Planning Permission Granted on Appeal for 71 Dwelling Development on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Date: 22 March 2022

Following a planning appeal decision issued on 22 March 2022, permission has been granted for a 71 dwelling development on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) site adjacent to Hawkhurst, in Tunbridge Wells Borough. Acting for his client, Dandara, this is Charles Banner QC’s second of two successful planning appeal decisions so far this year.

The site was a proposed allocation in the submitted draft local plan (which includes release of some AONB land for development to meet the substantial identified need for new housing), and had been recommended for approval by the case officer, but permission was refused by the Council’s planning committee. The Inspector commended the high quality design of the scheme, identified a meaningful biodiversity net gain in excess of the minimum requirement and “clear enhancement” to recreational opportunities in the AONB, and held there would be a neutral impact on the objectives of AONB management plan. He found that the “exceptional circumstances” test for major development in the AONB was met.

Despite some limited policy conflict, the Inspector held that the proposal was in accordance with the adopted Development Plan (DP) as a whole. He also held in any event that National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 11(d), which was engaged due to a Five-Year Housing Land Supply (5YHLS) shortfall, would have supported the grant of permission, even if there had been non-accordance with the DP as a whole.

Of note is the Inspector’s response to the Council’s argument that the provision of 28 affordable homes was a ‘generic benefit’ (not an uncommon argument to be levied at policy-compliant affordable housing provision by market-led housing schemes): “I agree with the appellant that a lack of affordable housing impacts on the most vulnerable people in the borough, who are unlikely to describe their needs as generic” (para. 118).

Click here to download the full planning appeal decision.

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