Homes refused on landscape despite supply deficit

Harm to an area of great landscape value (AGLV) outweighs the benefits of developing up to 57 houses in an area of Surrey facing a land supply shortfall, an inspector has concluded.

The appeal site comprised three fields adjacent to a village. The appellant proposed to retain existing boundary vegetation, with new planting screening views from two public rights of way. Both parties agreed that the AGLV designation did not preclude development in principle, but the council argued that the site would no longer make a positive contribution to the wider pastoral landscape and the proposal would harm the setting of listed buildings.

The inspector agreed that the development would give rise to a more urbanised and less rural setting in approaches to the village. In his view, it would not accord with the protection for valued landscapes afforded by paragraph 170 of the NPPF, would not make efficient use of land and would not maintain the area’s prevailing character.

He also found that the site was important in maintaining the setting of a grade I listed church, a grade II listed farmhouse and a conservation area. The harm caused to these assets, while less than substantial, could only be outweighed by public benefits, he opined. He agreed that the opportunity to deliver open market and affordable homes in an area where housing land supply stood at just 3.9 years was a significant benefit, along with the site’s generally sustainable location relative to local services.

He noted that the council had been unable to deliver housing at the required rate in previous years, leading to a significant shortfall overall. Applying paragraph 11(d)(i) of the NPPF, he accepted that the scheme’s housing benefits outweighed the harm to heritage assets. But in applying paragraph 11(d)(ii), he concluded that the change to the area’s landscape and visual character significantly and demonstrably outweighed the benefits.

Inspector: Tom Gilbert-Wooldridge; Inquiry

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