Covid impact played down in greenfield homes refusal

The benefits of 216 new homes proposed on the edge of a Berkshire town do not outweigh harm to the area’s settlement strategy and other planning objectives, an inspector has decided.

The council claimed a five-year housing land supply, based mainly on the findings of another very recent appeal in the same area (DCS Number 200-009-412). The appellants argued that the assumed supply should be reduced by almost 500 dwellings because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in an overall shortfall.

The inspector disagreed that the pandemic’s impact would be so severe, suggesting that it would be short-term and that five-year supply would recover. However, he did accept that the weight attributable to settlement strategy policies steering development away from the appeal site was reduced because the council was dependent on sites located outside existing settlement boundaries to deliver a sufficient supply of housing land.

On other matters, the inspector was concerned that the proposed homes would harm the local landscape, including the town’s rural setting. He found that they would result in numerous adverse visual impacts to existing housing receptors, urbanisation of a green route and loss of mature trees, although he did not consider that the latter were veteran trees worthy of protection in their own right under paragraph 175(c) of the NPPF.

He found conflict with the local plan’s transport policies over emergency access and footways and cycleways to the site, which he thought were too narrow in places. He judged that increased queue lengths resulting from the proposal at a nearby junction would result in unacceptable highway impacts. He also held that the long, narrow, unattractive walking routes proposed to the nearest services and bus stops would deter use of non-car modes of transport, contrary to local and national policy promoting sustainable modes of travel. He concluded that harm arising from the scheme outweighed the benefits of new market and affordable homes.

Inspector: Jonathan Manning; Inquiry


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