On 18 November 2014 however, this appeal was recovered for the Secretary of State’s (SOS) determination.The SOS initially issued his decision (one of refusal) in respect of the above appeal by way of his letter dated 21 December 2015. Ridge then challenged the SOS’s decision by way of an application to the High Court. The High Court subsequently quashed the SOS’s decision by order of the Court dated 9 June 2016. The appeal was therefore re-determined by the SOS, following a re-opened inquiry into this matter where planning permission was granted.
In his decision notice, the SOS conceded that whilst the proposal would be in conflict with Local Plan Policies which dealt with the location of development and environmental protection respectively and that the proposal would also be in conflict with the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) when read as a whole. The SOS also conceded that the Council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land and that the uncontested position was of a supply of less than three years. Therefore the SOS agreed that this rendered the relevant policies for the supply of housing in both the Local Plan and the NP out of date.
The SOS confirmed that the NP policy relating to environmental matters should not be regarded as out of date and therefore remained capable of attracting full weight. The SOS conceded however that the development would minimise the impact on the character of the area, both by containment and by scale. He also conceded that, whilst the physical characteristics of the site would be transformed, such change would not cause significant harm to the key characteristics of the Allaston Ridge Landscape Character Area and the character of the area as a whole. The SOS noted that housebuilding in the area has a history of being stalled and is largely under the control of major builders who have delivered ‘little output and seemingly little optimism.’ He considered this justification of an ‘entirely different approach’ as contended by Ridge in their Local Approach document which proposed a ‘diverse housing scheme’, as a ‘local housing solution to a local housing problem’.
Ridge secured the SOS decision to conceed that the grant of planning permission would offer a worthwhile contribution to boosting the supply of housing; a significantly greater choice; and a boost to the local economy.
Managing Director, Paul Fong commented
‘we are delighted to receive a sensible decision by the SOS, albeit it has taken some time to reach this decision. We are grateful to receive confirmation that the housing policies for both the Local Plan and NP are out of date. This is a great result and one which will deliver both affordable, retirement and open market housing in a District with an identified need.’