A planning inspector has allowed an appeal against a council’s refusal of a 180-home development after concluding that, given other factors, a neighbourhood plan’s failure to allocate any land for housing rendered it neutral in the planning balance.

The appeal was made by house builders Rippon Homes Limited against North East Derbyshire District Council’s decision to refuse their plans for the homes on a seven-hectare site at Wingerworth.

In reaching his decision that the benefits of the proposal outweighed the limited harm to the appearance and character of the area, inspector Phillip Ware relied on three key points.

Firstly, he found that strategic housing and settlement boundary policies in a local plan dating from 2005 were out of date as they did not address up-to-date housing needs and were far more restrictive than countenanced by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This triggered the tilted balance in favour of sustainable development in paragraph 11 of that document, he held.

Secondly, while acknowledging that the council was correct to use the government’s standard methodology in assessing housing requirements, thus showing an appropriate five-year housing land supply, the inspector concluded that this was not to be regarded as a ‘ceiling’.

Rather, he afforded significant weight to the benefits of boosting national supply from the general needs housing and 40% affordable housing proposed by the developers.

Finally, the inspector discounted the fact that the Wingerworth Neighbourhood Plan did not allocate the land for housing. Its failure to address housing needs in the area did not render it out of date, he found, but did render it neutral in the planning balance.

North East Derbyshire is one of 15 local authorities that former communities secretary Sajid Javid said last year had failed to make satisfactory progress on their local plans and faced the threat of central government intervention. However, North East Derbyshire submitted their emerging Local Plan for examination last May.

06 December 2018