Does it Matter how Late a Local Plan is in Green Belt Housing Appeals? – It Appears Not

Sorry no chance before to comment on the 14th Nov Recovered appeal decision in Nuneaton and Bedworth – A green belt site proposed for 150 homes + 150 permanent moorings.    Planning says this is the ‘ the first such case to come across his desk following a pledge this summer to take action against inappropriate development in the green belt.’ slightly misleading as that statement drawing attention to para. 83 of the NPPF that boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances through the review of a local plan has been referenced privately to MPs on many occasions by Pickles as being implemented in a previous recovered appeal decision at Thundersley.

Pickles has a problem though in that that appeal has gone to JR.  One of the grounds being that this reference to the para/ 83 was faulty.  One problem is that this para refers to altering plan boundaries, the ‘exceptional circumstances test’ wheras for planing applications it is the the ‘very special circumstances test’ and an application for housing in the Green Belt doesn’t not have to alter its boundary.  Though arguably it can be of such a scale as to render the previous boundary meaningless at that location.   Also at Thindersley the SoS did not properly weigh up the benefits of the proposal against the length of time likely to get a new plan.

In this case the SoS avoids any such arguments by not mentioning the likely time to produce a new plan.  It is decided solely on vanilla and familiar very special circumstances tests.  What does this mean then for Pickles ref to Para. 83, well its not worth the paper its written on.  This appeal, the Exhall appeal, does indicate though little comfort for other major schemes in the Green Belt hoping to set a precedent, such as the well known Hunston site at St Albans.    As here even if the recent JR fails the SoS would be likely simply to state that ‘on balance’ the Green Belt test is not met as the benefits (including new housing when there is not a 5 year supply)  don’t outweigh the harm to the extent necessary yo meet the VSC test.  Whereas of course outside the Green Belt the opposite almost always applies.

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