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The Secretary of State has allowed an appeal against Medway District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for 450 houses on a greenfield site at Gibraltar Farm, near Gillingham. Permission had been refused for a single reason relating to the impact of the proposal on a designated Area of Local Landscape Importance.

In granting permission, the Secretary of State noted that the Council accepted that it only had a housing land supply in the range of 2.21 to 2.79 years, and agreed with the Inspector that the shortfall in five year housing land supply was so great and the pressure on sites so significant, that it was inevitable that Greenfield land would have to be developed. Although the proposed development would harm the character and appearance of the immediate area and, therefore, fail to accord with the provisions of policies of the Local Plan, these policies were out of date, and should only be afforded limited weight. The harm would not represent a critical harm to the function of the ALLI taken as a whole.  Significant weight was attached to the provision of 25% affordable housing, and the economic benefits of the scheme.

The overall positive balance for the economic and social strands of sustainability from the development contrasted with the environmental role where there was clear harm to this area of countryside which is locally designated for protection. However, the development would not lead to coalescence between settlements or critical harm to the ALLI’s function. The sustainability of the appeal scheme along with the fact that the relevant policies for the supply of housing land in Medway were out of date, outweighed the landscape harm and other harm, and the adverse impacts of the scheme did not significantly and demonstrably outweigh its benefits when assessed against the policies of the Framework taken as a whole.

Paul Brown QC acted for the Appellant; Graeme Keen acted for the Local Planning Authority.

A copy of the decision letter can be found here.

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