Very Special Circumstances justify grant of planning permission for housing-led scheme in the Green Belt

Construction Housing Development

On 8 March 2023, Stephen Wilkinson, an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, granted outline planning permission for 215 market homes, 152 affordable homes, 15 self-build / custom plots, 100 retirement living units, a 60-bed care home, local centre and land safeguarded for educational use on the site of a former golf course on the outskirts of Little Chalfont in the Buckinghamshire Green Belt.

The site formed part of an emerging housing allocation in the draft Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan, but that plan was withdrawn in October 2020. The scheme was initially refused by Buckinghamshire Council on 25 April 2022, with 11 reasons for refusal. An appeal was heard at a 7-day public inquiry in December 2022, where the main issues included the effect of the proposal on the openness and purposes of including land within the Green Belt, and the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area, including the nearby Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

At the inquiry, the Council accepted that it could only demonstrate a housing land supply of 2.5 years, rather than the required 5 years. The Inspector recognised this as “a chronic position” (para. 128). It was also accepted by the Council that the extant development plan, part of which was 25 years old, contained policies designed to meet the needs of a different generation, based on an understanding of local needs that had long since changed. A new plan was not anticipated to be adopted until mid-2026 at the earliest.

Overall, the Inspector was satisfied that the harm to the Green Belt and any other harm was “clearly outweighed” by other considerations, meaning that “very special circumstances” justified the grant of planning permission in accordance with paragraphs 147-148 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2021.

The decision is available here.

The successful appellant was represented by Sasha White KC and Matthew Fraser, instructed by Alison Tero at CBRE.

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