Essex council refuses 250-home scheme despite land supply uncertainty

An Essex council has refused an application for 250 homes on an unallocated greenfield site after officers described the proposal as "poor planning", despite recognising that there is uncertainty over the authority's five year housing land supply position.

Braintree, Essex (pic: Hamish Griffin, Geograph)
Braintree, Essex (pic: Hamish Griffin, Geograph)

Braintree District Council last week refused an outline application for the homes on a 12.8-hectare greenfield site near Cressing on the south eastern edge of Braintree.

A planning committee report said that recent appeal and secretary of state call in decisions had concluded that the council has a 4.15 year housing land supply supply.

If this was the case, the National Planning Policy Framework’s (NPPF’s) presumption in favour of sustainable development would apply. Under measures in the NPPF this would also mean that the council’s local planning policies restricting the supply of new housing would be deemed to be out of date.

However, the report said that the council disagreed with the 4.15-year position, arguing that the secretary of state had been wrong to exclude 10 sites from the deliverable five year supply.

The report said: "The secretary of state has not explained why these sites were considered to not meet the clear evidence test; the council has requested the principles of this explanation, which is needed for interpreting evidence for current and future supply assessments of sites; but has been advised by the Case Work Unit that the information will not be provided."

The council said its calculations found that it was able to demonstrate a 5.15 year housing land supply.

However, it said that this position would have to be tested in the examination of its draft local plan, submitted for examination in 2017, and the government’s standard method for calculating housing need, introduced in last year’s revised NPPF, "will result in a higher 5 year supply requirement".

The report said this uncertainty meant that only "more than moderate but less than significant weight" could be attached to the policies in the council’s adopted local which restrict the supply of housing.

But the report said that, even if the council could not demonstrate a five year housing land supply, "it would still be considered that the adverse impacts of the proposal are such that the planning balance would continue to weigh against the proposed development".

The report advised that the scheme would sit on a site not allocated for development in its existing or emerging local plan. It would also sit within a "green buffer" set out in an emerging neighbourhood plan.

"The proposed development would result in up to 250 new dwellings being constructed within this green buffer, effectively destroying the entire mid-section of it," the report said.

The report added that the "loss of a greenfield site, a degree of landscape harm and the loss approximately 9.1 hectares of best and most versatile agricultural land also weigh against the proposal in the planning balance".

Planners concluded that the development "represents poor planning" and would "not result in a community which was well integrated with the existing settlement pattern in the locality."

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