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Out-Law News 2 min. read

Pickles allows 550-home greenfield development near listed buildings in Kent

Secretary of state for communities and local government (SoS) Eric Pickles has allowed an appeal (56-page / 373 KB PDF) that will permit the construction of a 550-home, mixed-use development on farmland near four Grade II-listed buildings in Kent, in an area without a demonstrable five year supply of deliverable housing land.

Developer East Kent Opportunities and Rosefarm Estates PLC had applied to Thanet District Council for outline consent for the Ramsgate scheme, which also includes up to 63,000 square metres of office space and a local district centre with convenience retail and community healthcare facilities. When the application was refused, the developer appealed and the appeal was recovered for determination by the SoS.

Saved policies from the 2006 local plan for Thanet (TLP) allocated the appeal site for the development of employment floorspace for general industry and storage or distribution. They also provided that permission for housebuilding on sites not allocated for residential development should only be allowed on previously developed land within built-up areas.

decision letter (56-page / 373 KB PDF) on behalf of the SoS said Pickles agreed with planning inspector Robert Mellor that the saved policies from the TLP must be regarded as out of date, in light of the Council's inability to demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing land. "The need for housing and the lack of a five year supply of land outweighs the literal conflict with [the TLP]," said the letter.

The SoS also agreed with the inspector that "the land no longer need be protected ... for solely employment use", noting that other land was available in the district for employment uses and that take up of the site for employment development had been slow.

While building on farmland conflicted with the saved policies in the TLP, the inspector had concluded that "the identified need for housing and other development, and the facts that the site: lies within the defined built up area in the development plan; is in a sustainable location close to complementary facilities and transport links; and is already allocated for built development, outweigh the loss of greenfield agricultural land". The SoS' decision letter said that Pickles agreed with this assessment.

The environmental statement submitted with the planning application had concluded that the proposal would cause a moderate adverse impact on the agricultural setting of three Grade II-listed farm buildings at nearby Rose Farm and a minor adverse impact on the setting of the early 18th century Haine Farmhouse. The inspector had given "considerable weight" to this harm, while noting that Haine Farmhouse was screened from the development site and stood near a large office building and that the setting of the farm buildings at Rose Farm was already compromised by a nearby shipping container and several mobile homes.

Recommending that the appeal be allowed and outline permission granted for the plans, Pickles concluded "that the moderate harm to the setting of nearby listed buildings merits considerable weight, but that this harm is limited and is in fact outweighed by the scheme's significant benefits which also merit considerable weight".

The Council, or any other interested party, has six weeks to challenge the decision in the High Court.

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