On 22 February 2023, Inspector Chamberlain allowed an appeal by Harlex (RLP Timperley) LLP against the refusal by Trafford BC of an outline application for up to 116 dwellings. The site is in the Green Belt and comprises 39% PDL. It is also part of the large draft Timperley Wedge (JPA 3.1) allocation in the PfE document which is currently at its EiP. It was common ground between the Appellants and Trafford that little weight could attach to JPA 3.2 given the extent and nature of objection to both PfE and JPA 3.2 in particular.
Harlex were represented by David Manley KC.
Despite a finding of harm of “significant magnitude” to the openness of the Green Belt and moderate adverse harm to Green Belt purposes, the Inspector found very special circumstances to justify allowing the appeal. The Inspector further found Trafford’s DP spatial strategy to be out-of-date and of limited weight.
Key elements in the finding of very special circumstances were:
· The shortfall in the housing land supply which was characterised as “acute” and “persistent”. While acknowledging that Trafford was being proactive in seeking to improve housing delivery, he rejected Trafford’s case that in the next 12 – 24 months the supply could reach 5.34 years. The Inspector dismissed this as unevidenced. The Inspector also gave little weight to the 2015 Ministerial Statement that unmet housing need is unlikely to be capable of outweighing harm to the Green Belt noting that the advice has not found its way into the NPPF.
· The provision of affordable housing which is particularly needed in the Altrincham area due to very high housing prices.
Other benefits were the use of PDL; economic benefits flowing from a local spend of up to £3,055,347 pa; the provision of SUDS; biodiversity net gain and the fact of allocation in the PfE document (this was tied in with Trafford’s concession in evidence that some Green Belt release was necessary to meet housing need going forward).
Other notable features of the case are:
· The Inspector’s rejection of the claim by Trafford that allowing the appeal would dilute the pool of money needed to provide infrastructure for the allocated site (in reality this was a prematurity argument in all but name).
· Likewise the Inspector’s rejection of the claim that allowing the appeal would set a precedent for further development in the Wedge ahead of adoption of the PfE document.
· The Inspector’s rejection of the Greater Manchester Accessibility Levels (GMAL) as a compelling indicator of locational sustainability. He noted that Paragraph 112 of NPPF places walking and cycling at the top of the movement hierarchy while access to public transport (which GMAL measures) is to be facilitated only “as far as is possible”
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