The proposals by Barwood Strategic Land were refused by East Staffordshire Borough Council in March. The Council's grounds for refusal included that the proposal site was outside the development boundary defined in its local policies and that the scheme would adversely affect the character and appearance of the area.
The SoS said in his decision letter (47-page / 356KB PDF) that he agreed with a Planning Inspector's recommendation to grant planning permission for the development. He agreed with the Inspector's findings that the policies setting out the settlement boundaries for the area were out of date and no longer reflected the Council's housing needs.
Pickles also agreed that the Council was unable to demonstrate a five year housing land supply and that the NPPF's presumption in favour of sustainable development would therefore apply.
Both Pickles and the Inspector acknowledged that the proposals would have an adverse effect on the character and appearance of the area as it would introduce new built development into the countryside.
However, they agreed that the scheme would "recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of that part of the countryside" in line with the NPPF by the provision of "areas of open space and new woodland planting and landscaping" to mitigate the effect of the proposed buildings.
Pickles agreed with the Inspector that the proposals would have both social and economic benefits, including helping to address the housing shortfall in the borough as well as the additional access it would provide for emergency vehicles, a bus service and "net gains for biodiversity". He said that the adverse impacts of granting permission would not "significantly and demonstrably" outweigh the benefits of the scheme.