On 13 February 2023 Inspector Downes allowed an appeal by Barwood Development Securities Ltd and the North West Thornbury Consortium against the refusal of an outline planning application for up to 595 dwellings, land for a primary school and up to 700 m2 of retail and community space on land west of Park Farm.
The Appellants were represented by David Manley KC. South Gloucestershire were represented by Andrew Fraser- Urquhart KC.
The decision is long and complex, but in essence the issues related to harm to heritage assets, loss of best and most versatile agricultural land and breach of Development Plan policies relating to settlement hierarchy and countryside. There was also a significant dispute relating to housing land supply which was resolved in favour of the Appellant with the Inspector finding a 4.77 year supply only to which she attributed significant weight in respect of the provision of both market and affordable housing. The Inspector expressly rejected the often heard claim that little or no specific weight should attach to the provision of affordable housing because it was merely policy compliant.
The heritage aspects of the case are of particular interest. The LPA had claimed medium harm within the category of “less than substantial harm” to the setting of Thornbury Castle Assemblage (three separate Grade I listings, Grade II buildings and a Grade II Registered Park and Garden), the Church of St Mary the Virgin (Grade I) and Sheiling School (Grade II). In addition, heritage harm was claimed in respect of compromise to a remnant deer park which the appeal site included and the Thornbury Conservation Area. It was the Appellants’ case that harm only at the lowest end of the scale would occur in respect of the Listed assets. The Inspector’s analysis is forensically rigorous and merits reading but in essence she conclude, along with the Appellants, that as the value of the Listed assets was to be found in their architecture, fabric, archaeology and immediate setting and insofar as these would not be affected by the proposal then harm would be at the lowest end of the scale. The LPA’s conclusion of medium harm, in essence, flowed from flawed calibration.
The case is also of interest by reason of its conclusion that the settlement hierarchy policies and countryside/settlement boundary policies are out-of-date because they were set in the context of an RSS housing requirement that predated the duty to co-operate and therefore paid no regard to helping to meet Bristol’s unmet housing needs.
View the appeal here – APP/PO119/W/21/3288019