The appeal site lay on the edge of the village, adjoining the settlement boundary. The appellant proposed to relocate the garden centre to the outer edge of the holding so that in many views the outward appearance of the site would be little altered, and build houses on the land closest to the village. The council could demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land even after the inspector deleted a number of sites challenged by the appellant as not being deliverable within five years. The tilted balance of NPPF paragraph 11 did not, therefore, apply to the scheme.
Development of land in the countryside outside the settlement boundary for a speculative housing estate was in direct conflict with restrictive local plan policy, and the council raised a further concern that to allow the scheme would set a precedent. The inspector rejected the notion of setting a precedent, finding the existing appearance of the site containing buildings and polytunnels distinct from the open agricultural land surrounding the village, and concluding the proposed development would not significantly change the character and appearance of the area. He also found the new homes would be relatively well served by services, facilities, and public transport.
In addition to the lack of any harm on these issues, the inspector identified particular significant benefits flowing from the development which together justified allowing a scheme that was contrary to the development plan. Provision had been made within the development for the restoration and reuse of an ‘at risk’ grade two listed gardener’s bothy on the site. The development would also provide a significant number of new dwellings, including affordable housing, and generate economic benefits. Moreover, the existing garden centre would be retained and improved.
Inspector: Thomas Hatfield; Hearing