Pickles said in his decision letter (71-page / 780KB PDF) that although the development would cause "material harm to countryside protection policies", including Cheshire East Council's Local Plan policies that aim to restrict residential development in the open countryside, this was outweighed by the Council's "significant shortfall" in housing land supply and affordable housing.
Pickles said the parties agreed that Cheshire East did not have a five year land supply. He said that the estimated five year shortfall was between 2,000 and 2,600 new dwellings. He said that "the proposed development would have a materially beneficial effect in helping to overcome the shortage in the supply of deliverable housing land in Cheshire East" and that "this sizeable shortfall" was a "significant factor weighing in support of the proposed development".
The proposed development includes 40% affordable housing, which Pickles said would have "a materially beneficial effect upon the provision of affordable housing in the area".
The Council had initially rejected Richborough's outline plans, saying they conflicted with policies in its Local Plan which favoured previously developed brownfield land rather than countryside land for new developments. Pickles upheld the refusal on appeal in July 2011, despite planning inspector recommendations for approval, on the grounds that the Council's revised plans provided for a five year housing land supply.
The High Court quashed Pickles' decision in a ruling in October 2011 and ordered him to re-determine the appeal.
“This decision from the Secretary of State is very welcome news for us and helps to draw a line under what has been a very frustrating period for the business and our team connected with the project,” said Richborough Estates director Paul Campbell. “This provides absolute clarity for everyone involved in residential development in Cheshire East and I’m sure that it can only have positive repercussions in helping the Council to address the continuing shortfall in housing land supply”.
“Housing delivery can be a contentious business and people are inevitably reluctant to see change in their town, but there is a recognised housing shortage in Cheshire East as there is across many parts of the country and this decision shows that the Government is committed to delivering new homes where the evidence shows they are needed and that the advantages outweigh any disadvantages,” Campbell said.