Homes dismissed on highways impact despite site shortfall

Highway safety concerns have promoted an inspector to refuse permission for 140 dwellings on a site adjoining a rural service centre in Kent, despite an identified local shortfall in housing land.

Of the many issues involved, the inspector held that the scheme’s impact on the road network was the most important. A weighty material consideration was that the village already suffered from a combination of traffic problems caused by the merging of two trunk roads and a very busy gated railway crossing, resulting in queues of up to 215 vehicles on occasion and the diversion of traffic onto unsuitable minor roads surrounding the settlement.

The inspector was particularly concerned that the appellants’ transport assessment indicated that four junctions near the site would become near or over capacity if the proposal went ahead unless a planned relief road for the settlement was built. He noted that this situation would arise even before other committed developments in the area providing 5,200 dwellings were taken into account.

He was not convinced that the relief road scheme was sufficiently well advanced in planning or funding terms to assure its delivery, so the appeal proposal had to be considered against current and committed improvements. The transport assessment conspicuously failed to model this situation, he observed. He concluded that allowing the proposal would only make existing traffic problems worse, with severe impacts on traffic flows, operation of the network and highway safety.

Finally, he held that the weight affordable to transport policies was not reduced by the housing shortfall, as the council’s policies were not out of date or inconsistent with the NPPF. Despite finding minimal or no harm and no policy conflict on other issues, including the site’s location outside the settlement, he concluded that the highway drawbacks significantly outweighed the benefits of the new homes and the proposal did not constitute sustainable development. 

Inspector: John Felgate; Inquiry

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