Further large scale housing would distort spatial strategy

245 dwellings adjoining a settlement in Northamptonshire were refused for harm to the appearance and character of the area and conflict with the recently adopted spatial strategy which limited development there.

One of the main issues in the case for the inspector was whether the further provision of housing in the appeal settlement would be harmful to the 2016 adopted spatial strategy for the area and in conflict with the development plan as a whole. The development plan strategy comprised a saved local plan development limits policy and a quantum and distribution of development policy set out in a more recently adopted joint core strategy. In firstly establishing the council could demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land, the inspector assessed the saved development limits policy was not out of date in this regard. In terms of the policy’s compliance with the NPPF to reflect the intrinsic character of the countryside rather than protect it at all costs, the inspector noted that although the wording of the saved policy pre-dated the NPPF, there was some flexibility in it so as to allow some development in the open countryside, as the council had in fact endorsed in other areas, and it was not therefore out of date. Rather, he opined, it was the development limits themselves that were out of date as they were based on defunct housing requirements.

The degree to which the proposal would exceed housing requirements in the appeal settlement then became a significant factor. The housing provision for the settlement already exceeded the requirement for housing to 2031 by some distance. The proposal would take it to 39 per cent supply exceeding requirement which, in the inspector’s judgement, was beyond a reasonable tipping point. Whilst he accepted that exactitude in supply to requirement could not be expected to be achieved, he held that common sense indicated that there must be a point at which development proposals cannot be permitted without unacceptable distortion of a recently adopted spatial strategy. This resultant development plan conflict carried very significant weight in his view and combined with the moderate harms he also found to the appearance and character of the area resulted in conflict with the development plan overall. The inspector concluded that it was a finely balanced case, but the material considerations advanced in favour of the proposal did not outweigh this development plan conflict, with or without the tilted balance.

Inspector: Philip Major; Inquiry

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