High Court Green Lights Housing Development in Open Countryside

Housing developments in the open countryside are frequently controversial but, as a High Court case showed, social and economic advantages – particularly the provision of affordable housing – can sometimes tilt the balance in their favour.

FieldA developer’s proposal to build 10 homes on farmland met with stiff resistance from the local authority on the basis that its planning policies placed tight restrictions on house building outside existing settlements, save where such developments were considered essential in countryside locations. The council had a five-year supply of housing land in place and argued that the project was unnecessary.

A central government planning inspector, however, granted planning consent on the basis that the social and economic benefits of the scheme, and its contribution to affordable housing in the area, outweighed the inevitably adverse impact on the character and appearance of the countryside.

That impact would be limited and localised due to the low density of the proposed housing, which would be shielded by planting and landscaping. The inspector also noted that the rural character of the area would in any event be transformed in the future as planning permission had already been granted for substantial mixed-use development of nearby sites.

In dismissing the council’s challenge to the inspector’s ruling, the Court found that he had had appropriate regard to the local development plan. He had properly balanced harm against benefits and, in the exercise of his planning judgment, had given adequate and intelligible reasons for disagreeing with the council.