Neighbourhood plan trumps land supply deficit in housing secretary’s Somerset homes refusal

Plans for up to 200 homes on open fields outside a Somerset village have been rejected by housing secretary Sajid Javid, following findings that the scheme would clash with neighbourhood plan policies.

Charles Church Developments’ planning application for the Farleigh Fields site on the edge of Backwell, a designated rural service village south of Bristol, was refused by North Somerset Council in June 2016.

The scheme went to public inquiry in March last year. Inspector Gareth Jones’s report to the secretary of state was submitted last July.

 In his decision letter, issued yesterday, Javid agreed with the inspector that only around a 3.9- year supply of housing land could be shown for the area. He also gave "very significant weight" to the scheme’s benefits, including 65 affordable homes within the development.

However, the secretary of state gave full weight to a core strategy policy stating that proposals for more than "about" 25 dwellings outside the settlement boundaries of rural service villages should be allocated through local or neighbourhood plans.

He recognised that the Backwell Neighbourhood Plan, adopted in 2015, does not state a specific quantum of new homes for the village. However, he concluded that references to sites where residential development would be supported meant that the plan, "when read as a whole", did allocate sites for housing.

On that basis, he decided that the December 2016 written ministerial statement on neighbourhood plans applied to the development. This stated that neighbourhood plan policies for the supply of housing should not be deemed out of date where the plan allocates sites for housing and the local planning authority can demonstrate a three-year supply of deliverable sites.

He also found that the scheme would significantly affect the village’s character and setting and would be "excessive in size". He concluded that the adverse impacts of granting permission would "significantly and demonstrably" outweigh the benefits.

A spokesman for Backwell Residents Association, which has been fighting the Farleigh Fields proposal for the past three years, said: "The result is a tribute to the spirit of the village."