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|Jaqueline Road Development Further Representations 5 February, 2016|
The Policy Background
1. The national planning policy background is well known. Nevertheless key objectives bear repetition. Paragraph 17 of the NPPF sets out 12 core land-use planning principles which should underpin plan-making and decision taking. Those principles include that planning should:-
· be genuinely plan-led, empowering local people to shape their surroundings, with succinct local and neighbourhood plans setting out a positive vision for the future of the area. Plans should be kept up‑to‑date, and be based on joint working and co‑operation to address larger than local issues. They should provide a practical framework within which decisions on planning applications can be made with a high degree of predictability and efficiency;
· take account of the different roles and character of different areas, promoting the vitality of our main urban areas, protecting the Green Belts around them, recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside and supporting thriving rural communities within it;
· actively manage patterns of growth to make the fullest possible use of public transport, walking and cycling, and focus significant development in locations which are or can be made sustainable;
2. Those core land-use planning principles are set against the background of the “golden thread” of sustainable development which appears in paragraph 14. This provides:-
· “At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking.
· For decision-taking this means:
· approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay; and
· where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out‑of‑date, granting permission unless:
· any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole; or
· specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted.
3. It is clear that a central objective of national planning policy is that the system should be plan-led, for the dual purposes of achieving predictability in the determination of planning applications and giving proper weight to the policies and site specific provisions of up to date development plans which have, our should have been, shaped in response to an iterative and consultative plan preparation process which gives proper weight to the views of local people. Indeed the development plan is central; by TCPA 1990 section 70(2):-
“In dealing with [an application for planning permission] the authority shall have regard to—
(a) the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application”
By Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 section 38(6):-
“If regard is to be had to the development plan for the purpose of any determination to be made under the planning Acts the determination must be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise”.
4. As set out above another well recognised objective of national planning policy is to recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.
Development Plan Policies
5. There is a clear and consistent policy thread in both the current and emerging development plans for Hinckley and Bosworth District:-
· Saved Policy RES 5 of the Hinckley and Bosworth Local Plan provides:-
“Policy Res 5 - residential proposals on unallocated sites
on sites which are not specifically allocated in the plan for housing, planning permission will only be granted for new residential development if:
(a) the site lies within the boundaries of an urban area or rural settlement as defined on the proposals map, and
(b) the siting, design and layout of the proposal do not conflict with the relevant plan policies
· Saved Policy NE 5 of the same plan provides:-
“Policy NE5 - development in the countryside
The countryside will be protected for its own sake. planning permission will be granted for built and other forms of development in the countryside provided that the development is either:
(a) Important to the local economy and cannot be provided within or adjacent to an existing settlement; or
(b) For the change of use, reuse or extension of existing buildings, particularly those of historic value; or
(c) For sport or recreation purposes.
and only where the following criteria are met:
i. It does not have an adverse effect on the appearance or character of the landscape.
ii. It is in keeping with the scale and character of existing buildings and the general surroundings.
iii. Where necessary it is effectively screened by landscaping or other methods.
iv. The proposed development will not generate traffic likely to exceed the capacity of the highway network or impair road safety.
6. The adopted Core Strategy at paragraph 4.37 introduces the policies in relation to Key Rural Centres relating to Leicester (which include Markfield and Field Head):-
“The focus for these villages will be on maintaining existing services, maintaining the separate village identities of these settlements and improving the linkages between these villages and Leicester. In line with the proposed changes to the East Midlands Regional Plan, the scale and type of development in these villages is based on supporting local needs, rather than encouraging larger scale development, which, due to the close relationship with Leicester, could encourage increased levels of commuting. Their role as ‘gateway’ villages to the National Forest will also be promoted,”
7. The policy relating to Markfield and Field Head is:-
To support the local services in Markfield and ensure local people have access to a range of housing the council will:
• Allocate land for the development of a minimum of 80 new homes. Developers will be required to demonstrate that the number, type and mix of housing proposed will meet the needs of Markfield, taking into account the latest Housing Market Assessment and local housing needs surveys where they exist in line with Policy 15 and Policy 16.
