Wiltshire Council has refused permission for Star Planning’s proposals to build four houses at the end of the Mews.
Star Planning’s application attracted 38 objections, including one from the Parish Council. The most common grounds for objection were highway issues and lack of parking, ecological issues, bin storage, and the risk of coalescence with Swindon.
None of these were considered a bar to the development in themselves. However, the Council still chose to refuse the application. It took the view the proposals would not promote a sustainable pattern of development. It also found them inconsistent with Wiltshire’s Core Strategy.
Under Wiltshire’s Core Strategy, Lydiard Millicent no longer has a defined settlement boundary. However, it is classified as “a small village.” This means that, generally, any development should be confined to infill within the existing built-up area. Under the Core Strategy, infill is defined as “the filling of a small gap within the village that is only large enough for not more than a few dwellings, generally only one dwelling.” The Council took the view that the developer’s proposals for four houses on the site were more than just infill.
Other arguments put forward by the developer were also unsuccessful.
In some situations, development will be permitted, even in the case of a small village, and even where the proposals go beyond infill. There remains a presumption in favour of sustainable development, and Wiltshire’s Core Strategy says that development will be supported where it seeks to meet local housing needs, provided other conditions are met.
In the Mews case, the developer argued its proposals would help meet that housing need. However, the Council did not accept this argument. Instead, it took the view that any shortfall would be met from other, allocated, sites. It also considered that, in any case, any contribution made by the proposed development would be insignificant in its impact on housing supply. In short, the development’s potential benefits did not outweigh other policy factors, which operate to protect the distinct nature of Lydiard as a small village.
In reaching their decision, Wiltshire Council appear to have been influenced by a recent Court of Appeal judgment, which (hopefully) may restore some clarity to the complex relationship between housing supply and planning policy.
In the past, several developers have successfully challenged planning refusals where the local authority could not demonstrate an adequate five-year supply of land for housing. Not only is there a presumption in favour of sustainable development, the National Planning Policy Framework says relevant policies should not be considered up-to-date if the local authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites” (NPPF, paragraph 49).
In practice, this has sometimes made it harder for local authorities to rely upon policies which could restrict housing growth. For example, Wiltshire’s failure to show an adequate five-year supply of land for housing was instrumental in Gleeson Home’s success in Calne. Despite initial refusal and strong local opposition, permission was given on appeal for a 125 home development.
However, in March 2016, the Court of Appeal adopted a broader interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework. The wider impact of this judgment remains to be assessed. In some cases, local authorities may find it harder to resist applications from developers, particularly where their local development plan is not up-to-date.
Significantly, however, the judgment also confirms that it is down to local authorities to determine how much weight to attach to policies that are not up-to-date. Wiltshire Council appear to have relied upon this reasoning in deciding the Mews application. In their view, there are still sufficient grounds for refusing the application, notwithstanding they cannot demonstrate a five-year land supply for housing.
The developer has six months in which to appeal.
The decision notice is available on Wiltshire Council’s website.