Village to grow by hundreds of homes as out-of-date Local Plan proves critical

Elsenham: more houses are coming! (pic Bing/Ordnance Survey)

Lack of both an up-to-date Local Plan and an adequate supply of housing land has proved costly for an Essex village, which is to have almost 450 homes built on unallocated sites.
Planning inspectors have overturned refusal – or non-determination – by Uttlesford District Council of two schemes at Elsenham.
Inspector David Wildsmith allowed Fairfield (Elsenham) Ltd’s appeal against the council’s non-determination of its outline plans for 350 homes, a school and infrastructure north-east of the village.
His report on the 50-acre appeal site, largely comprising arable land outside the village boundary, stated the council had advised that its grounds for refusal would have included the development being “located outside the defined development limits of Elsenham” and it “would fail to protect or enhance the character of the countryside within which it would be located”.
However, Mr Wildsmith said the reasons for refusal referred to policies in the emerging Uttlesford Local Plan, as well as to saved policies in the Plan adopted in 2005 – and the council had withdrawn its emerging Local Plan in April last year.
“It was therefore agreed… that this emerging Plan and its policies had no weight and were not material considerations in this appeal,” said the report.
Salient policies relating to heritage, landscape impact and loss of agricultural land were granted moderate to full weight.
Mr Wildsmith said there were “clear social benefits” from increasing the housing stock, which was important as the council could only demonstrate a 2.68-year’s supply of deliverable housing land. He also gave significant weight to the provision of up to 140 affordable homes.
The loss of agricultural land attracted “very limited weight”, harm to the appearance of the countryside was given “limited weight”, but “great weight” was attributed to heritage harm.
In a separate hearing, meanwhile, inspector Patrick Hannah allowed an appeal by Applicant Wallace Land Investment and Management against Uttlesford’s non-determination of a 99-home development on 20 acres west of the village.
Mr Hannah found the council’s failure to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply meant the “relevant policies for the supply of housing” were out of date. Hence the “tilted balance” described in paragraph 11(d) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was engaged.
This states that planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against NPPF policies taken as a whole.
Mr Hannah also attached significant weight to provision of market housing and 40 per cent of the development comprising affordable housing. He concluded that any harm arising from the scheme, including loss of agricultural land, was not outweighed by its benefits.
These are not the first occasions Elsenham has fallen foul of issues with the Uttlesford Local Plan. In September, a planning inspector backed a 40-home development on a greenfield site, having concluded that the council’s 15-year-old Local Plan was “painfully out of date” and included housing policies stemming from projections “about three decades” ago.

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