Vehicle emissions harm to protected forest upheld

The implications for air quality affecting a protected forest led to a windfall proposal for seven houses outside a small settlement in Surrey being dismissed by an inspector.

The two main issues concerned the accessibility of the site as an appropriate location for new housing; and the cumulative effect on habitat and biodiversity of a forest SPA and SAC. Agreeing with the conclusions of an inspector in a previous appeal, and affording little weight to an emerging local plan limiting growth in the settlement, the inspector concluded that in the absence of a five year housing land supply and given that so much of the district was covered by AONB, it was appropriate to look to sites with less than optimum accessibility and sustainability credentials to meet housing need. He concluded this finding outweighed any conflict, in terms of location, with an out of date settlement boundary policy.

On the second main issue, the council believed that vehicle emissions would cause ecological harm to the SAC through additional traffic movements. The appellant referred to Natural England advice in relation to the emerging plan, that planned growth would not have an adverse air quality impact on the forest SAC or require mitigation due to declining pollution close to roads resulting from technological improvements in vehicles. Noting that this advice could not be applied to individual planning application, and highlighting the need for additional traffic and air quality modelling associated with windfall development, the inspector concluded it had not been demonstrated that there would not be an adverse effect from vehicles generated by the scheme in combination with other windfall developments. Applying the precautionary principle of the habitats regulations, he went on to dismiss the appeal.

Inspector: Rory MacLeod; Written representations

 


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