address his inspector’s concerns over affordable housing and infrastructure provision. Brokenshire confirmed approval in August, finding the appellants’ failure to contribute towards a new relief road insufficient reason to refuse permission.
9= New settlement approved to meet increased need
The third case from Surrey to feature in this year’s top ten COMPASS downloads was Javid’s decision in March to grant outline permission for a new settlement, including 1,800 new homes, at Dunsfold Aerodrome. The scheme had been rejected in 2009 on the basis that the location was unsustainable. Reversing this decision, Javid held that a massively increased objectively assessed housing need and housing pressures from a neighbouring borough were important material changes since then, along with adoption of a local plan allocating the site for development.
9= Granny annexe subdivision agreed at isolated house
Finally, a DCS blog prompted a flurry of interest in a decision issued in September that removed a restriction preventing independent use of a granny annexe at a house in the East Devon countryside. Despite accepting that the site was disconnected from community facilities and the proposal contravened the development plan, the inspector gave substantial weight to the new exception in paragraph 79(d) of the updated National Planning Policy Framework allowing subdivision of existing dwellings in isolated locations.
The cases summarised above attracted the highest number of customer downloads from the COMPASS online appeals database in the period from 1 January to 28 November 2018.