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Posted 14 July 2017
by Simon Catterall

Absence of a 5 year land supply fails to tip balance in favour of development in the green belt

In an appeal decision against a refusal by Waverley Borough Council a planning Inspector has refused permission for the development of land within the Green Belt despite the Council being unable to demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply.

On a preliminary point the Inspector determined that as the site had a lawful mixed use both for retailing imported fruit and vegetables and for agriculture, it constituted “brownfield” land and its redevelopment for housing would be inappropriate development unless the proposals would not have a greater impact on the openness of the green belt.  Whilst the Inspector thought that the development would result in a smaller floor area, he considered that the more solid massing and height of housing development, when contrasted with the glazed nature of the existing greenhouses would result in a reduction in the openness of the site.  He thought that the change from the agricultural style of the existing buildings to the more urban form of the proposed housing development would increase urban sprawl and encroach into the countryside, contrary to green belt policy.  The decision illustrates that it is not just footprint or volume that are relevant when considering openness.

Consequently the proposed development was inappropriate in the green belt and very special circumstances needed to be shown to allow the development.  The appellant tried to argue that a failure to achieve a 5 year housing land supply was very special circumstances.  Following an analysis the Inspector concluded that the Council could not demonstrate a 5 year land supply although the Inspector found that the deficit was not large (about 50 dwellings or 10% of the 5 year land housing requirement).  He also concluded that steps were being taken to address the shortfall.   The Inspector referred to the Planning Practice Guidance which states that unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt (reinforced by recent Secretary of State pronouncements) and even though the local plan was out-of-date he considered that the green belt policies still restricted development and should be applied.

At the end of the day it is still a balancing decision on the weight to be attached to green belt policies and the shortfall in meeting the 5 year housing land supply requirement.  The Inspector was likely to be swayed by his view that the shortfall was not  large and steps were being taken to address it.  Cases can still go either way but the decision illustrates how difficult it still can be to secure development in the green belt.


Appeal reference:   APP/R3650/W/16/3163050



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About the author

Simon Catterall


Solicitor for the planning team