How to secure permission for greenfield sites outside settlement limits

24 Jan 2022

Planning and Environment

Two recent appeal decisions reveal how to increase the likelihood of securing permission for housing development on greenfield sites outside settlement boundaries.

In the Mill Road appeal, the Inspector found the “significant” landscape harm, “significant” harm arising by car dependency and “limited” harm arising from loss of BMV land did not “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh the benefit of new housing.

By contrast, in the Brain Valley Avenue appeal, the Inspector found the “significant” landscape harm alone was sufficient to “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh the benefits of new housing.

Both were outline schemes with all matters reserved except access on greenfield sites adjacent to settlements. Neither site was found to be a valued landscape.

So, what made the difference beyond simply differing planning judgments:

  • The Mill Road appellant had demonstrated with detailed illustrative material not only how the layout and design could complement the local character, but also improve the existing relationship between the village and the countryside.
    • By contrast, the Brain Valley Inspector found the illustrative layout and design material failed to demonstrate how the scheme would enhance local distinctiveness.
    • Reliance upon an “up to” quantum is unlikely to save a poorly justified layout and design philosophy, especially in an era where good design and beautiful buildings are emphasised by national policy.
  • The Mill Road appellant proposed a 20% biodiversity net gain, whereas the Brain Valley Avenue appellant only proposed 10%.
    • Demonstrating a 10% biodiversity net gain is now unlikely to attract significant weight, given the impending legal requirement for 10% in the Environment Act 2021. Developers should consider demonstrating that a net gain beyond 10% can be achieved.
  • The Brain Valley appellant proposed a shortened timescale for submission of reserved matters, without demonstrating that timescale was deliverable by the interested housebuilders. As there is no legal mechanism to extend the time period to implement a planning permission or submit a reserved matter for approval, it is critical to demonstrate a shortened timescale would be achievable, especially if the appellant is not the intended developer.

Ashley Bowes acted for the successful developer in the Mill Road appeal and the successful planning authority in the Brain Valley appeal.