The pressure to build more homes is immense and growing – but the High Court’s decision to scotch plans for an 85-unit housing development has shown that it can be outweighed by the importance of preserving heritage assets.

Planning permission for the project had been refused by the local authority but was granted by a government inspector following an appeal by the developer. In his decision, the inspector noted that the local authority could not demonstrate that it had a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites in its area.

The inspector acknowledged that the development would detract from the rural character and appearance of a nearby listed farm but found that the less than substantial harm to the heritage asset was outweighed by the need for more new homes and the desirability of making optimal use of the site.

In overturning the inspector’s decision, however, the Court found that he had applied the wrong test when performing the required balancing exercise. In focusing on the area’s shortfall in housing land supply, he had at best diluted the weight to be given to preserving the heritage asset and its setting. The planning consent was quashed.

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