Secretary of state (SoS) Eric Pickles has rejected proposals by developer Crest Nicholson for a residential development on green belt land in Saltford after concluding that the harm caused to the green belt would outweigh the benefits the scheme would bring. 

Crest Nicholson lodged an appeal last year after Bath and North East Somerset Council failed to determine the proposals within the prescribed period. Pickles dismissed the appeal despite a planning inspector having recommended that the plans should be approved.

The SoS said in his decision letter (38-page / 250KB PDF) that, although he agreed with the inspector that the site was "visually well-contained" by being separated by "substantial tree belts from the open countryside", he did not agree that the site was relatively small or that the actual extent and nature of the encroachment into the green belt would be modest. 

Pickles said that the extent of the encroachment represented "considerable harm" to which he attributed "significant weight" in the planning balance. He said he was also mindful that the site was located within a "substantial sub-area of green belt identified as strongly serving the purpose of safeguarding the countryside from encroachment".

Pickles noted that the Council's lack of a five year housing land supply and the contribution the scheme would make carried "considerable weight". However, he said that this did not clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt that would arise.

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