CASEBOOK: Large windfall site fends off plan review objection

Morris Homes (North) Ltd has secured permission for a mixed residential and employment development in Greater Manchester after an inspector accepted the company's arguments that the project would not prejudice a review of the council's unitary development plan (UDP).

The 4.5ha site formed part of a larger employment area covering more than 9ha and contained redundant factory units. The company proposed to build 122 dwellings together with 929 sq m of industrial units, the latter on only 0.22ha of the site. This aspect of the proposal raised objections from the council, which was concerned that the overall scheme would lead to an unacceptable loss of employment land.

The local authority claimed that deciding whether to approve such a large windfall site required consideration in conjunction with the review of its adopted UDP, which dated from 1997. In assessing the merits of the scheme, the inspector agreed that the scheme would enable the redevelopment and visual enhancement of a brownfield site, improving the overall housing environment in the locality.

He concluded that the scheme accorded with national advice in PPG3, in that it would constitute a windfall development. He considered that the council had provided little convincing evidence to demonstrate why the site should not be treated as such. The UDP review process did not prevent such sites from coming forward provided they complied with the search sequence set out in national guidance, he held.

With regard to employment land availability, the inspector agreed that there was a healthy supply of sites for jobs and an acceptable range of office and industrial buildings in the borough.

In any event, he observed, the site was unlikely to be attractive to a single employment end user given its proximity to existing houses and difficult access.

While acknowledging that there was some prospect that the site could be returned to employment use, the inspector decided that although this matter was finely balanced, he preferred the appellant company's evidence, which suggested that such a redevelopment would not be viable and was not likely to occur within the foreseeable future. In allowing the appeal, he imposed a condition requiring the employment units to be completed at the same time as the houses, thereby ensuring that a mix of uses is provided in a comprehensive manner.

DCS No: 37718344; Inspector: Peter Davies; Inquiry.

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