A government planning inspector has dismissed developer Monkhill Ltd’s bid to gain planning permission for 16 affordable and self-build homes in Hedgehog Lane, Haslemere at appeal.
The decision, made by Inspector Martin Allen, recognised the need for more affordable housing locally but cited concerns about the character and appearance of the area, and the impact the homes would have on the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The appeal, made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, contested the council's failure to give notice within the prescribed period of a decision on the application for outline planning permission.
The proposed development, by Haslemere-based developer Tony Lawson’s company Monkkill Ltd, included 11 affordable dwellings and five self-build dwellings – with access being the only detailed matter for consideration.
The inspector agreed there is “an accepted and considerable need” for the scheme’s proposed mix of 11 affordable and five self-build homes in Waverley.
But Mr Allen disagreed with the appellant's claim that the proposed development would have no impact on the landscape beyond the site boundaries. He ruled the appeal site, as part of the grounds surrounding Longdene House, could not be divorced from its surroundings, including the fields within the wider area.
The introduction of built development would erode the rural aspect of the location and diminish the contribution the site made to the AONB, he said.
Although the appellant contended that the appeal site was now an "island" surrounded by residential development, Inspector Allen highlighted that the previously permitted developments in the wider grounds of Longdene House were materially different from the "expansive" appeal scheme.
He noted that the appeal site, located to the north of a tree-lined driveway serving Longdene House, was temporarily used as a construction compound but was originally a grassy paddock used for grazing.
The appeal site remained part of a more rural context and its development would have a considerable negative impact on the character and appearance of the area, the inspector added.
The inclusion of self-build housing in particular was acknowledged by the inspector as meeting an identified need within the area, giving house-buyers more control over the design and layout of their homes.
But in conclusion, Mr Allen said: “In my judgement, even when considered cumulatively, these substantial benefits are insufficient to outweigh the great weight that should be accorded to the harm to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that would result from the scheme.
“As such, I find that the planning balance falls against the proposal.”