Skip to main content

Just how big is an infill site? Appeal decision: Chinnor, Oxfordshire

An appeal decision initially caught my eye due to its surprising interpretation of 'infill development' -  but also raises some concerning issues around how Neighbourhood Plan policies are applied during the decision-making process.

The appeal relates to an application for the construction of up to 140 dwellings, new public open space, associated landscaping and site infrastructure on a 3.9ha site at Chinnor, Oxfordshire. The application was made by Persimmon Homes and initially refused by South Oxfordshire District Council. The appeal was allowed, meaning the Planning Inspector went against the district council's decision grant planning permission for the scheme. Details of the appeal can be found using the following reference APP/Q3115/W/17/3187058.

Neighbourhood Plan & Development Plan

Chinnor is a large village in Oxfordshire. The Chinnor Neighbourhood Plan (CNP) was 'made' in October 2017. When the appeal commenced, the Neighbourhood Plan was less than one year old.

In addition to the CNP, South Oxfordshire's Development Plan includes an aged Core Strategy and saved policies from a Local Plan adopted in 2006. There is therefore no up to date Local Plan in place. 

The district council is preparing a new Local Plan. The emerging Local Plan identifies proportionate growth of 15% in the plan period for Chinnor. Existing planning permissions in Chinnor already account for double this rate of growth. This suggests that additional residential development is not required in Chinnor, and is perhaps why the CNP does not make site allocations for development.

Housing land supply

The housing land supply situation in South Oxfordshire is somewhat complex, due to changes to national policy, emerging Local Plan and unmet need in nearby Oxford. 

However, during the appeal, the district council was able to demonstrate a sufficient supply of housing land when measured against the latest assessments of housing need (in excess of 3 years). Therefore the 'tilted balance', where the NPPF's presumption in favour of sustainable development 'trumps' the development plan, did not apply in this case. Nonetheless, the Inspector identifies the provision of housing to be a major benefit of the scheme.

Landscape impacts

A key reason for the district council refusing the scheme relates to landscape impacts. Firstly, because the site provides separation between housing developments, mitigating their impacts, and secondly, the built up area would be consolidated, eroding the rural, green, open character, which can be seen from the Chilterns AONB.

The site is not subject to any statutory or landscape policy related designations. The Inspector notes that the CNP does not identify the site as a significant open space that contributes to the openness and attractiveness of the village, and that the site is within the built up envelope of Chinnor but offering no public access and performing no recreational function. The Inspector concluded that the visual impact of the scheme would be minimal.

Infill development

Policies for infill development are relatively common in Neighbourhood Plans and Local Plans, to enable development to take place within the built area of a settlement. The Planning Portal defines infill development as: 
The development of a relatively small gap between existing buildings.
The CNP recognises the need for growth and identifies, but does not allocate, a number of sites which currently have planning permission.  The CNP raises concerns about the level of growth the village is anticipated to receive, namely in respect of the impact growth may have on infrastructure and services. The CNP particularly highlights constraints around water supply and waste water treatment.

The CNP provides the following policy to enable infill development:

Policy CH H1 - Infill Residential Development

Infill development within the existing built-up form of Chinnor Village will be supported subject to the following:
  • The proposed development does not cause an unacceptable impact on the residential amenities of adjacent residential properties.
  • The proposed development provides appropriate access, parking and turning arrangements.
  • The proposed development does not severely impact on the free and safe flow of traffic on the local highway network.

The policy does not define precise thresholds for the scale of development it seems fairly clear, including to the Inspector, that policy CH H1 is describing pretty small-scale development, akin to the Planning Portal definition.

In addition to CNP policy CH H1, the Inspector makes reference to a policy contained in the Core Strategy which also makes provision for infill development but does not set a limit on the scale of such development in large villages. The Inspector goes on to discuss the characteristics of the site, for example that it is surrounded by built development and approved development (being built out) along all four of the site's boundaries.

This leads the Inspector to conclude that the scheme should be perceived as 'infill development' in the context of the policy framework.

Concerns

The Inspector references other case law in reaching his decision, and therefore I don't consider the Inspector has necessarily acted inconsistently with other decisions. However, I feel the case highlights some issues with the decision-making process.

It is clear that it was not the intention of the CNP to deliver further major developments in the village, where permission had already been granted for twice the amount of development identified by the emerging plan. One might reasonably expect that any further major developments would be seen as being in conflict with the Neighbourhood Plan. Due to a recent High Court decision, determining what constitutes conflict with a Neighbourhood Plan is more complicated than it sounds (see Chichester District Council v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government & Beechcroft Ltd - no doubt a topic for a future post!). 

