In a decision letter this week, Robert Jenrick refused an appeal against Hart District Council’s refusal of an outline planning application for the development on a site at Pale Lane, Fleet. The minister’s refusal was in line with an inspector’s recommendation.
Alongside the homes, the development would have included a site for primary school and local centre, together with associated vehicular, pedestrian and cycle access, drainage, landscape works and provision of general open space.
Developer Wates Developments also sought detailed permission for the provision of a 14-hectare suitable alternative natural greenspace.
Jenrick’s letter said the minister agreed with the inspector that the NPPF’s 'titled balance' in favour of sustainable development was triggered because the council’s key policies related to character and setting of the countryside and of development were out of date.
Paragraph 11 of the July 2018 National Planning Policy Framework says that where "the policies which are most important for determining the application" are found to be out-of-date, "the presumption in favour of sustainable development" is enacted.
The minister also noted that the provision of open market housing and 40 per cent affordable housing "carries significant weight in favour of the scheme". He also gave moderate weight in favour of the scheme to highways improvements and the provision of the proposed open space.
However, the letter went on to say the minister agreed with the inspector that the scheme would result in "less than substantial harm" to the significance of a local Grade II-listed farmhouse.
It added that "considerable importance and weight can be attributed to this harm".
The letter said: "Where a development would lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal [as set out by] the heritage test at paragraph 196 of the NPPF."
Jenrick’s letter said that, in the light of the council’s "healthy" 9.2-year housing land supply position, "and the fact that there is no need to deliver an additional 700 houses in this location at this time … the public benefits of the proposals … do not outweigh this heritage harm".
"The heritage test in paragraph 196 of the Framework is therefore not favourable to the proposal," the minister said.
Elsewhere, Jenrick noted that the council’s emerging local plan is at an advanced stage. The emerging plan does not allocate the site for development and, on this basis, the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that allowing the proposed development would "predetermine the location of a significant urban extension that the plan-making process had decided was inappropriate".
Yesterday, a developer claimed that Tory politicians "from top to bottom, have failed to endorse their own rhetoric" on housebuilding after its plans for 184 homes in Cheshire were blocked by the secretary of state against an inspector's advice - the second time a minister had refused the scheme.