PLT Masthead 430

Comment and Analysis Masthead

Settlement hierarchies

Village green iStock 000009004124XSmall 146x219A historic village has been protected from further housing development. David Lintott sets out some of the lessons from the planning inspector's decision.

These s.78 planning appeals (APP/P1560/W/17/318367, 3183695 and 3183626) related to proposed housing development at three sites in the historic village of Great Bentley which has the second largest village green in the country and is the home of the church of St Mary the Virgin, which dates back to the 11th century.

The decision demonstrates to those acting for and against local authorities the importance to be attached to a strategic settlement hierarchy in the plan led system.

The decision also demonstrates the need to carefully assess harm that can be caused by development in the setting of a listed building, and the importance of taking into account the latest population projections when assessing housing need.

The decision

On the main issues C J Ball DArch DCons RIBA IHBC, the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government held that:

  1. The settlement hierarchy laid out in the development plan reflected the government's core planning principles, set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), of genuinely plan-led sustainable development that takes account of the different roles and character of different areas, promoting the vitality of the main urban areas while recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. In the smaller towns and villages, such as Great Bentley, limited development consistent with local community needs only will be permitted. There was no strong policy argument for extending the boundaries of Great Bentley to include the three appeal sites ([17]-[24] and conclusion [74]-[75])
  2. The Council was able to demonstrate a housing land supply of between 5.45 and 6.65 years, with the actual figure likely to fall closer to 6.65 years. This was principally because of the need to take into account the change in mortality assumptions in the 2016 National Population Projections (NPPs) in Tendring, where 95% of the growth for which housing is needed is in households headed by someone aged 65 or over. The Inspector also rejected a series of arguments urged on him by the Appellant that the need figure should actually be higher and that a lapse rate should be applied to housing supply. It followed that, in terms of Framework 49, the relevant policies for the supply of housing could be considered up to date and the proposals should be considered against the local development plan, the emerging plan and other material considerations. ([29]-[44]).
  3. In respect the appeal relating to Land to the South of Thorrington Road, the Inspector accepted the Council's evidence that should the housing development proceed, in important views, the Grade 1 listed church would appear to be absorbed into the built-up area of the village, significantly reducing the open landscape setting of the church and undermining its relationship with the open farmland at its distinctive edge of village location. Any public benefits of the development proposal did not outweigh the harm to the significance of the church (and another grade 11 listed building) to which very great weight must be given, and therefore the Inspector found no clear and convincing justification for that harm. ([45]-[60]).
  4. In conflict with extant and emerging policy in each of the three appeals, the proposed development would have a substantially harmful impact, a moderately harmful impact and a severely harmful impact on the rural landscape setting of the village respectively. In respect of the Land to the South of Thorrington Road appeal, the Inspector concluded that the site lies within an area which should be considered a valued landscape in terms of Framework 109, to be protected and enhanced ([61]-[70]).

Accordingly, all three appeals were dismissed. Click here for a copy of the Inspector's decision.

David Lintott is a barrister at Cornerstone Barristers. He acted for the local planning authority in the inquiry.

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