Plans for 100 homes to the north of Swindon can go ahead despite landscape harm and conflict with the local development plan, an inspector has ruled, citing Swindon Borough Council’s ‘serious’ housing land supply shortfall.

The appeal related to 4 hectares of land forming part of a golf course in Broad Blunsdon, a village north of Swindon. The appellant sought permission to demolish an existing cottage on the site and build 100 homes, of which 30% would be made affordable.

Broad Blunsdon consisted of just over 600 homes in 2011. However, a further 325 have been built or approved. In the local development plan adopted in March 2015, the area was allocated for “at least 100 homes”. The appellant argued that the inclusion of the words “at least” in the allocation meant the scheme was not incompatible with the spatial plan.

The inspector, R J Jackson, disagreed, ruling that another 100 homes on top of the 325 already built or approved, most of which are or will be beyond the settlement boundary, would “far exceed” the allocation, and to allow them would represent “a different approach to the development of the village” than that set out in the local plan.

At the inquiry, the council sought to argue that the site is a “valued landscape” under the terms of National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 170. Jackson did not agree; while he acknowledged that “all landscape is in one sense unique”, he disagreed that the appeal site had “any particular characteristic that takes it out of the ordinary”.

He afforded little weight to the fact that Blunsdon House Hotel, the owner and operator of the golf course on the site, had “eulogised about the quality of its grounds on its website”.

Jackson did not consider the site well located for the use of non-car modes of transport, notwithstanding its proximity to the main built-up area of Swindon. The scheme would therefore “not maximise the use of sustainable transport modes”, he found, as required by the NPPF.

Both parties agreed that the council could demonstrate a housing land supply of between 1.9 and 2.7 years, agreeing that this represented a “significant” shortfall. The tilted balance of NPPF paragraph 11 was therefore engaged.

In the planning balance, Jackson weighed the scheme’s harm to the landscape and conflict with the local development plan against the council’s “serious housing supply situation”.

He concluded that none of the adverse effects found reached the threshold of significantly outweighing the scheme’s provision of new housing. The appeal was therefore allowed.

22 October 2018