Secretary of State: Housing proposal that conflicts with an emerging neighbourhood plan is “not sustainable”

The Secretary of State has accepted the recommendation of his inspector and dismissed an appeal by Sunley Estates Ltd seeking planning permission for 120 houses on the edge of the village of Hambrook in West Sussex. In the inquiry which heard the appeal, Chichester District Council resisted the scheme on the basis that the level of housing proposed would conflict with the settlement hierarchy in its recently adopted Local Plan. This hierarchy indicated that only 25 new homes should be built in the parish in question, Chidham and Hambrook, over the period of the Plan (2014-2029). The Council also resisted the proposal on the basis that the emerging Chidham and Hambrook Neighbourhood Plan did not identify any new sites for major housing development given that planning permission had already been granted for 86 homes in the parish since January 2014 on sites other than the appeal site. The Secretary of State agreed with his inspector that the proposal conflicted with the objectives of the settlement hierarchy in the Local Plan. Moreover, noting that, since the inquiry closed, the Neighbourhood Plan had passed the examination stage and could therefore be given more weight, the Secretary of State also agreed that “granting permission would be at odds with the shared neighbourhood planning vision referred to in paragraph 183 of the Framework; and that it would fundamentally undermine confidence in the neighbourhood planning process that has taken place to date” (para. 15). Mainly on that basis, the Secretary of State concluded that “the scheme would not amount to sustainable development” (para. 21), endorsing the following conclusions of the inspector: “164. The social role of sustainable development is described as supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing the supply of housing required to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by creating a high quality built environment, with accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being [93]. Notwithstanding the fact that I have concluded that the Council is able to demonstrate a five year supply of land for housing, the margin for error in that calculation is very small [156]. The appeal scheme would provide a social benefit by delivering housing and contributing to a more robust five year housing land supply. It would also assist in meeting affordable housing needs at the District level [25 fn]. As noted above [162], the site occupies a sustainable location. Various specific community aspirations, including a new shop and recreational facilities, would be met [28]. 165. However, the above description of the social role of sustainable development is grounded in the concept of the community. In this case, a policy framework has been established by the recently adopted Local Plan that provides the context for the community of Chidham and Hambrook to plan for development in the locality. The [Local Plan] does not indicate that there is a need within the Parish for the amount of market housing that is now proposed [127]. Given that the amount of affordable housing that the scheme would provide (48 units) would exceed the indicative figure for all housing within the Parish, there is no evidence that the scheme would meet an affordable housing need at the Parish level [25].     166. I have concluded above that the proposal would conflict with the emerging NP when read as a whole [143]. […] Granting planning permission for the present proposal would therefore be at odds with the shared neighbourhood planning vision that is referred to in paragraph 183 of the Framework [94]. I agree with the Council that to allow this appeal would also fundamentally undermine confidence in the neighbourhood planning process that has taken place to date in Chidham and Hambrook. I consider that these factors are sufficient in the present case to over-ride the social benefits that I have described [164]. Overall, therefore, my findings in respect of the social dimension of sustainable development also weigh against the development.” This follows another recent decision of the Secretary of State dismissing an appeal seeking planning permission for 25 houses in village of Loxwood in West Sussex because conflict with a made neighbourhood plan meant that the proposal was “not fully sustainable”. Gwion Lewis acted for Chichester District Council at the inquiry. Sasha White QC acted for the appellant, Sunley Estates Ltd.

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