Planning permission has been refused for a residential development of up to 370 dwellings on the edge of Thornbury in South Gloucestershire.
The inquiry raised a number of interesting points including the approach to prematurity, locational sustainability, harm to designated and non-designated heritage assets, and the approach to take to the tilted balance in circumstances where South Gloucestershire Council was updating its plan and therefore relying on local housing need.
One of the hotly contested issues at the inquiry had been whether the tilted balance should apply even though it was agreed that the LPA could demonstrate a five year housing land supply. The Appellant, Bovis Homes, had argued that the decision to update the local plan and rely upon local housing need necessarily meant that the strategic housing policies were out-of-date and the tilted balance was engaged. The LPA disagreed, arguing that this remained a matter of judgement and, on the facts of the case, the most important policies for determining the application were not out-of-date. However, the Inspector ultimately decided that it was not necessary to determine this issue because he found that planning permission should be refused under the heritage balance in para. 196 of the NPPF, which disengaged the tilted balance, even though the delivery of affordable and market housing still attracted significant weight despite a five year supply.
This decision therefore provides a useful reminder of the power afforded to a heritage objection which brings the statutory presumption into play, especially where a number of designated heritage assets are affected. In the present case, the Inspector found that the less than substantial harm to a Grade II* listed building and 3 Grade II listed buildings outweighed the significant benefits arising from the delivery of housing and the other moderate public benefits of the scheme. In doing so, he found that there was value in identifying the degree of harm as part of a range within the less than substantial category.