Not so special circumstances: 5 year housing land supply shortfall does not justify Green Belt housing development

26 May 2023

Following a six-day inquiry, the Inspector has dismissed an appeal against Hertsmere Borough Council’s refusal of outline permission for 37 dwellings on the Green Belt. The Council’s reasons for refusal were supported at appeal by the Rule 6 Party, Shenley Parish Council, who also raised concerns regarding amenity.

The Inspector upheld the Council’s and Parish Council’s case that the development would cause significant harm to Green Belt openness, agreeing that the Appellant had underplayed the site’s contribution to the Green Belt purpose of safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.

The decision emphasises the importance of putting into context the extent to which a scheme would address a housing land supply shortfall. The 37 dwellings and affordable housing contribution at only 5% over the policy requirement proposed by the development were “relatively modest”.

The other benefits of the scheme: a biodiversity net gain of 10% and economic, social and public space benefits were not deemed to be out of the ordinary for a development of this type. The Inspector found that the benefits taken as a whole did not clearly outweigh the totality of the harm. No very special circumstances had been demonstrated, as is necessary to justify development in the Green Belt.

The decision is of great relevance to the many LPAs affected by the ongoing tension between the primacy given to Green Belt protection by national planning policy and ever increasing political pressure to deliver more housing at a time of nation-wide shortage.

Josef Cannon and Olivia Davies represented Hertsmere Borough Council, instructed by Bright Owusu.

Ben Du Feu represented Shenley Parish Council, instructed by Claire Saffer of Gunnercooke.