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

The Secretary of State has accepted the recommendation of his inspector and dismissed an appeal by Crownhall Estates Ltd seeking planning permission for 25 houses in the village of Loxwood in West Sussex. Chichester District Council had refused planning permission because the site was not allocated for housing development in the draft Loxwood Neighbourhood Plan 2013-2029 that was then emerging. When the appeal was considered at inquiry, the Loxwood Neighbourhood Plan had been made and was therefore a part of the development plan. The Secretary of State agreed with the following conclusions of his inspector: “226. [...] Policy 45 [of the Local Plan] refers to development in the countryside that requires a countryside location and meets the essential, small scale, and local need which cannot be met within or immediately adjacent to existing settlements. Given the housing provision made in the [Neighbourhood Plan] which is in accord with [Local Plan] policy 2, there is nothing in the development plan to suggest that the local housing need of Loxwood cannot be met within the defined Settlement Boundary.  Despite the appeal site being adjacent to an existing settlement, and there being no evidence of harm to agricultural operations from the proposal, there is no reason why the appeal development requires a countryside location.” The inspector also accepted the Council’s case that a housing proposal that was in conflict with a made neighbourhood plan was at odds with the social dimension of sustainable development: “263. [...] As an aspect of the social dimension of sustainable development, the lack of accord with a neighbourhood plan that has undergone the full process of being made amounts to considerably more than just the dislike of some local people for a proposal described by the appellant. Having regard to the importance given by the Government to neighbourhood planning, as well as the statutory status of the development plan, the conflict with the NP carries very substantial weight.  264. Bringing these factors together, I reach an overall judgment having regard to the NPPF as whole that the proposal does not represent fully sustainable development.” The Secretary of State also agreed with this analysis. Gwion Lewis acted for Chichester District Council at the inquiry. Stephen Morgan acted for the Council in related judicial review proceedings relating to the making of the Loxwood Neighbourhood Plan.

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