Although the settlement was not identified in the adopted local plan as suitable for strategic housing growth, the neighbourhood development plan (NDP) identified part of the appeal site as a "special development area" (SDA) where housing, retail, office, community and leisure facilities might be permitted subject to at least 50 per cent of any additional homes being affordable. Around five of the proposed dwellings, as well as the public open space and surface water drainage infrastructure required to support the development, would lie outside the SDA boundary.
The inspector held that this breach of the SDA boundary indicated that the proposal was out of scale with what the policy intended for the area because the NDP stated that more land than was needed had been allocated. Equally, he noted, the policy stated that development beyond the boundary would only be permitted in exceptional circumstances – namely, where it would lead to substantial benefit to local people that could not be achieved in any other way and the benefit clearly outweighed harm to landscape character, heritage or biodiversity assets.
He was satisfied that the proposed layout responded well to the site constraints and would cause minimal harm to the area’s character. He also acknowledged the substantial benefit of the 60 per cent affordable homes proposed in an area where affordable housing had not been delivered to any great extent in recent years. However, in the absence of compelling viability evidence, he was not convinced that the benefits to local people required by the NDP policy could not be achieved in another way, namely through a slightly smaller scheme within the SDA boundary. The scheme’s benefits were insufficient to outweigh the conflict with the neighbourhood and local plans, he concluded.
Inspector: Matthew Bale; Hearing