Neighbourhood plan given full weight in homes refusal

Conflict with a neighbourhood plan's spatial strategy has led to refusal of outline plans for 65 dwellings outside a Buckinghamshire village's defined boundary.

The inspector considered that although the local plan was somewhat out of date, the neighbourhood plan, adopted in 2017, was up to date for the purposes of assessing applications to meet housing needs. He considered that the appeal proposal would conflict with the neighbourhood plan’s spatial strategy because it would not be in a location identified for large-scale housing by the community.

The scheme, he observed, would deliver a significant amount of housing over and above numbers currently identified for the area. To approve it would undermine the purpose of the settlement boundary and weaken public confidence in the neighbourhood planning process, he found.

The appellants argued that the neighbourhood plan was inconsistent with the NPPF because it sought a blanket ban on new development outside the settlement boundary in open countryside, thereby seeking to protect rather than recognise the countryside’s intrinsic character and beauty.

While finding that the policy wording did use the term "protect", the inspector opined that recognising intrinsic countryside character inherently involves a protective or safeguarding response, citing Alwyn De Souza v SSCLG [2015]. Finding no inconsistency with the NPPF, he concluded that the tilted balance in paragraph 11d) of that document was not engaged and afforded full weight to the policy in the planning balance.

The proposal would also lead to loss of a key local view. The inspector accepted that the appellants had given some consideration to retaining framed views towards buried remains of an Iron Age hill fort near the village. However, he judged that introducing a large housing development on the appeal site would irretrievably alter the visual integrity of a view which contributed to defining the settlement’s character and which the community considered worthy of preservation. While acknowledging that the level of harm caused would not be sufficient in itself to warrant refusal, he held that it added to the other drawbacks he had identified.

Inspector: Rory Cridland; Inquiry

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