The Inspector appears to place great weight on the fact that the proposal will deliver new housing despite there being an adequate supply of housing land, whilst applying little weight to NPPF paragraph 14 which offers greater protection to areas with a Neighbourhood Plan in place.

Section 38 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) states that where there is conflict between the policies in the Development Plan, the conflict should be resolved in favour of the policy in the last document to become part of the Development Plan - in this case the CNP. The Inspector discussed the merits of the site as infill development in the context of the CNP policy and an aged Core Strategy policy, despite the issue of infill development being directly addressed by the CNP. Irrespective of what thresholds the policies do or do not set, calling a 140-dwelling scheme 'infill' just doesn't feel right to me!

Regardless of legal precedents, any lay-person writing a Neighbourhood Plan would likely view such decisions as undermining the plan-led system. Such decisions risk making the neighbourhood planning process greatly more complex, as parish councils and neighbourhood fora will work harder to ensure their plans are resilient. 

Comments

  1. Another Appeal was heard at the same time, that one was not allowed. There is no rhyme or reason why the Inpector should have come to two different decisions when both proposals went against the CNP.
    He did not uphold the CNP as he should have done and went against his own guidelines on what is infill. The two adjoining developments were previously allowed because they had an open field in between them to mitigate their damage.
    Catch 22, the open field is now considered ok for infill!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why the Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan failed

News that the Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan was rejected at referendum has spread rapidly across social media and has even been picked up by local and national press - see BBC article.

The story has garnered a lot of attention as it is highly unusual for a Neighbourhood Plan to be rejected. The Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan is only the third Neighbourhood Plan not to be supported by residents.

At the referendum held on 14 March 2019, the Neighbourhood Plan was rejected, albeit by a very slim margin of just 22 votes.
'No' Campaign Prior to the referendum, Labour town councillors led a campaign which encouraged local people to vote against the Neighbourhood Plan. 
Based on the literature shared by the campaign group, opposition to the Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan appears to be pointed at three key issues: Impacts on the town and its infrastructure of the overall scale of growth Middlewich is expected deliverDisagreement with the individual sites identified by the Neighbourhood …

Latest stats show continued increase in house-building

Chart: All Things Neighbourhood Planning
Data source: Live tables on housebuilding: new build dwellings (Table 209), MHCLG

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has today published its latest data on house building in the United Kingdom. The graph shows the number of dwellings completed by financial year in England. Data is also available for the other home nations. However, Neighbourhood Planning is a feature of the English planning system only.

In 2017/18, there were more than 160,500 new homes constructed. - the highest rate of development since the financial crisis of 2007-08. As illustrated in the graph, the data shows a steady increase in number of homes built each year since the low-point of 2012-13, where less than 108,000 homes were built. 

The rate of development in 2017/18 is comparable to the period 2004 - 2006. Assuming this trend of increasing development rates continues into the current financial year, the number of homes constructed in 2018/19 could po…

Neighbourhood Plan Review: Plans made in July 2019

Neighbourhood Plans provide a bespoke planning framework for the local area. No two plans are alike, although many have similar characteristics and address common themes. This post provides a short summary of those Neighbourhood Plans which successfully passed referendum in July 2019, highlighting the elements which make each plan locally specific and unique.

The purpose of this post is to celebrate the achievement of those communities in successfully preparing their Neighbourhood Plans, and to share the interesting ideas and policies for the benefit of others who are currently writing their plans. Links to the Neighbourhood Plans are provided throughout the post.
Navigate this post using the map July was a busy month, with a whopping 24 Neighbourhood Plans successfully passing referendum. To  make it easier to navigate this post, the location of the areas covered by each new Neighbourhood Plan are shown on the interactive map. Click on a marker to reveal a link to the plan's su…

Putting Health & Wellbeing at the Heart of Neighbourhood Planning

The planning system's origins can be traced back to public health policies from the nineteenth century. Increases in population and the growth of towns created public health problems, and early legislation focused on creating sanitary conditions.

There is a sense that in recent decades planning has lost its way with health, yet our modern environments continue to have profound effects on our health and well-being. In the blog post What stops us from creating healthier places? author Rachel Toms notes that overall, the planning system has done a good job of designing infectious diseases out of the places in which people live, but has "inadvertently contributed to sedentary lifestyles, mental distress and social isolation".

Whilst the planning system has cured the public health problems of the industrial revolution, it faces a new set of public health challenges for the modern era.

