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Council fails in High Court challenge to grant by inspector of permission for scheme for 10 affordable dwellings

Wiltshire Council has lost on all three grounds a challenge to the decision of a planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government to allow a development it had refused.

In Wiltshire Council v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government & Anor [2022] EWHC 36 (Admin) HHJ Jarman ruled that the inspector had been entitled to reach his decision over an application by Greystoke Land to build up to 10 entry-level affordable dwellings, car parking and a publicly accessible village green on a field in the village of Broad Town.

Greystoke appealed against Wiltshire’s refusal under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which the inspector allowed.

The council then appealed under section 288 of the 1990 Act, questioning the validity of that decision.

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Wiltshire’s first ground was that the inspector misinterpreted paragraph 71 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2019 (NPPF).

The second was that he also misinterpreted the Wiltshire Core Strategy, which seeks to conserve landscape.

Its third was that the inspector erred in his assessment of the harm that the development would have on the setting of a Grade II listed church.

HHJ Jarman said it was “immediately obvious” from the NPPF that local planning authorities should support the development of sites suitable for first time buyers or tenants.

It was also obvious, he said, “that such sites are exceptional and should be adjacent (so not in) existing settlements [and so] should be on land which is not already allocated for housing.

“In my judgment, this means that such development will almost always, if not always, not be in accordance with the development plan, one of the functions of which is to identify and allocate sites suitable for housing.”

He said the NPPF “clearly envisages that by supporting entry level exception sites, harm to the landscape would be likely, at the least”, though this did not mean landscape harm should be omitted in the balance.

HHJ Jarman said the first ground fell because “it was a matter of planning judgment for the inspector to decide what weight to attach to the conflict with polices requiring development to protect conserve and where possible enhance the landscape character, particularly as the proposal involves both built form such as the dwellings themselves, and non-built form, such as the village green”.

Ground two fell because the inspector had carried out a suitable balancing exercise with regard to the core strategy.

On ground three, the judge said even if there was uncertainty about the delivery of the car park and village green, “the inspector was entitled to take into account that the proposal does not involve built form on the site of the proposed village green, which would remain open land over which the outward views from the grounds of the church directly westward would remain as at present”.

Mark Smulian

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