Clear reasons for refusal: Successful resistance of two appeals adjoining the South Downs National Park

Ref APP/P1425/W/23/3314192 and Ref APP/P1425/W/23/3315235
24 Oct 2023

Planning and Environment

A Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State has dismissed two joined appeals against the refusal of planning permission for residential development adjacent to the South Downs National Park (‘SDNP’) in Ringmer, East Sussex. The appeals proposed the development of 200 dwellings or, in the alternative, 75 dwellings at the appeal site in circumstances in which the local authority could not demonstrate a five-year housing land supply (3.02 years).

The Inspector recognised that both schemes would contribute to the housing land supply in the district [76] but found that they would both have significant and adverse effects on the rural landscape. In both cases, the Inspector found that the harm to the setting of the SDNP (and to the SDNP itself) operated as a clear reason for refusal, thereby disapplying the tilted balance [80](applying the test at paragraph 11(d)(i) of the NPPF).

The Inspector also noted that even if the tilted balance was engaged, he considered that the proposals’ encroachment into the countryside and harm to the SDNP and its setting significantly and demonstrably outweighed the benefits of the schemes [81] when assessed against the policies in the NPPF (applying the test at paragraph 11(d)(ii) of the NPPF).

Importantly, the Inspector recorded that he did not consider the smaller 75 dwelling scheme to be genuinely landscape-led with a view to minimising harm to the SDNP. Instead, he assessed that proposal as a stepping stone to bringing forth further residential development at the Site [41] meaning it was not “carefully designed to minimise the impact on the SDNP.”

The decision is a helpful reminder that the ‘tilted balance’ within paragraph 11 of the NPPF can be outweighed by other material considerations in appropriate circumstances, and of the protection offered to designated landscapes within paragraphs 174 and 176. Further, the decision highlights the importance of ensuring that applications in sensitive areas appropriately respond to that context to achieve permission.

Rowan Clapp acted for the successful local authority, Lewes District Council. He appeared against a leading silk for the Appellant.

The appeal decision may be read in full here.