The scheme comprised 500 homes, a primary school and open space on the edge of a local service centre. The council was undertaking a green belt review in order to identify suitable sites for housebuilding, but this had not yet been published. The council, the appellants and ultimately the inspector, who recommended allowing the application, had reached a common position that the proposed homes could be accommodated without adversely affecting the integrity and function of the green belt.
The secretary of state disagreed with their view that the local topography and proposals for a landscaped buffer on one flank of the site would create a defensible green belt boundary. In his view, the proposal would conflict with the purposes of the green belt set out in the NPPF by merging the built edge of the settlement with other built development nearby, resulting in encroachment into the countryside and urban sprawl.
Given a housing land supply of less than two years and persistent underdelivery of housing, he accepted that provision of 500 homes, including 30 per cent affordable, attracted very substantial weight. He also agreed that limited harm to the setting of a nearby grade II listed building and a Roman camp discovered during survey work would be outweighed by the public benefits of the new housing and that a new primary school was much needed. Both these factors attracted significant weight, he judged.
Despite these findings, however, he concluded that harm to the openness and function of the green belt outweighed the scheme’s social and economic benefits and provided a clear reason for resisting the development. In refusing permission, he disapplied the tilted balance in favour of development arising from the housing shortfall, finding that conflict with the development plan overall prevailed.
Inspector: David Wildsmith; Inquiry