The inspector said in his decision (17-page / 184KB PDF) that the proposed development site is located adjacent to but "largely outside" the identified settlement boundary of Binfield and the proposal is therefore in conflict with the Council's Development Plan policies.
The inspector said that, although the proposals put forward by developer Croudace Strategic conflicted with local policies, this was outweighed by the Council's inability to demonstrate a five year housing land supply in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The Council's current housing land is 2.2 years, which is short of the five year requirement, and the NPPF therefore provides that relevant housing policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up to date.
The Council argued that "relevant policies for the supply of housing" are only those policies which relate solely to the supply of housing. However, the inspector said that such an interpretation seemed too restrictive.
"In my judgment, any policies that seek to encourage the provision of housing in some circumstances, restrict it in others, or otherwise direct the amount or location of residential development, can reasonably be considered “relevant” to the supply of housing," he said.
He concluded that a number of policies in the Council's Local Plan and Core Strategy should be considered out of date.
The inspector noted that the development would result in the loss of a currently open and undeveloped field at the edge of the settlement and that this would change the site from part of the countryside to part of the built-up area of Binfield.
He said that the harm to the countryside would conflict with local policies seeking to retain beneficial landscape features and the quality of the countryside and also with the NPPF core principle that the planning system should recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.
However, the inspector said that the "limited environmental harm" would be outweighed by the social and economic benefits the development would provide in helping to address the Council's "serious shortfall" in housing provision and in providing "much-needed" affordable housing.
He said the benefits would accord with the NPPF's core principle that the planning system should make every effort to meet the housing needs of the area.
The inspector also concluded that granting permission to the development would not prejudice the Council's emerging Site Allocations Development Plan Document as the development site is included in the Plan with a recommendation from the Council as being suitable for development.