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Drake Park – Green Belt Village Refused by Secretary of State

Craig Howell Williams QC

The new Secretary of State, James Brokenshire MP, has accepted an Inspector’s recommendation to refuse outline planning permission for a new garden village comprising over 1000 dwellings, a community hub, a primary school, medical centre and other facilities on Green Belt land at Drake Park near Walton. Elmbridge Borough Council had refused the application on the ground that there were no very special circumstances to justify the development in the Green Belt. Following a 9 day inquiry the Inspector recommended refusal, and the Secretary of State agreed. The Secretary of State agreed with his Inspector that the proposals would cause significant harm to the Green Belt in terms of openness and Purposes 1, 2 and 3 of Green Belt policy in the NPPF. He also agreed with the Inspector that the package of transport measures offered by the proposed scheme was no more than what would be necessary to mitigate the transport impacts of the scheme and that even with mitigation in place some residual harm would be caused in terms of congestion and queuing. In relation to housing need, the Secretary of State agreed with his Inspector that the Council had a broad likely level of 2.65 years supply of housing land relative to the OAN with little prospect of a significant improvement in the supply position within 5 years. He also agreed that there would be significant benefits in terms of housing delivery and economic benefits. However, the Secretary of State gave very substantial weight to the harm caused to the Green Belt and concluded that the benefits of the scheme did not clearly outweigh the harm that would be caused by the scheme. He concluded that there were no very special circumstances required to justify development in the Green Belt.

The case is of particular interest in relation to the balance that was struck between Green Belt harm and housing delivery benefits. It is also of interest in relation to the approach taken to the assessment of housing need and OAN. The Inspector heard detailed evidence and argument on the issue of OAN and related matters including the question of an uplift for market signals. The Secretary of State agreed with his Inspector that there was a worsening trend in a number of indicators and that an uplift for market signals was justified. However, he rejected the Appellant’s case for an uplift of over 60% (relying on an affordability model), concluding that an uplift of 20% was appropriate having regard to evidence of action being taken across a range of other authorities in response to worsening affordability with uplifts mostly of 10% to 20%.

Craig Howell Williams QC represented the local planning authority leading Dr Ashley Bowes of Cornerstone Barristers.