The inspector took the council’s recent resolution to approve 160 dwellings on a smaller part of the appeal site, which lay on the edge of a village, as the baseline for his consideration of the proposal. The site was designated as a local gap to prevent coalescence between two villages, but the council had allowed limited expansion on it as long as it respected the built form of the existing village in line with an allocations policy in its emerging plan.
The inspector noted that the larger proposal would result in the loss of half of the gap between the villages. However, he commented that a sizeable gap between the two settlements and the proposed development would still be retained. In his opinion, the development would not be prominent from most local viewpoints or in longer-distance views.
On the other hand, he accepted that the site provided a rural edge to the village’s setting, allowing views across open land to a river valley, and that the larger proposal would relate less well to the settlement form. On this basis, he found conflict not only with the local gap policy but also with policies protecting the area’s visual appearance and landscape character, resulting in moderate harm.
The inspector held that significant benefits would arise from the provision of market and 30 per cent affordable dwellings in an area with a housing land supply of only three years. This meant that the most important policies applicable to the proposal, including those affecting the local gap and landscape character, were out of date. Applying the tilted balance in favour of sustainable development in paragraph 11(d) of the NPPF, he concluded that the adverse effects he had found did not demonstrably outweigh the scheme’s significant benefits.
The inspector came to this conclusion despite noting the council’s expectation of having a seven-year housing supply within a matter of months, following adoption of its uncontested emerging plan’s housing policies, and the fact that the extra dwellings at the site over and above those already granted permission would not be delivered within the next five years in any event.
Inspector: David Cliff; Inquiry