The recent case of R (CPRE Kent) v Dover District Council & China Gateway International Limited (Court of Appeal, 14 September 2016)
Has highlighted the need to give sufficient reasons, especially as here for an approval of a major development in AONB contrary to officers advice. See Simon Ricketts blog.
It may have been the case that politically Dover members did not want to be seen to refuse a major housing scheme, after all they were the only LPA to raise voluntarily housing numbers above household growth in their local plan.
In which case the best course may have been for them to be pragmatic and issue a split decision under their powers granted by Kent County Council v Secretary of State for the Environment 1976.
They could have approved the part of the scheme that would not harm significantly AONB, and the layout of the western edge of Dover makes this possible, as recommended by officers, and then refused the residual. Of course they then could have appealed or reapplied on the residual concentrating members minds on the most harmful part.
Of course it is right that this part is refused, but members could have avoided JR by stating that the exceptional housing needs of teh town justified granting an approval significantly harming AONB.