The appeal decision delivered by Braintree District Council is part of the emerging trend towards local authorities refusing planning even where they cannot demonstrate adequate housing supply.
The Inspector in this case confirmed that the Council could not establish a five year housing supply and the plan was out of date. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) specifies – where policies are out of date – that planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts would outweigh the benefits. Despite this, the Inspector refused the planning appeal for 65 residential dwellings in Steeple Bumpstead.
The Inspector firstly considered heritage reasons. The dwellings were to be of a suburban design, would obstruct views of listed buildings and would create a ‘jarring’ contrast with the village surroundings. The Inspector noted that although there would be less than substantial harm to the preservation of heritage assets such as the church, the public benefits of the scheme would not outweigh that harm. This is a significant departure from the norm.
The Inspector also rejected the developer’s argument that the Heritage Policy was inconsistent with the NPPF because it did not contain a balancing exercise. This is also a move away from the status quo.
The Inspector considered the landscape. The Council argued that the policy was out of date because it sought to protect the countryside for its own sake. The Inspector acknowledged it did not reflect the exact policy wording but still gave the policy significant weight. The Inspector considered the area to be one of England’s finest landscapes and and stated that new housing should only be welcomed where it contributes to its natural beauty. The Inspector considered that Steeple Bumpstead was a valued landscape and development should therefore be restricted.
Access to facilities
Finally the inspector concluded there was inadequate accessibility to shops, facilities and services. Only ‘top-up’ shopping was available in the locality; there was no school transport and a car would be required for the majority of journeys.
Although this case stands out from most planning appeal cases, it follows that developers should approach sites with heritage and conservation connections with caution and have development plans that are sympathetic to the surroundings, even where a lack of housing supply is apparent.
Disclaimer: While we do all that is possible in terms of ensuring its accuracy, this blog contains general information only. Nothing in these pages constitutes legal advice. You need to consult a suitably qualified lawyer from the firm on any specific legal problem or matter.
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