Harm to Surrey Hills AONB outweighs contribution to housing shortfall

16 Jan 2019

Planning and Environment

An Inspector has refused permission for 27 new homes, partly within the Surrey Hills AONB and an Area of Great Landscape Value at Longdene House, Hedgehog Lane, Haslemere, in-spite of a 3.37 – 4.6 years’ land supply.

The decision is of broader note for two reasons: (i) the Inspector’s consideration of the new test of “deliverable” and the Housing Delivery Test and (ii), whether “non-major” development in an AONB is a “footnote 6” policy in the revised NPPF.

Deliverable housing sites

The definition of “deliverable” has been tightened in the 2018 version of the NPPF. Sites with outline permission, for more than 10 units, should now only be considered deliverable “where there is clear evidence that housing completions will begin on site within five years”.

The Inspector found that outline sites could be counted as “deliverable” if a reserved matters application had been submitted, notwithstanding that at the base date the reserved matters application had not yet been submitted (para.39).

The Inspector also found that the Housing Delivery Test should not be applied prior to the publication of the test results, on the basis of the strict wording of paragraph 215 NPPF (para.41).

Non-major development in AONBs

The Inspector found that any development in an AONB (even that which did not amount to “major development”) which engaged paragraph 172 NPPF, amounted to a policy in the Framework which “protect[ed] areas or assets of particular importance” within the contemplation of paragraph 11(d)(i) NPPF (para.47).

As such, in a situation where development in an AONB fails to conserve the landscape and scenic beautify of the AONB, the tiled balance is not to be applied unless the benefits of the scheme outweigh that harm (paras.48-49).

The decision letter can be viewed here.

Dr Ashley Bowes acted for the successful planning authority, Waverley Borough Council (instructed by Lewis Young, planning solicitor, Waverley Borough Council).