Village boundary breach agreed to meet homes target

An Essex council’s outdated local plan provides no justification for refusing plans for 40 dwellings in the countryside, an inspector has decided.

The appeal site comprised pasture in a countryside protection zone on the edge of a key village with a range of services and facilities. It had been allocated for development in an emerging local plan but this had been withdrawn following examiners’ criticisms. The council accepted that it could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land and acknowledged that the majority of sites allocated in its 2005 local plan, which ran only to 2011, had been built out.

The inspector agreed with the appellants that countryside policy in this plan was inconsistent with paragraph 170(b) of the NPPF in seeking to protect all countryside from development. The NPPF accepts that the countryside has intrinsic character and beauty but advocates an approach to new development that weighs benefits against harm, he remarked. As the council accepted that sites in the countryside would have to be developed to meet its housing targets, he considered that the village settlement boundary was not inviolate.

The inspector accepted that the appeal site was pleasant and open but noted that it was not designated as a valued landscape. In his view, the appeal development would be relatively well contained and its overall effects would be limited in nature. Applying the tilted balance in favour of sustainable development, he gave the need to boost the supply of housing significant weight in allowing the appeal.

Inspector: Dominic Young; Hearing

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