In February 2014, Emery Planning secured planning permission on appeal for Bloor Homes for 25 houses of which 7 were affordable. The appeal was dealt with by way of a public inquiry, which was initially opened in October 2013 and reconvened in January 2014. The main issues were the sustainability of the site and whether Cheshire East Council could demonstrate a deliverable five year housing land supply.
The site is located in Brereton Heath, a village in the rural area of the former Congleton Borough between Holmes Chapel and Congleton. Whilst the majority of the site is included within the “infill boundary line” of Brereton Heath, part of the site to the north falls outside of the boundary. Initially, the Council’s case was that it could demonstrate a five year housing land supply in accordance with the NPPF. However, between the inquiry being adjourned in October 2013 and reconvening in January 2014, the Council accepted that it could not and a statement of common ground was agreed and signed by both of the main parties.
The Inspector made reference to the need for affordable housing, particularly when assessing the high cost of housing relative to income, concluding that the provision of both market and affordable homes would be of particular importance and would assist in addressing the housing need. She stated that she was not aware of any rural exception site in Brereton Heath and this scheme would be a considerable benefit. Reference was made by the Inspector to the 2008 Taylor Review of the Rural Economy (Living Working Countryside), commissioned by the Government. Whilst not being a “policy” document, she considered it to be an important publication regarding its aim to seek to enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities, being in line with guidance contained in the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Inspector considered that the Council had undertaken a “tick-box” exercise when assessing if a development proposal was sustainable or not, and had relied heavily on whether new occupiers would be able to access facilities by methods of transport other than the car. She agreed with the Inspector in another appeal in Clitheroe (APP/T2350/A/11/2161186) that “a proposal can be a sustainable one even if it suffers from limitations in terms of accessibility.” (Paragraph 27).