Extra care housing needs justify green belt release

Inadequate provision for specialist housing in a Kent local plan has led an inspector to approve outline plans for a retirement village on farmland outside a town.

The inspector agreed that the development, comprising 79 apartments and cottages and communal facilities, would not accord with core strategy policy in respect of development in the countryside outside settlement boundaries. However, he found this conflict outweighed by a lack of a five-year supply of housing land. He also found that the absence of provision for affordable housing sought by local policy was overridden by paragraph 64 of the revised NPPF, which indicates that specialist housing for the elderly should not be subject to such requirements.

The main parties agreed that the development would harm the green belt due to inappropriateness, loss of openness and encroachment into the countryside, but disputed the extent of the harm and whether it would be clearly outweighed by the scheme’s benefits. The inspector gave substantial weight to green belt harm but concluded that this was outweighed by the cumulative advantages of contributing to general housing supply and providing specialist extra care housing for sale to older people. The need for this type of accommodation had been underestimated in a strategic housing market assessment and the current and emerging development plans made inadequate provision for it, he remarked.

In granting permission, the inspector gave more limited weight to an emerging local plan allocation of the site for 110 market dwellings. In allowing the appeal, he took into account a section 106 agreement which, among other matters defined the use as a class C2 residential institution and not class C3 dwellinghouses, as the council had originally claimed.

Inspector: Robert Mellor; Inquiry

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