Standard method disapplied in village homes dismissal

Green belt and other harm significantly outweigh any benefits arising from a proposed mixed-use development in the Bedfordshire green belt, an inspector has decided.

The scheme comprised 73 homes, a village shop and a burial ground on the edge of a village, encroaching into open countryside. Having established that the proposal would represent inappropriate development in the green belt leading to a harmful loss of openness, the inspector focused on three other considerations involving archaeological remains at the site, flood risk and housing land supply.

On the archaeological point, he considered that a lack of trial trenching in the appeal scheme was a significant issue because the site formed intervening land between a medieval village and the remains of a moated manor house, a scheduled ancient monument. He did not feel that this difficulty could be overcome through a condition and found harm in this respect.

On flood risk, he held that the appellants’ sequential testing had been inadequate because of the restricted catchment area and size of sites considered and a complete lack of consideration of prospective sites allocated in an emerging plan on land with less risk of flooding. In his view, the site’s suitability for housing had not been demonstrated and the proposal presented an unacceptable conflict with paragraph 158 of the NPPF and allied PPG on planning and flood risk. This drawback was significant, he opined.

The five-year supply issue was not determinative in terms of the NPPF’s tilted balance in favour of sustainable development after the inspector held that the first limb of paragraph 11(d) applied in relation to protecting areas or assets of particular importance. However, he accepted the council’s position that the standard need assessment method introduced by the 2019 NPPF should not be used in this case because an inflated migration component yielded an inappropriate housing requirement for the district, implying that the council would have to find one new dwelling for every five existing ones over the next ten years.

Mindful of the Court of Appeal judgment in West Berkshire Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2016], the inspector accepted that a housing requirement derived from a previously recognised method based on the council’s strategic housing market assessment could be used. On this basis, he was satisfied that a five-year supply of housing land could be demonstrated. 

He concluded that the proposal would cause green belt harm and other harms arising from its effect upon buried archaeology and the absence of adequate sequential testing for flood risk assessment purposes. These drawbacks conflicted with various policies in the NPPF and the scheme’s benefits were insufficient to comprise special circumstances outweighing them, he held. 

Inspector: Grahame Gould; Hearing

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