Skip to main content

Appeal decision: Secretary of State rejects site due to landscape concerns - Highnam Neighbourhood Plan

Neighbourhood Plan, Secretary of State rejects planning appeal due to landscape concerns: image of field and sky
In the appeal decisions I've reviewed to date, the outcome has often been disappointing for the Neighbourhood Plans involved.

However, in a recent appeal case the Secretary of State applied the policies of a Neighbourhood Plan to refuse outline planning permission for 40 dwellings, despite a lack of housing land supply.

The planning appeal for a 50 dwelling scheme at land south of Oakridge, Highnam, Gloucestershire, was dismissed by a Planning Inspector, after being refused planning permission by Tewkesbury Borough Council. The appeal decision was called in by the Secretary of State (SoS), The Right Honourable James Brokenshire MP, who agreed with the Planning Inspector's recommendation.

The decision was issued 20 December 2018, under appeal reference APP/G1630/W/17/3184272.

'Tilted balance'

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) applies a presumption in favour of sustainable development where there are no relevant development plan policies, or the policies which are most important for determining applications, including housing development, are out-of-date

Crucially, the NPPF considers plans to be out-of-date where the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites, or where the Housing Delivery Test indicates that the delivery of housing was substantially below the housing requirement over the previous three years.

Where policies are out-of-date, planning applications for housing development will be granted planning permission unless doing so will result in adverse harm.

In the appeal case, Tewkesbury Borough Council fell short of the requirement for a five year land supply, with a land supply of only 3.99 years, meaning the 'tilted balance' must be applied.

In the absence of a five year supply of housing, the SoS noted the benefits of the scheme in delivering market and affordable housing.

Highnam Neighbourhood Plan

The Highnam Neighbourhood Plan (HNP) was made in January 2017. The HNP sets out policies on a range of issues including housing, transport, business and enterprise, community facilities and environment and conservation. 

The HNP does not make site allocations, and does not directly discuss the appeal site. However, HNP policy H2 places importance on the design and visual character of new developments, encouraging them to "make a positive contribution to forming a sense of place: demonstrating both design quality and sensitivity to the existing environment...".

Character and appearance

The SoS and Inspector considered the main issues to be "the effect of the proposal on the settlement pattern, and the landscape and visual effects of the proposal", noting that Oakridge provides a "definitive and robust edge between the settlement and open countryside", and "development would result in harm by disrupting the settlement pattern by extending the urban area into open countryside beyond a well-defined edge".

The appeal site is not within a landscape subject to any specific designation for its character or quality.

The SoS makes reference to HNP policy H2, and a landscape policy (SD6) set out in the Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Joint Core Strategy (JCS), which seeks to protect landscape character and requires development proposals to have regard to local distinctiveness, landscape and visual sensitivity.

The SoS considered that the proposal would not have sufficient regard for local distinctiveness or contribute positively to a sense of place, concluding the proposal would therefore run counter to JCS policy SD6 and NP policy H2.

Planning balance

In making his decision, the SoS considered that the housing and economic benefits of the proposal carry significant weight. However, the SoS considered that the conflict with the development plan on matters of character and landscape impact carry very substantial weight. The SoS dismissed the appeal, and refused planning permission for the scheme.

What we can learn 

The Highnam case is similar to a case at Chinnor, Oxfordshire which I recently reviewed. In both cases, the local planning authority could not demonstrate a five year land supply, and a key concern was the site's impact on the landscape - despite neither site having any formal landscape designation.

However, the big difference between these two cases is the outcome - the Highnam case was refused, whilst the Chinnor case was approved.

In the Inspector's Report, the Inspector draws on two landscape studies which accompany the JCS and provide assessment of landscape character and visual sensitivity. In addition, each party submitted additional evidence on landscape and visual impact during the appeal process.

In describing the harmful impacts of the scheme on the local landscape, the Inspector draws on this wealth of evidence.

The Highnam case highlights the importance of evidence in resisting unplanned developments. Whilst the HNP and JCS policies sought to protect landscape, the evidence documents articulated the specific characteristics of the local landscape enabling the Inspector (and SoS) to draw clear conclusions.

For many communities, the threat of unplanned developments is a major concern - particularly, where proposals come forward in sensitive locations, such as at the edge of settlements.

The Highnam case shows that Neighbourhood Plan policies, where supported by evidence of landscape character and visual sensitivity can help to resist unplanned developments in inappropriate locations.

When writing a Neighbourhood Plan, you should check if your district or borough council has up-to-date evidence of the local landscape which you can utilise to inform your Neighbourhood Plan - and where not available, you should consider preparing or commissioning such evidence.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Housing Delivery Test 2019 Results Published

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has now published the latest results of its Housing Delivery Test (HDT), based on the number of new homes built in the period 2016 to 2019.

The HDT 2019 measurement for each council area is provided in the searchable table below.
How the Housing Delivery Test is calculated The HDT calculates the number of new homes built, as a percentage of the number of homes needed over the past three years. MHCLG re-calculates an HDT figure annually for every council area in England. The new 2019 measurement replaces the previous 2018 measurement.
Consequences of the Housing Delivery Test The purpose of the HDT is to hold local authorities to account over the supply of new housing.

