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Permission Granted on Appeal for up to 55 Homes Including 1.56ha of SANG at Land at Parklands in Spencers Wood Wokingham

Morag Ellis QC
Cain Ormondroyd
Charles Forrest

Appeal Ref: APP/X0360/W/18/3204133

Inspector: Nick Palmer BA (Hons) BPI MRTPI

Following a four day inquiry, outline planning permission for up to 55 dwellings and all associated parking, landscape and access and full planning permission for 1.56ha of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) has been granted on appeal at land at Parklands, east of Basingstoke Road, Spencers Wood, Wokingham.

The appeal site, which is within a designated Strategic Development Location, is open pasture land which lies between the villages of Three Mile Cross and Spencers Wood and is within 7km of the Thames Basin Heath SPA. The proposal consists of two areas of residential development, outside but adjoining each of the settlement boundaries of those villages, with SANG in between. 

Character and appearance

The inspector found only limited harm to the character and appearance of the area because the location of the development, its landscaping and the provision of SANG largely preserved the villages’ separate identifies in line with policy and preserved the semi rural character of the area, and would do so in perpetuity. 

The landscape character and features, which include a prominent ridge across part of the appeal site, would also largely be respected and retained.

The inspector found that only less than substantial harm would be caused to the open semi-rural setting of the grade II listed 18thcentury Lieutenant’s Cottage which adjoins the appeal site to the east because that openness would be largely retained. That harm was considered to be outweighed by the significant public benefits of the proposal which included the opening up of the site to the public (including for recreation) through the provision of SANG and on-site affordable housing (35% of the scheme) which would address the acute need for such housing in the area. 

The inspector also found that the proposals accorded with a policy of the recent Neighbourhood Plan permitting residential development outside but adjoining settlement boundaries where the benefits of doing so outweighed any harm. 

Habitats Regulations

The inspector concluded that the proposed development would not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the SPA. This was due to a mitigatory measure in the form of a Strategic Access Management and Monitoring financial contribution and an avoidance measure in the form of the SANG. This SANG also linked up with a wider suite of SANG to the east. Accordingly the proposal accorded with policy in those respects.

Consequently, under the recently amended NPPF paragraph 177, the presumption in favour of sustainable development could in principle apply.

Planning balance

The development limits contained in relevant policies attracted less weight because they were out of date by virtue of being based on an outdated housing requirement (as in the Lambs Lane and Stanbury House appeals), however, the underlying aims of relevant policies were generally consistent with national policy and therefore still attracted weight. The proposal was found to be in accordance with those underlying aims because it maintained settlement separation.

The Council could show at least a five-year housing land supply according to its need calculated using the standard methodology (2014-based household projections). 

Overall the inspector found that material considerations indicated that permission should be determined otherwise than in accordance with the development plan. Great weight was placed on, among other things, the benefits referred to above.

The decision letter can be found here.

Morag Ellis QC and Charles Forrest appeared on behalf of the successful appellant Taylor Wimpey UK instructed by Nick Paterson-Neild of Barton Willmore. 

Cain Ormondroyd appeared on behalf of Wokingham Borough Council.