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Appeal Decision Lands a Blow Against Housing Delivery...

Category: News 29 September 2011

The Secretary of State has recently decided two planning appeals, both of which relate to large strategic sites and revolve around housing supply issues, but has arrived at distinctly different conclusions on each. The following provides a brief summary of the Secretary of States’ conclusions for each appeal, and considers the implications.

Bishopdown Farm, Salisbury Planning Appeal

On 21st September 2011 the Secretary of State Decision Letter for the Bishopdown Farm appeal was published. The appeal relates to the proposed development of 500 dwellings, the provision of a Country Park and associated infrastructure.

The site is designated as open land in the adopted Local Plan, but is proposed as an allocation within emerging local policy.

The Inspector recommended that the appeal be refused, but the Secretary of State disagreed with some of the Inspector’s reasoning, and concluded that the appeal should be allowed. In arriving at his conclusion the Secretary of State:

  • stated that the Inspector’s report on the South Wiltshire Core Strategy is yet to be published, and the Core Strategy is therefore of limited weight
  • sets out that the NPPF is a consultation document and is attributed little weight
  • agrees that the Development Plan includes the South West RSS
  • agrees that there is a need for housing at the appeal site and the 200 affordable homes (i.e. 40%) will help to meet the ‘acute and worsening’ housing need
  • places substantial weight on the major housing contribution the proposals in the light of the lack of a 5 year housing supply and the acute shortage of affordable housing
  • places some weight on the fact that the proposals accord with emerging local policy
  • stated that the provision of the country park tips the balance in favour of the proposals
  • concluded that the concerns raised regarding maintaining a gap between Salisbury and Ford, and the design issues were not strong enough grounds to disallow the appeal.

The Secretary of State’s approach in the Bishopsdown Farm appeal, where substantial weight is placed upon the housing contribution that will flow from the proposals and in view of the shortage of housing land supply, can be contrasted with that taken in respect of the Barton Farm appeal.

Barton Farm, Winchester Appeal

On the 28th of September 2011 the Secretary of State Decision Letter in respect of the Barton Farm appeal was published. The Barton Farm proposals include 2000 dwellings, a local centre, primary school, retail space, community building, health centre, 60 bed nursing home, district energy centre and other amenities and associated infrastructure.

The site is greenfield, is reserved site in the Local Plan, and only to be released where there is compelling justification for providing additional housing in the district.

The Inspector recommended that the appeal be allowed, but the Secretary of State disagreed with some of the Inspector’s reasoning, and concluded that the proposals should be refused. In arriving at his conclusion the Secretary of State:

  • noted that the Core Strategy was at an early stage of development, and despite being progressed since the Inspector included it to be of very little weight, this progression was not such that it enabled greater weight to be attached to it
  • gave the intention to revoke regional guidance little weight, given the stage of the Parliamentary process
  • gave little weight to the NPPF consultation document
  • agreed that if the level of housing to be provided was to be informed by an alternative to the RSS this needs to be credible and robust
  • rejected the use of the Option 1 figure preferred by the Council as a credible alternative and gave it little weight
  • accepted that the housing land supply was less than 5 years, and that a 4.2 supply suggested by the Council was ‘overly optimistic’
  • attached limited weight to the fact that only 150 dwellings would be delivered by the site in the 5 year period
  • agreed that the 800 affordable dwellings (i.e. 40%) that the site would deliver would be of ‘considerable benefit’
  • agreed that the site would result in a sustainable, balanced and socially inclusive community
  • attached significant weight to the contribution that the proposals would make to economic growth and employment, and accepted that the local economy would suffer if the site is not developed
  • accepted that the site was relied on within the Council’s Annual Monitoring Report to address long term housing requirements
  • noted that the Council are actively ‘embracing’ through their ‘Blueprint’ consultation process the locally based decision making agenda and are expecting a new submission draft Core Strategy to be published prior to the end of 2011
  • concluded that the intention to return decision making powers back to local authorities is a key planning priority for Government and that the Council should have the opportunity to complete their Blueprint process
  • attached greater weight to the impact of allowing development on the scale of that proposed upon undermining the Blueprint process than to the need to supply an additional supply of housing –
  • concluded that the contribution by the proposals to housing in the medium and long term is not of significant weight
  • referred to the loss of agricultural land and the impact upon the historic setting of Winchester
  • concluded that allowing the proposals would conflict with Local Plan policy as there is insufficient ‘compelling justification’ for allowing the release of the reserved site to provide additional housing

Therefore, it would appear that in this instance the Secretary of State has placed greater weight on the fact that the Council has started work on a Local Plan consultation process which reflects the key Government planning objective and intention of returning decision making powers to local authorities than on the approach within settled national guidance where a 5 year land supply cannot be demonstrated.

Despite the initial acknowledgment that little weight could be attached to the draft Core Strategy, the Secretary of State has placed significant weight on the emerging ‘Blueprint’ and anticipated submission draft Plan – this appears to be contradictory.

The fact that the Secretary of State decides that limited weight should be attached to the NPPF as it is at consultation stage, but then attaches significant weight to the Government’s intention to return decision making to a local authority level also seems to be contradictory.

The decision is also confusing as the Secretary of State acknowledges that the settled local policy approach relates not to ‘when’ the site should be released but ‘whether’ it should be released, and acknowledges that there is an undersupply of housing land against the 5 year requirement, and that if an additional supply is not provided the local economy will suffer.

Related News Tags:  Barton Farm Appeal |  Bishopdown Farm Appeal |  housing supply |  affordable housing |  NPPF |  5 year housing land supply shortage | 

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