In this post, I make the case for prioritising health and wellbeing through Neighbourhood P…

Appeal granted in countryside despite Five Year Land Supply - Shinfield Neighbourhood Plan

Through a recent appeal decision, a Planning Inspector has granted outline planning permission for up to 55 dwellings and 'Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace' (SANG) at land at Parklands, east of Basingstoke Road, Spencers Wood, Wokingham.

The decision was issued on 28th February 2019, under appeal reference APP/X0360/W/18/3204133.

The appeal site is located between two villages, Three Mile Cross and Spencers Wood. The scheme proposes two areas of development adjoining each of the villages, separated by an area of open space - a 'SANG'.
Shinfield Neighbourhood Plan The Shinfield Neighbourhood Plan (SNP) was made in February 2017. Policy 1 of the SNP addresses the location of development:

In Shinfield Parish, development within the Development Limits..., will be supported; development adjacent to the Development Limits will only be supported where the benefits of the development outweigh its adverse impacts. 

'Development limits' are a very common planning …

Neighbourhood Planning and Community Health and Wellbeing - Briefing Note for NALC

I have teamed up with the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) to author a briefing note on Neighbourhood Planning and Community Health and Wellbeing.

The briefing note illustrates how Neighbourhood Plans can actively contribute to improving health and wellbeing in their communities, and draws on recent examples of neighbourhood plan policies. Neighbourhood Plans can tackle issues of health and wellbeing in lots of different ways, as explained in the briefing note, and is something I will be making the case for in future blog posts.

A pdf version of the briefing note is available to view and download below. Further advice on neighbourhood planning is also available from NALC's website.




Neighbourhood Plan Review: Plans Made in September 2019

This post explores Neighbourhood Plans which successfully passed referendum in September 2019, highlighting elements which make each plan locally specific and unique. The following Neighbourhood Plans passed referendum in September 2019:
Bawtry Neighbourhood Plan (Doncaster Council)Brackenfield Neighbourhood Plan (North East Derbyshire District Council)Chelford Neighbourhood Plan (Cheshire East Council)Congresbury Neighbourhood Plan (North Somerset Council)Glentworth Neighbourhood Plan (West Lindsey District Council)Hanslope Neighbourhood Plan (Milton Keynes Council)Hullavington Neighbourhood Plan (Wiltshire Council)Huntingdon Neighbourhood Plan (Huntingdonshire District Council)Misterton Neighbourhood Plan (Bassetlaw District Council)Moreton, Bobbingworth and the Lavers Neighbourhood Plan (Epping Forest District Council)Sedgefield Neighbourhood Plan (Durham County Council)Sedgeford Neighbourhood Plan (Kings Lynn & West Norfolk District Council)Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan (Sidmo…

Essential reading for Neighbourhood Planners

Through my site neighbourhood-planning.co.uk I have attempted to explain the neighbourhood planning process, and provide regular blog posts on the latest issues affecting neighbourhood planning. But where can you go to find out more?

In this article I attempt to summarise where you should go for the most useful information and guidance, and where you can find funding and support for writing a Neighbourhood Plan.
Locality Toolkits and Guidance Locality administer the government's current programme of support for neighbourhood planning groups, and Locality's neighbourhoodplanning.org site should be your first port of call when writing a Neighbourhood Plan.
Locality has produced an excellent series of 'toolkits & guidance' on a range of issues to assist the preparation of neighbourhood plans. It is difficult to understate how valuable Locality's guides are for budding neighbourhood planners. Be sure you don't miss: The Neighbourhood Plans Roadmap 2018 by Dave …

Secretary of State overturns Planning Inspector's decision due to density concerns

Normally, planning appeals are determined by Planning Inspectors, but in some circumstances appeals may be 'recovered' for determination by the Secretary of State (SoS). The current SoS for Housing, Communities and Local Government is James Brokenshire MP.

In December 2018, the SoS issued a decision on a recovered appeal at Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire. The proposal for residential development of up to 203 dwellings, a doctor’s surgery, open space and landscaping, together with pedestrian, cycle and vehicular access, was initially refused by Milton Keynes Council, and following appeal, granted permission by a Planning Inspector. However, the SoS recovered the appeal and overturned the Inspector's decision, dismissing the appeal.

Details of the case are available on the Planning Inspectorate's website, using case reference: APP/Y0435/W/17/3169314.
Appeal site & Neighbourhood Plan The appeal site is a 15.2 hectare, greenfield site, located outside the development bo…