Where the HDT shows the delivery of new homes has fallen below 95% of the district or borough's housing requirement over the previous three years, the council should prepare an Action Plan to assess the causes of under-delivery and identify actions to…

1,000th Neighbourhood Plan marks continued growth of neighbourhood planning

February 2020 saw an important milestone achieved, with the total number of approved Neighbourhood Plans reaching 1,000.
About the Planfinder data All Things Neighbourhood Planning's Planfinder app provides the data source for this blog post.

The Planfinder is a database of all Neighbourhood Plans which have successfully passed referendum. The Planfinder is maintained and updated regularly from ATNP's own research and monitoring of Neighbourhood Plan progress.

Joint Neighbourhood Plans (i.e. covering multiple parishes) and Neighbourhood Plans crossing a local authority boundary (i.e. forming part of the development plan in multiple local authority areas), are counted only once.

The Neighbourhood Plan data described in this post also includes Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders, as these are closely related to Neighbourhood Plans, follow a similar process in their preparation, and also fall under the 'umbrella' term of neighbourhood pla…

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…

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 …

The Neighbourhood Plan 'League Table'

My last blog post, 1,000th Neighbourhood Plan marks continued growth of neighbourhood planning, illustrates the growth of Neighbourhood Plans over recent years.

Exploring the data further, this blog post breaks down the total number of approved plans by Local Planning Authority area. Presenting the data in this way highlights the marked differences in the take up of neighbourhood planning in different areas. About the dataThe table (below) has been populated using data from my Planfinder app, and is based on the same dataset used in my 1,000th Neighbourhood Plan... blog post. The data includes plans which successfully passed referendum before the end of February 2020, therefore any plans which passed referendum over the past couple of weeks are not included - although you can find details of these on the Planfinder app.

The sum total of the number of approved plans shown in the table exceeds 1,000, as a small number of plans cross local planning authority boundaries and are therefore…

Review of Planning Appeal: The tricky task of planning for housing development - Wingerworth Neighbourhood Plan

I previously posted about why it is important to include policies and site allocations for housing, in order to "presumption-proof" your Neighbourhood Plan. A recent planning appeal (APP/R1038/W/17/3192255), which resulted in the granting of planning permission for 180 homes at Wingerworth, Derbyshire, illustrates the importance of making provision for housing development in a Neighbourhood Plan.

North East Derbyshire Council ranks settlements in a hierarchy. Wingerworth is located firmly in the middle of the hierarchy as a "Settlement with good levels of sustainability", so presumably has some merits as a location for housing development.

The Wingerworth Neighbourhood Plan (WNP) successfully passed the referendum stage in June 2018. The WNP includes a number of policies which relate to the provision of housing development, for example:

Policy W1 defines a settlement development limit around the built area of Wingerworth village, offering in principle support to de…

Updated Neighbourhood Plan Finder

Hundreds of Neighbourhood Plans have passed referendum and are being made across the country. It can therefore be tricky to keep track of which areas have plans in force.

All Things Neighbourhood Planning's Neighbourhood Plan Finder tool can help you quickly and simply locate Neighbourhood Plans.

Select a local authority area from the Neighbourhood Plan Finder to reveal a list of Neighbourhood Plans in force in the area.

The Neighbourhood Plan Finder includes web links to view and download the plan, therefore providing a comprehensive directory of Neighbourhood Plans.

For groups writing Neighbourhood Plans, the Neighbourhood Plan Finder can help you to find other local examples of plans which have completed the process. The Finder will also help applicants and decision-makers to locate Neighbourhood Plans which may affect their proposals.

Try the Neighbourhood Plan Finder now.

Alternatively, view locations with Neighbourhood Plans in force on the interactive map.

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…

Need for homes trumps valued landscapes. Review of appeal decision: Farnham Neighbourhood Plan

An appeal decision at land west of Folly Hill, Folly Hill, Farnham (appeal reference: APP/R3650/W/17/3171409) illustrates the delicate and complex issue of determining whether a Neighbourhood Plan is or is not 'out-of-date' and the effect this has on applying the 'tilted balance'.

The appeal decision was issued in December 2018, granting planning permission for 96 dwellings, including 38 affordable, with areas of open space, Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANGS); children’s play area; SuDS attenuation; highway works and a new access. 
The appeal site is located within the Borough of Waverley, Surrey, and the Farnham Neighbourhood Area. Development Plan The Farnham Neighbourhood Plan (FNP) was made in July 2017, and was therefore less than a year and a half old at the time the decision was issued.
During the course of the appeal, the Waverley Local Plan Part 1 (WLPP1) was adopted. This is, in effect, 'half' of a Local Plan setting out strategic polici…

How the Housing Delivery Test can affect Neighbourhood Plans

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has today published the results of the Housing Delivery Test (HDT).

**NEW - try my Housing Delivery Test Checker tool to see results for your area**

The HDT was first mooted by the Housing White Paper, back in February 2017. The HDT calculates the number of new homes built, as a percentage of the number of homes needed over the past three years. MHCLG has published a HDT figure for every council area in England, and indicates it will re-calculate the HDT annually.

The purpose of the HDT is to hold local authorities to account over the supply of new housing.

Where the HDT shows the delivery of new homes has fallen below 95% of the district or borough's housing requirement over the previous three years, the council should prepare an Action Plan to assess the causes of under-delivery and identify actions to increase delivery in future years.

Where the HDT shows a district's housing delivery is less than 85%, the c…