A decision letter (446-page / 3.3 MB PDF) issued on behalf of the communities secretary this week said Pickles agreed with planning inspector David Rose that all four appeals should be dismissed, despite a shortage of housing in the area.
The letter said Pickles agreed with the inspector that the Aylesbury Vale District Council was unable to demonstrate a five year plan of deliverable housing land. Contrary to the Council's estimation in its withdrawn local plan of a need for 675 homes per year in the district, the inspector had found that at least 1,000 homes per year were required, before any uplift for previous under-delivery was added.
The first appeal was against the Council's refusal of permission for an urban extension with 2,745 homes, 30,000 square metres of employment space, a school, a care home and a railway station on farmland to the north west of Aylesbury. The communities secretary agreed with the inspector that the adverse impacts of the scheme would outweigh its benefits.
Pickles acknowledged that the proposed scheme would help to facilitate growth and provide homes in the district. However, he agreed with Rose that the development would have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the landscape, which would not be adequately mitigated.
Pickles attached "significant weight" to the harm that would be caused to the setting of the Grade II-listed Saint Mary's church under the scheme and found that its proposed transport benefits were undermined by "the lack of clarity and certainty about bus provision" and the limited width of a proposed railway bridge which would result in "a significant constraint to achieving a high quality route for pedestrians and cyclists".
The second appeal was against the Council's failure to determine an application for the comprehensive redevelopment of farmland to the south east of Aylesbury to provide up to 3,000 homes, employment land, a local centre and other facilities. Pickles agreed that "the benefits of the project would be very substantial", noting in particular that "financial contributions for improving road conditions and the attractiveness of public transport are material considerations".
However, the communities secretary also agreed with the inspector that the proposed development would "compound the difficulties and delays currently experienced on part of the network which is already subject to considerable stress". Pickles noted that part of the mitigation scheme proposed to make the development acceptable was contingent on receiving separate consent for a traffic regulation order, which was not guaranteed to be granted.
Pickles agreed with the inspector's conclusion that "it would not make sound planning sense to approve a major urban extension with known highway deficiencies, an incomplete solution and uncertainties about deliverability until it can be demonstrated that the full effects of the appeal scheme can be mitigated, managed and implemented."
The remaining appeals concerned alternative proposals from developer Hallam Land Management for a site to the north of Aylesbury. The developer had proposed to construct a Park and Ride facility and either 220 homes or employment development and 120 homes, respectively, on fields to the north of Weedon Hill.
Pickles said that the benefits of both proposals for the site included the delivery of "much needed homes", opportunities for the use of sustainable transport, the proximity of the site to existing facilities and the provision of green infrastructure. However the communities secretary agreed with the inspector that the benefits were "far outweighed" by the harm both schemes would cause.
Pickles decided that the proposed developments would be "manifestly intrusive", having "significant impacts on the character of the landscape". The letter said Pickles agreed with the inspector that "the proposals have the hallmarks of an ill-conceived and opportunistic response to the absence of an up-to-date plan and the corresponding shortage of housing land".