The Secretary of State by a letter dated 23 October 2018 accepted his inspector's recommendation and dismissed an appeal for the erection of 226 residential dwellings on the western edge of Falmouth at Menehey Fields, Bickland Water Road, Cornwall. The decision provides an early example of the Secretary of State applying the 2018 National Planning Policy Framework to key local plan policies.
The decision throws up a general point of interest relating to the modern trend for permissive language used in describing spatial strategies and making strategic allocations within local plans. It is also of significance because it applies a key strategic policy relating to Cornwall Council's plan, which has a plan period of 2010-2030 and covers an area of 3,559 sq km.
The decision will be useful for other Local Planning Authorities who may have adopted local plans employing similar language relating to their spatial strategies and housing allocations.
A principal basis for the decision was whether the proposal complied with the Council's housing strategy. Policy 3 of the Local Plan provided that "Delivery of housing . . . will be managed through a Site Allocations DPD or Neighbourhood Plans for the following locations: . . . Falmouth with Penryn". Paragraph 3 of Policy 3 made provision for development by identification of site through Neighbourhood Plans, rounding off, infill and rural exception sites.
The Council's case was that the provision of a site of strategic size would not be in accord with Policy 3. The promoter's case was that the language used in Policy 3 did not restrict development to the locations stated in the policy, but simply sought to manage it I order to secure the quantum of housing required by the plan.
The inspector preferred the Council's case. Accordingly, he found, in agreement with the Council's case that the proposed development was contrary to Policy 3 because it would extend major built development into the open countryside beyond the clear urban boundary provided by Bickland Water Road [IR/173, 180]. The inspector concluded that the proposal did not accord with the Council's spatial strategy [IR/180]. The SoS agreed with all that reasoning [DL/16].
In addition, the case involved consideration of the harm caused by compromising a ridgeline which provided an important local division between Falmouth and the nearby village of Budock Water, as well as assessment of the heritage harm caused to Menehey House, a grade II listed building.
Wayne Beglan acted for Cornwall Council. You can read the decision in full here.