The Shurnhold appeal and what it means for town planning in West Wiltshire
An appeal by Gladman Homes to build houses on land west of Melksham was dismissed by Planning Inspector Karen Ridge. The key factor in the appeal was whether Wiltshire Council's inability to provide a five year housing land supply in the North & West Wiltshire Area outweighed the fact that the site was in the open countryside where large scale development would not normally be permitted.
Other points considered at the appeal, such as flooding and education provision, were seen as capable of being overcome so would not have stood in the way of permission.
The Inspector looked at the land supply question in great detail and decided that with a 4.25 year supply the council was clearly in deficit of its 5.25 year requirement. What this means is that WC's housing policies are deemed to be 'out of date' and capable of being overturned.
However she also considered the setting of the site and the impact on listed buildings, views across the site, and loss of agricultural land. Her conclusion was that overall the harm outweighed the benefit and the appeal should be dismissed. She did though describe the outcome as being "finely balanced".
The loss of control of planning in West Wiltshire, caused by the incompetence of the Conservative administration at County Hall, has led to a number of unplanned housing developments around our market towns in recent years. The council's victory in the Shurnhold case is welcome. Reading of the Inspector's report shows a very intelligent and sensitive appraisal of the case, a route which not all planning inspectors would be inclined to follow. Gladman, who boast of their ability to overcome local resistance through the appeals process, might consider themselves unlucky to lose.
Since the appeal was published WC have provided more figures on the land supply, claiming the deficit is still in place although reduced. This means that our towns are still vulnerable to unscheduled peripheral developments, which will take little account of the ability of the towns to sustain them.
The full Shurnhold decision can be found at: Appeal decision 3132915.pdf