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Planning inspector dismisses appeal for 110 new homes on farm land in Somerset, citing concerns about proposed travel plan

A planning inspector has dismissed an appeal that would have allowed the construction of 110 homes on farm land in Somerset, after raising doubts about a travel plan put forward by the developer.

House builder Gleeson Developments applied to South Somerset District Council in July 2013 for outline permission to build 110 homes on farm land outside the existing development limits of the market town of Crewkerne. When the Council failed to give notice of a decision within the prescribed period, the developer appealed to the Planning Inspectorate to determine the application.

In a decision letter dated 4 November (14-page / 151 KB PDF), planning inspector Anthony Lyman raised concerns about whether the travel plan put forward by the developer would promote the use of sustainable transport modes by future residents, as required by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). “On the evidence before me, I am not convinced that future residents of the new development would have a real choice about how they travel as advocated by the [NPPF],” said Lyman.

The inspector was also "not persuaded by the appellant's contention that the design of the proposed residential scheme fully respects the form, character and setting of the locality". Lyman noted that the land surrounding the proposed development site formed a "highly attractive undulating landscape" and said that the lack of an established landscape designation "does not mean that the area is not a valued landscape which the NPPF advocates should be protected and enhanced."

The Council was unable to demonstrate a deliverable five year supply of housing land at the outset of the public inquiry in April. However, the inspector concluded that a five year supply could be demonstrated by the time of his decision, in light of updated housing figures produced by the Council in July in support of the examination of the emerging South Somerset local plan. Lyman noted that the Council's new figures had been scrutinised in two rounds of local plan examination and that the examining inspector had not raised concerns about them in his preliminary findings. 

Lyman acknowledged that the proposed development would result in local economic benefits during construction and by virtue of the increased population following development. He also noted that the scheme would provide "a mix of housing types and tenure, including affordable housing at the Council's preferred rate".

However, dismissing the developer's appeal, the inspector concluded that "the substantial and specific harm to the natural environment that would arise from this development, and the shortcomings of the location in terms of its accessibility and sustainability would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the acknowledged benefits of the proposal".

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