DC Casebook: Mixed Use Development - Eco-village falls foul of regional policy

The secretary of state has refused permission for an eco-village on a former aerodrome in the Surrey countryside on the grounds that it would overburden the local road network and be premature in advance of the council's identification of housing sites.

The settlement comprised 2,400 dwellings, retail space, food and drink uses including a pub, 9,400m2 of offices, 13,600m2 of general industrial, warehousing and distribution uses, a health centre, two schools and outdoor leisure facilities including a country park. The appellants maintained that the scheme would deliver a mixed-use community on a brownfield site with a high proportion of affordable homes.

The project would be the most ecologically advanced community in Europe and deliver much-needed housing and jobs, they argued. The need to build more homes in a sustainable manner was reinforced by the recession, they claimed. The council could not argue that the scheme was premature because a development plan document setting out site allocations had yet to be published, they asserted.

The council noted that the South Plan public examination panel had considered whether it was appropriate to identify the appeal site as a location for major housing development. The panel had universally rejected the concept and this conclusion had been accepted by the secretary of state, it pointed out.

The inspector was satisfied that the scheme would not have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the countryside. In his view, it would be of national and international importance as an example of the part that low-carbon development could play in combating climate change. However, he found that it would still generate a considerable amount of unsustainable additional traffic.

He also took into account the panel's concerns that development on the scale proposed would seriously unbalance the regional strategy. The scheme involved an expansion of the largest industrial estate in the area and accounted for 60 per cent of the borough's total housing requirement to 2026, he observed. Its sheer scale would pre-empt important decisions on the location of housing and employment throughout the borough, he advised.

DCS Number 100-064-460

Inspector Tony Davison; Inquiry

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