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Lack of a five-year housing land supply beats claims of harm to ‘valued landscape’ and prematurity

Permission has been granted on appeal for a scheme to erect 350 homes as an urban extension to Thornbury in South Gloucestershire as a contribution to the lack of a five-year land supply in the district.

The scheme had been refused planning permission because of an alleged conflict with the development plan strategy for the town, landscape and visual impact arising from building in the open countryside outside the settlement boundary that was claimed to be a 'valued landscape'. At the inquiry, it was also alleged that it prejudiced the emerging Joint Structure Plan that promoted the site as a location for 500 dwellings as a grant of permission would prejudge the widespread public opposition to the allocation that should be considered at the examination of the draft plan later this year.

The inspector found that it was inappropriate in a s.78 appeal to determine whether the issue of housing need should be tested on the 'Liverpool' or 'Sedgefield' methods preferring to measure the scale of need by reference to the shortfall in general terms.

He was not persuaded by the claim that the site constituted a 'valued landscape' for the purposes of NPPF 109 using the now familiar test of looking for some special quality about the land. He found the scheme to be 'landscape led' scheme and of high quality.

He applied the tilted balance under NPPF 14 in favour of the appeal proposals despite strong local opposition based mainly on the need to give Thornbury a respite from large-scale housing development. He was not persuaded by the claim of prejudice to the emerging plan as the proposal was intended to make good the shortfall under the existing development plan and was not justified by reference to the draft allocation.

Mark Lowe QC appeared for the successful appellants, Welbeck Strategic Land Ltd.