Jenrick approves plans for 325 homes and school in Stockport green belt

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has approved plans for 325 homes and a special needs school in the Stockport green belt after finding that the proposal's benefits, including the local need for such a facility and for new housing, constituted the "very special circumstances" required to justify the development.

An artist's impression of the proposals (Image: The Seashell Trust)
An artist's impression of the proposals (Image: The Seashell Trust)

Charity the Seashell Trust submitted plans for the project in February 2016 and the application was refused by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council in January 2018.

An appeal was submitted in July that year and recovered by the secretary of state in September.

Jenrick agreed with inspector Michael Boniface’s recommendation that the appeal should be allowed on the basis that Stockport Council could not demonstrate a five-year housing land supply and that “very special circumstances” existed to justify development in the green belt.

The secretary of state noted that the housing element of the appeal site is allocated for residential development in the emerging Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, but given the “early stage of this document” gave the allocation “very limited weight”.

Jenrick said the proposed development would “encroach significantly onto open undeveloped land”, would constitute inappropriate development in the green belt, and be in conflict with green belt policies in the 2006 Stockport Unitary Development Plan Review.

He also found the plans would have a moderate impact on a nearby Grade II listed farmhouse, falling at the lower end of less than substantial harm. 

Addressing the landscape and visual effects of the proposed scheme, Jenrick said these would be harmful but would be “largely localised … with little impact on the wider landscape”.

Jenrick found the need for the proposed scheme had been “robustly made out” and that provision for special needs education could not be met elsewhere.

While a proposed 30 per cent affordable housing contribution was in conflict with Stockport’s 2011 core strategy, which seeks contributions of 50 per cent, the secretary of state said the proposed level was the “maximum viable amount”.

He also noted Stockport can only demonstrate 2.8 years supply of housing land.

Weighing up the planning balance, the secretary of state considered the likely harm to the green belt carried substantial weight, harm to the Grade II listed building carried great weight, and harm to the landscape carried moderate weight.

However, the need for the school carried substantial weight, the housing benefits carried very significant weight, and the employment and community benefits carried moderate weight, he said.

Jenrick concluded: “The above benefits clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt by reason of inappropriateness and any other harm, and so very special circumstances exist to justify this development in the green belt.” 

Earlier this month, the housing secretary allowed a recovered appeal over plans for 200 homes in Essex after finding the housing benefits of the proposed scheme outweighed conflict with development plan policies on settlement boundaries and rural character.

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