Pickles dismisses appeal to build homes on green belt despite lack of five-year housing supply

Out-Law News | 20 Jun 2014 | 4:46 pm | 1 min. read

Secretary of state (SoS) for communities Eric Pickles has dismissed developer Meridian Strategic Land's appeal against Basildon Borough Council's decision to refuse planning permission for a 750-home development on green belt land, despite the Council being unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply.

Meridian applied to the Council in January 2013 for outline planning permission for a 29.5 hectare residential development to include 750 homes, a neighbourhood centre and public spaces at a farm within the Green Belt to the east of Basildon in Essex.

The Council decided in September 2013 to refuse permission for the development. Among the Council's reasons for refusal was the fact that the proposals included the construction of buildings on Green Belt land, which was opposed by the National Planning Policy Framework and the Basildon District Local Plan adopted in 1998.

Appealing the decision, Meridian argued that, although the proposed development constituted "inappropriate development within the Green Belt", the harm that would be caused was outweighed by the benefits of the scheme. Meridian claimed that the Council's use of a 15-year old plan meant that "it can make no provision for today's housing needs" and that the likelihood of a shortfall in the housing land supply constituted very special circumstances that ought to allow for the release of the site for development.

In his decision letter (61-page / 450 KB PDF) relating to the appeal, the SoS said that the lack of a five-year supply of housing was a "compelling factor" in support of Meridian's proposals, that they "would bring forward much needed new housing within a shorter within a shorter timescale than is likely through the Local Plan process", that "it is likely that the Council will have to release land from the Green Belt" to meet housing need.

However, Pickles agreed with the recommendation of Planning Inspector Katie Peerless to dismiss the appeal, concluding that "the SoS does not consider that the harm to the green belt and other harm is clearly outweighed by other considerations".

Meridian has six weeks to challenge the validity of the SoS's decision.

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