Lack of mitigation prevents housing in area of need

A scheme for 12 dwellings on designated open space at the edge of a settlement in Hampshire was refused for likely significant effects on internationally important sites for nature conservation, harm from the loss of natural greenspace and inadequate provision for affordable housing.

The appeal site was located within 5.6 kilometres of a special area of conservation and special protection areas in the Solent and the inspector noted there was therefore threat to the integrity of the sites from public access and recreational disturbance, as well as from nitrogen discharge from wastewater from the new homes. The appellant had tried to mitigate these effects with a unilateral undertaking to make contributions to disturbance mitigation projects and offsetting of nitrogen impacts by taking some agricultural land out of production, but the UU had not been executed and the inspector concluded he could not therefore take it into account. On a precautionary basis he concluded through the appropriate assessment that it was likely that the development would have a significant effect on the SAC and SPAs, contrary to adopted local plan policies and the NPPF to protect such sites of international importance. 

The appeal site was designated natural greenspace in the local plan for its wildlife contribution. The proposed houses would result in a reduction in the amount of designated open space at the site albeit the remaining open space would become publicly accessible unlike the existing appeal site which was in private ownership. But the inspector held as it would result in a reduction in the size of open space overall, the proposed open space would not be a better-quality replacement site in terms of size and therefore the proposal would conflict with adopted local plan policies in this respect.

With regard to affordable housing provision, the policy requirement was for 30 per cent but the mitigation for the SAC and SPA meant viability issues were not resolved between the appellant and council such that no legal agreement had been executed. On all counts regarding contingency allowance, land values and costs of mitigation, the inspector agreed with the council’s assessment of the viability impacts.  However, given the inspector’s conclusions in relation to the SPA matters, he opined it was not possible to conclude whether or not the development would be viable with an affordable housing contribution. And as no executed legal agreement has been provided, he concluded that the proposed development would not make adequate provision for affordable housing. Despite a shortfall of housing in the area, the inspector concluded the nature conservation effects meant the tilted balance did not apply and the benefits of the housing were not sufficient to overcome the policy conflicts he identified.

Inspector: A J Steen; Hearing

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