Pickles dismisses appeal for 35-home scheme in Cheshire neighbourhood planning area

Out-Law News | 12 Jan 2015 | 4:58 pm | 1 min. read

Communities secretary (SoS) Eric Pickles has dismissed an appeal that would have allowed up to 35 homes to be built near the village of Malpas in Cheshire, in an area for which a neighbourhood plan proposal had been submitted.

Mr Paul Corbett applied to Cheshire West and Chester Council in May 2013 for outline permission to build 35 homes on 1.7 hectares of open agricultural land outside Malpas. The Council refused permission in August 2013 and the developer's appeal was recovered for determination by the SoS in September 2014.

In a decision letter dated 7 January (64-page / 1.0 MB PDF), the SoS agreed with the recommendation of planning inspector Robert Mellor that the appeal should be dismissed. Pickles decided that the negative impacts of the proposed scheme were not outweighed by the benefits of providing new housing in an area in which existing commitments meant housing targets had been exceeded.

Pickles agreed with the inspector that saved housing policies from the 2006 Chester District local plan, which sought to prevent development in the open countryside and protect important views, should not be considered out of date, given the Council's ability to demonstrate a five year supply of housing land.

The SoS found that the loss of openness under the scheme would be "to the detriment of the character and appearance of the area" and that a "severe adverse visual impact" would be caused to landscape views enjoyed by recreational users of the surrounding roads. Pickles said that, while harm caused to the setting of the nearby Grade II-listed Broselake Farmhouse would be "less than substantial", it nevertheless merited "considerable weight and importance in the planning balance".

The SoS also gave "significant weight" to policies in the emerging Cheshire West and Chester local plan (LP), which had reached the examination stage, and the emerging Malpas and Overton neighbourhood plan (NP), which was approaching referendum. The LP proposed 200 homes "within or directly adjoining Malpas", a figure which Pickles noted had already been "considerably exceeded". While the NP did not propose any housing allocations, the inspector had noted that it preferred brownfield to greenfield development and said that housing development on rural land surrounding Malpas "will not normally be considered appropriate".

Pickles said that the provision of new homes, including affordable homes, under the scheme would be "an important social and economic benefit", but gave this benefit reduced weight "in light of the extensive provision for housing already made locally around Malpas". Dismissing the appeal, the SoS concluded that "the benefits of this particular scheme in terms of new housing, including affordable housing, and associated economic benefits are insufficient to outweigh the significant harm to landscape character, significant adverse visual impact and slight adverse harm to heritage assets".

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