Harmful gap scheme refused despite housing shortfall

A proposal for 110 dwellings adjoining a Somerset village has been refused for being in an unacceptable location for new housing and having an unacceptable effect on the function and openness of a strategic gap, compromising the identity and character of adjoining settlements.

On the first issue of compliance with the locational policies of the plan, the proposal affected a site outside the settlement boundary of a lower tier rural village in the hierarchy where development was strictly controlled. The inspector considered that whilst the development was acceptable in all other regards, conflict with the housing strategy would be harmful to the plan-led system and the approach of actively managing patterns of growth in the interests of making the best use of previously developed land, minimising the need to travel to work and giving the residents of the council area the best degree of access to services and facilities. On the second issue, the inspector considered the impact of the proposed housing within a designated strategic gap between this and adjoining settlements. The inspector noted the gap was sensitive in this location in view of its fragmented nature and narrowness and held the swathe of development that would be a consequence of the development would not only cause harm to the existing contained character and identity of the village, but would compromise its ability to retain its identity separate from other settlements close by. 

In the planning balance, the inspector weighed up the benefits and adverse impacts of the scheme in the light of a housing shortfall in the area. The inspector held the most important policies affecting the case were out of date. However, the inspector still attributed significant weight to the adverse effects of the development, particularly with regard to the effect of the development on the strategic gap and concluded that the harm caused in this case would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits identified when assessed against the NPPF as a whole.

Inspector: J Moss; Inquiry

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