Site allocation plan given very short lifespan

A site allocations and development management plan in Somerset which had been given a very short lifespan by an examining inspector supported the grant of permission for up to 450 dwellings.

The council’s core strategy stated that developments of more than 50 dwellings outside of existing settlement boundaries should come forward as allocations in a development plan. The local authority argued that while the northern part was allocated for 170 dwellings, the 280 proposed on the southern portion should be considered as part of the plan-led process. But an inspector decided that the council was unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land and even its site allocations document failed to deliver the required number of new houses to 2026. Moreover, even were the council’s core strategy to be considered up to date there was no logical reason for rejecting a scheme because it exceeded the 50 dwelling threshold, unless other harm was identified.

The council did not oppose the scheme on the grounds of landscape impact and the site occupied a sustainable location. It formed part of a strategic growth area in an emerging plan with other local authorities. However, the emerging plan had been subject to objections and the examining inspectors had identified concerns with how the strategic growth areas had been identified. It had hit the "proverbial buffers" and the inspector decided that the scale and nature of the additional 280 dwellings was not so significant as to give rise to the issue of prematurity.

With regard to the potential impact on the north Somerset and Mendip bats special area of conservation, the inspector agreed that an appropriate assessment of the effects had to be undertaken. The council argued that this should take into account other strategic urban extensions. However, the inspector observed that the emerging spatial plan for the area had been deemed unsound and it had been recommended to the various authorities that it should be withdrawn. This evidence suggested that it would not be adopted in its current form. Therefore, any effects could be mitigated at detailed design stage and the scheme was allowed.

Inspector: Dominic Young; Inquiry

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