Paul Stinchcombe QC has secured planning permission for the development of 131 dwellings on an unallocated countryside site in Hayling Island, in close proximity to the Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Chichester Harbour Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the associated Chichester Harbour and Langstone Harbour Special Protection Area (SPA), where there are a number of important habitats for sea birds, including European Protected Species. No Appropriate Assessment had been carried out under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended).
The Inspector identified the main issues in the case as including the scheme’s impact on housing supply within the area of Havant Borough Council, bearing in mind the requirement of the national Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for planning authorities to have a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites; the impact of the proposal on the character and appearance of the AONB; and whether the scheme would be likely to have a significant and adverse effect on the SPA and/or SSSI.
So far as the first issue was concerned, the Inspector held that at the heart of the NPPF was the presumption in favour of sustainable development. In this case, the scheme fulfilled all three roles of sustainability – environmental, economic and social – being well related to the existing built up area and close to a range of services, facilities and employment opportunities, with both Mengham and Gable Head local centres within a comfortable 10 minutes walking distance.
The Inspector also held that even if the planning authority could demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites (upon which the evidence was said by the Inspector to be “equivocal”), and even though the site was unallocated, since the proposal would represent sustainable development and make a useful contribution to housing supply, it was in accord with both the NPPF and the “thrust of development plan policies concerning housing provision”.
So far as the second and third issues were concerned, the Inspector held that the proposal would not have a negative impact on the adjacent AONB, or have any significant effect on the SPA or the SSSI, and that it was not therefore necessary to carry out an Appropriate Assessment.