• Support additional employment provision to meet local needs in line with Policy 7.
• Address the existing deficiencies in the quality, quantity and accessibility of green space and play provision in Markfield as detailed in the council’s most up to date strategy and the Play Strategy. New green space and play provision will be provided where necessary to meet the standards set out in Policy 19.
• Implement the strategic green infrastructure network detailed in Policy 20. To achieve this, the following strategic interventions relating to Markfield will be required: Tourism Support, Transport Corridor Disturbance Mitigation and Markfield to Groby Public Access.
• Support proposals that contribute to the delivery of the National Forest Strategy in line with Policy 21.
• Deliver safe cycle routes as detailed in Policy 14, in particular from Markfield to South Charnwood High School and between Markfield and Bardon Industrial Estate.
8. In relation to emerging policy the key document is the Site Allocations and Development Management Policies Development Plan Document (“SADMPDPD”), the final pre-submission version of which at Policy DM 4 provides:-
“DM 4 Safeguarding the Countryside and Settlement Separation
To protect its intrinsic value, beauty and open character, the countryside will first and foremost be safeguarded from inappropriate development. Exceptions to development in the countryside will be considered appropriate where:
a) It is for outdoor sport or recreation purposes (including ancillary buildings) and it can be demonstrated that the proposed scheme cannot be provided within or adjacent settlement boundaries; or
b) The proposal involves the change of use, re-use or extension of
existing buildings which lead to the enhancement of the immediate setting; or
c) It significantly contributes to economic growth, job creation and/or diversification of rural businesses; or
d) It relates to the provision of stand-alone renewable energy developments in line with policy DM2: Renewable Energy and Low Carbon Development; or
e) It relates to the provision of accommodation for a rural worker in line with policy DM5 - Enabling Rural Worker Accommodation. and:
f) It does not have an adverse effect on the intrinsic value, beauty or open character of the countryside; and
g) It does not undermine the physical and perceived separation and open character between settlements; and
h) It does not create or exacerbate ribbon development. Where it is demonstrated that the benefits of the scheme would significantly outweigh the harm caused to the intrinsic value, beauty or open character of the countryside, the scheme maybe found acceptable even where this may result in some conflict with criteria F-H”.
9. The supporting text to this policy reads:-
“13.1 Given the borough’s predominantly rural nature, the countryside in Hinckley and Bosworth is hugely important to the character and identity of the area. All efforts will be made to protect the intrinsic value, beauty and open character of the countryside. Therefore beyond the defined settlement boundaries development will be restricted to proposals which fulfil the criteria of this policy, with the exception of the Green Wedge. The Spatial Strategy promoted through the Core Strategy makes clear that the borough’s urban areas are the focus for the largest volume of new development as the most sustainable locations for additional growth and development. Key Rural
Centres are rural service centres which provide facilities for service provision and community focus and are therefore the focus of limited growth to help sustain these services and ensure the future sustainability of the settlements.
13.2 This policy reinforces the value of maintaining the physical and perceived separation between settlements across the entire borough, rather than a selective approach singling out certain sites as has previously been used. This is in recognition of the importance placed by communities on their individual, separate settlement identities across the borough, as evidenced through the Areas of Separation Review (March 2012). In addition this approach ensures parity for all and consistency in application and decision making and ensures that communities retain their sense of place and identity through the prevention of settlement coalescence.
13.3 Against the backdrop of the overall spatial strategy for the borough to maintain population levels and service provision in the rural area, it is recognised that some development is necessary to support rural communities and the local economy. The policy sets out a small number of exceptions to the overall approach but these must also fulfil criteria f-h of this policy.
