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Local Democracy Trumps Housing Development

In an important victory for local democracy, one of the first ‘neighbourhood plans’ adopted under the Localism Act 2011 proved instrumental in blocking plans for more than 100 new homes on the outskirts of a Leicestershire village.

A would-be developer was refused planning consent to build 111 homes and various community facilities on a 14-hectare Greenfield site. His application was rejected by local planners, and subsequently by a government planning inspector, primarily on the basis that it conflicted with the neighbourhood plan which had been recently adopted following consultation with local residents.

In a decision later approved by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the inspector acknowledged that housing land allocation policies in respect of the area were ‘out of date’ and that the proposals would ‘make an important contribution’ to meeting unmet demand for new homes.

However, he ruled that the plans would have a ‘moderately harmful effect’ on the area’s character and appearance and highlighted the conflict with the neighbourhood plan, in which the site was not one of those earmarked for housing development.

In dismissing the developer’s appeal against the Secretary of State’s decision, the High Court rejected claims that he had misconstrued and placed too much weight on the provisions of the neighbourhood plan. Although the proposals would add usefully to the area’s supply of housing land, the decision was ‘wholly unimpeachable’. The neighbourhood plan had rightly been treated as ‘a powerful and decisive factor’ which weighed against a grant of planning consent.