Thrapston, East Northamptonshire
The proposal had been strongly resisted by both the Town and District Council, resulting in five reasons for refusal. These reasons related to the proposed mix of dwellings; impact on the street-scene; ecology; loss of public open space; and its open countryside location adjoining the limits to development. The Council conceded their objections to ecology prior to the Hearing, and the loss of open space during the course of the Hearing.
The appeal proposed 2x 4-bed and 2x 5-bed dwellings. We successfully argued that the Core Strategy did not explicably state that proposals should be refused if they fail to place an emphasis on smaller properties; as such a policy would not be positively prepared in line with the Government’s Planning Framework. We convincingly argued that, as scale (in so far as it relates to height) and appearance were not before the Inspector, the housing mix could be addressed at the Reserved Matters stage. The Core Strategy was found not to entirely rule out larger homes as it only defines smaller properties by reference to bedroom size, not floor area. Therefore, the Inspector accepted that a mix, with an emphasis on three-bedroom properties, even larger ones, alongside a four-bedroom home need not be at odds with the Development Plan.
Whilst the Council tried to develop an argument that the proposal did not represent an efficient use of land, the Inspector accepted that four dwellings on the site was about right given it provided opportunity to accommodate generous landscaping levels. This was considered to allow a sensitive transition from the urban area to the rural fringe.
In respect of impact on the street-scene, we were able to convince the Inspector that whilst the site constituted a form of back-land development it represented a cluster of housing, in keeping with the surrounding area. The Inspector also found the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, prepared by our Planning team, to demonstrate the proposal would have little visual impact beyond the immediate context of the site.
Though the site lies in the open countryside, the Inspector accepted the appellant’s argument that the Council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of land for housing; constituting a material planning consideration to the Appeal. Therefore any rigorous application of the Development Plan would only frustrate the Council’s attempts to address its housing deficit. In accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework, the Appeal thereby succeeded.
This decision not only confirms that East Northamptonshire District Council do not have a 5-year housing land supply, but that suitably well-designed housing and landscaped schemes beyond the limits to development can be considered acceptable. Further to all the above, our team was also able to secure a partial award of costs against the Council relating to evidence provided on housing land supply. The Council’s application for costs against the appellant, for not following pre-application advice, was dismissed.
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