13.4 [Deals with sport and recreation]
13.5 [Deals with the re-use of disused buildings]
13.6 [Deals with buildings of merit]
13.7 [Deals with rural enterprise]
13.8 In order to protect the intrinsic value, beauty and open character of the countryside, the policy sets criteria to ensure that any development which takes place does so in a way which is sensitive to its setting. The character and appearance of the landscape is one such criterion and applicants should have regard to Hinckley and Bosworth’s Landscape Character Assessment (2006) for details of the 10 diverse landscape areas in the borough.
13.9 [Deals with ribbon development]
13.10 [Deals with renewable energy developments]
10. In relation to housing land allocations in Markfield and Field Head the SADMPDPD provides at paragraph 5.28:-
“5.28 The residual minimum housing requirement for Markfield, as of 1 October 2013 has been met and as such no sites are required to be allocated for further residential development in Markfield. Further information on residential commitments can be found in the Site Selection Justification Paper”.
11. Hearings in the SADMPDPD examination took place between 29th September and 7th October 2015, so the SADMPDPD is very well advanced in the plan preparation process and is a document to which significant weight should be attached.
12. There were proposed modifications to SADMPDPD before the examination in public hearings. So far as the policies and text which have been quoted above are concerned, they comprise:-
(a) In policy DM 4, the addition of a new sub paragraph dealing with National Forest strategy;
(b) In sub paragraph (f), which becomes sub paragraph (g), the addition of the word “significant” so that the sub-paragraph reads “It does not have a significant adverse effect on the intrinsic value, beauty or open character of the countryside”;
(c) The deletion of the words “Where it is demonstrated that the benefits of the scheme would significantly outweigh the harm caused to the intrinsic value, beauty or open character of the countryside, the scheme may be found acceptable even where this may result in some conflict with criteria F-H”;
(d) In paragraph 13 the insertion of a new sub-paragraph 1 reading “It is a core principle of national policy to recognise the character and beauty of the countryside. This includes both designated landscapes and the wider countryside as a whole”;
No modifications to paragraph 5.28 are proposed, save to update it to November 2014.
13. It can therefore be seen that the proposed development would directly contradict both the letter and the intent of long established policy. Specifically:-
13.1 It is contrary to policy RES 5 of the local plan in that the site is not allocated and is not within the settlement boundary;
13.2 It is contrary to policy NE 5 of the local plan in that it does not fall within sub paragraphs a to c (types of development in the countryside for which planning permission may be granted). The possibility of it complying with policy NE 5 ends there. However, the proposal in any event falls foul of the first requirement of permissible development in that it does have an adverse effect on the appearance and character of the landscape;
14. It is contrary to policy DM 4 of the emerging SADMPDPD. This policy expressly replaces policy NE 5 of the local plan and is entirely consistent with it in approach. In view of that, and the advanced stage of preparation of the SADMPDPD, substantial weight should be attached to this policy. By its very nature the proposal does not protect the intrinsic value, beauty and open character of the countryside which policy DM 4 identifies as its “first and foremost” object. The proposal does not fall within the permitted exceptions listed in sub paragraphs (a) to (e). As with policy NE 5, any possibility of the proposal complying with policy DM 4 ends there. But even if the position was otherwise, the proposal would in any event have an adverse effect on the intrinsic value, beauty and open character of the countryside as the applicant’s landscape appraisal recognises.
15. It is also contrary to the objective of policy DM 4 of maintaining the physical and perceived separation between settlements across the entire borough. Field Head is a hamlet of only 224 houses separate from both Groby and Markfield. Residents strongly identify with and protect its status. By way of example when Groby Parish Council erected a Millenium Stone on the A50 with the caption “Welcome to Groby” protests from Field Head residents forced Groby Parish Council to change the caption to “Welcome to Field Head”.
16. According to the electoral register for Field Head there are 234 dwellings in the hamlet. The addition of a further 140 houses (59.8%) would severely compromise this sense of identity and place.
