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Inspector approves West Sussex community extension

A Planning Inspector has granted outline planning permission on appeal to City & Urban Securities Limited for a 100-home community extension at Westhampnett in West Sussex. 16 Jul 2013

The development, at the site of a commercial nursery, will also include a village hall, a village green and a restaurant or pub. 40% of the new homes will be affordable. Chichester District Council had refused the proposals in November last year.

The Inspector said in her report (15-page / 182KB PDF) that the development site was outside the Westhampnett Settlement Policy Area defined in the Council's Local Plan and noted the Council's argument that it would cause harm to a rural area by closing an open gap between the villages of Westhampnett and Maudlin.

However, the Inspector said that the Council partly relied on a 2005 landscape report which did not assess several of the areas adjacent to the site. She also said that new housing developments had changed the character of these areas since 2005 and that she therefore found the "prevailing character" of the area to be semi-rural rather than rural.

"I cannot agree with the Council's view that there is a clear sense of leaving one village before arriving at the other, or that the space between them is primarily rural in character," she said.

She added that there would be "sufficient flexibility" at reserved matters stage to ensure some visual separation between new buildings and preserve the historic character of Maudlin and prevent "any undue harm to the individual character of either village".

In response to an argument by the Council that the development would be unsustainable because of a limited range of facilities in Westhampnett, the Inspector noted that the city centre of Chichester was less than five kilometres away and that the community facilities within the proposal itself would add to the village's combined facilities.

"Despite the limited range of facilities within Westhampnett and Maudlin, the villages are sustainably located with easy access to a range of the facilities necessary to meet residents' needs, even if some short journeys are made by car," she said.

The Inspector also referred to draft policies set out in an emerging 'preferred approach' document for the Council's key Local Plan policies which set out plans for a 500-home extension to Westhampnett. However, she acknowledged that the emerging plan was at an early stage and therefore carried little weight.

The Inspector concluded that the benefits of the scheme, including the provision of new housing to help reduce the Council's housing shortfall, public open space and community facility improvements outweighed the "limited harm" it would cause to the character and appearance of the wider area.