Housing fails sequential test on site search grounds

A block of 10 apartments on open land in an Essex town was refused for concerns regarding flood risk, harm to the appearance and character of the surrounding conservation area and insufficient provision for parking.

The appeal site was susceptible to flooding, falling within a high-risk zone, and had a history of flood events as recent as 2018. The appellant, however, had restricted their search for alternative suitable sites to within 800 metres of the appeal site, and the inspector held this was unreasonable given the proposal was for open market housing with no specialist requirements. He felt a district-wide search area should have been chosen to address the sequential test in considering other more suitable, lower risk sites as required by the NPPF and he concluded the proposal therefore failed in this regard. Equally, the inspector was concerned that the evidence for the sustainable drainage system at the site had not been agreed by the lead local flood authority, further affecting issues of flood risk.

The site was also one identified as a possible community resource in the council’s conservation area appraisal important for its ability to allow for views out of the settlement and enhancing the setting of nearby listed buildings. The inspector accepted the significance of the site to the character of the conservation area and the setting of listed buildings in this regard and held the less than substantial harm caused by the proposal would not be overcome by the benefits of the new homes even despite the housing shortfall in the area.

Inspector: David Carter; Written representations

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