Pickles rejects proposals for 200 green belt homes in Somerset

Out-Law News | 10 Mar 2014 | 3:08 pm | 1 min. read

Secretary of state (SoS) Eric Pickles has refused to grant planning permission on appeal to a major residential development on green belt land in Whitchurch, Somerset (69-page / 534KB PDF), after concluding that the harm caused to the green belt would outweigh the "undeniable" benefits arising from the scheme.

Developer Robert Hitchins lodged an appeal last year after Bath and North East Somerset Council rejected its proposals, which included the construction of 295 homes on a 13.4 hectare site entirely within the green belt. It subsequently consulted on amended proposals which reduced the proposed number of homes to 200.

Pickles said in his decision letter that he agreed with a planning inspector's recommendations to dismiss the appeal. He said that, although he agreed that the Council could not demonstrate a five year housing land supply and that this carried "significant weight" in favour of the proposals, this was outweighed by the "substantial harm" to the green belt.

The SoS said he agreed that the proposals would "materially impact on the openness of the site, which is an essential characteristic of green belts", and that they would harm "national purposes" in relation to urban sprawl and countryside encroachment.

He acknowledged that some green belt land release within the Council's area would be inevitable in the "near future", but said there was "insufficient evidence" to conclude that the proposal site would necessarily be among the favoured options.

"The secretary of state agrees with the inspector that some further weight arises in favour of the scheme from the inevitability of the release of some green belt land, the deliverability of the scheme and its economic benefits, but considers that these matters are also insufficient to clearly outweigh the identified harm, even when added to the other benefits," the decision letter concluded.