Inspector refuses particularly poor housing design

A detailed proposal for 20 residential units on vacant previously developed land in a residential area of a County Durham settlement was refused for harm to the character and appearance of the area and living conditions of future occupants from its poor layout and design and loss of trees, despite a need for further market and affordable housing in the area and an outline consent existing at the site for 20 dwellings.

400-026-779 (Image Credit: Durham County Council)
400-026-779 (Image Credit: Durham County Council)

The dispute regarding the layout and design of the scheme centred on concerns over density. The proposed density was 38 dwellings per hectare which although the inspector noted was not unusual in the area it resulted in a particularly poor design for the proposal driven by the consequential need for car parking, shared driveways and internal highways. Of related concern to the inspector was the loss of 24 trees at the site. Most of these they noted were of good condition, were prominently located and made a valuable contribution to the character of the area. No mitigation or replacement tree planting was proposed, however and on this basis the inspector held significant harm would be caused by their removal in conflict with adopted local plan policy, albeit accepting the trees could be removed without consent as they were not protected in any capacity. 

The dispute over future residents’ living conditions centred on the garden sizes of some of the proposed units. Five of the 20 units proposed would have gardens below nine metres in length which the inspector noted was below the minimum distance set out in the council’s recently adopted supplementary planning document on residential amenity standards. The inspector could see no justification for the reduction in the standards especially given the units affected were for three-bedroom properties aimed at families with the greatest need for outdoor play space. 

In the planning balance however, the inspector concluded the adverse impacts of the proposal, in terms of the harm to the character and appearance of the area and the living conditions of future occupants would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits the market and affordable housing would bring to the shortfall in the area, when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole, which included a requirement for good design, effective landscaping and a high standard of amenity for future users. 

Inspector: AM Nilsson; Written representations


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