Homes allowed in strategic gap against changing policy context

Published: 03 December 2010

A development of up to 350 homes on greenfield land at the edge of a Hampshire urban area has secured permission after an inspector assessed the potential impact on a locally important gap.

The council’s local plan identified the land as part of a gap separating two settlements. Its draft core strategy indicated that the gap policy should be deleted, but this was withdrawn. The council claimed that large-scale house building would undermine the character of settlements which the gap was intended to protect.

The inspector noted that when the gap was retained in the adopted local plan it was foreseen that its effectiveness would be partially eroded by new permitted development, leading to coalescence of the settlements. Although the development would reduce openness, he decided that the flat landscape could assimilate the scheme with minor negative impact.

Following revocation of the South East Plan, the council had agreed a housing figure for this area of 965 dwellings to 2015-16. The appellants argued that the five-year housing requirement exceeded 1,200 homes. The council’s figure was based on a draft sub-regional strategy which had not been publicly consulted or agreed, they said.

The inspector decided that the principles set out in PPS3 still applied and this was confirmed by government advice stating that planning authorities should be able to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land. In his opinion, the requirement for this part of the district was between 965 and 1,240 dwellings, with the higher end of the range carrying greater weight.

Consequently, based on the availability of sites, he considered that council figures pointing to between two and three years’ supply represented a substantial shortfall. When coupled with the benefits associated with the scheme, including delivery of affordable housing and a high-quality design, he concluded that the balance lay in favour of granting permission.