17. In the very recent appeal decision of Land south of Bonita Bullfurlong Lane Burbage (APP/K2420/W/15/3025088) the Inspector concluded that policy NE 5 was consistent with the Framework and that significant weight should be attached to it. The proposed development in that appeal was found to cause demonstrable harm to the character and appearance of the countryside and the landscape setting of Burbage. It was therefore contrary to the objectives of policy NE 5. It was concluded that the social and economic benefits of the scheme would not overcome the significant harm that would be caused to the character and appearance of the countryside and its landscape and (in that case) poor pedestrian accessibility. The harm would persist after the benefits arising from employment associated with the construction of the development had faded. Therefore the development was found not to be sustainable development.
18. It is submitted that there are clear parallels with this application. The applicant’s landscape character assessment at paragraph 4.19 concludes:-
“The site is largely consistent with characteristics broadly defined within the published assessments at a national, regional and more localised level. Although, it is considered that the site and its immediate context does share some influence from its adjoining landscape character areas of Forest Hills and Desford Vales,”
19. Those levels comprise:-
(a) The fact that the site falls within National Character Assessment 73 (Charnwood);
(b) Its status as Charnwood fringe within the Hinckley and Bosworth Landscape Character Assessment;
(c) Its consistency with its status as part of the Charnwood area within the National Forest Landscape Character Assessment.
20. Even on the applicant’s case (paragraph 4.33 of the applicant’s landscape character assessment):-
“The site and immediate context falls within an area of undesignated landscape, and the landscape is generally reflective of the host landscape character area and, it is considered on balance, the application site has a medium landscape value and medium landscape sensitivity”.
21. Significantly the proposed modifications to policy DM 4, if accepted by the Inspector in the examination process, would strengthen the case against the proposal still further. The deletion of the qualification whereby, if the benefits of the scheme would significantly outweigh the harm caused to the countryside, the scheme may be found acceptable, imposes a more demanding requirement to avoid harm, even if the addition of “significant” in sub paragraph (f)/(g) is taken in to account. In any event however the proposal cannot meet the threshold requirement of falling within the sub paragraph (a) to (e) exceptions.
22. To give approval to the proposed development would therefore be antithetical to the plan led approach which is central to the NPPF. It would also necessarily detract from the character and beauty of the countryside. There may be scope for argument about the extent to which it would do so, but that it would do so is beyond argument. The adverse effect on the intrinsic value, beauty and open character of the countryside is significant and would not be outweighed by such economic and social benefits as the proposal may be found to have. Thus, even if was otherwise sustainable, (which it is not: see below) the proposal would, for this reason alone not amount to sustainable development.
23. To approve the proposal would also be inconsistent with the objectives of the core strategy so far as Key Rural Centres Relating to Leicester are concerned. The proposal cannot in any way be said to be of a scale or type which is based on supporting local needs. On the contrary it would be, however well landscaped, a mainstream large scale estate development which not only might but it is suggested demonstrably would encourage commuting by car to Leicester: the antithesis of sustainable development. The applicant has adduced no evidence as to how the proposal would fulfil the object of the Core Strategy of meeting the needs of Markfield and Field Head.
24. In the light of that it is unsurprising that at the site specific level the proposal would also be incompatible with the objectives of policy DM 4 as evidenced in (existing) paragraph 13.1 of the SADMPDPD. That paragraph emphasises the “huge” importance of the countryside in the plan area and promotes the application of “all efforts” to protect its intrinsic value, beauty and open character. The introductory paragraph proposed by way of modification, if accepted, reinforces this: the recognition of the character and beauty of the countryside is extended to the wider countryside as a whole. The paragraph sets out the self-evident proposition that the most sustainable locations for additional growth in the plan area are the urban areas. In Markfield and Field Head the limited growth necessary to help sustain services and ensure the future sustainability of Key Rural centres has already been achieved so far as housing allocations are concerned: not only that, but the allocations have been built out, so the need has not only been recognised and planned for, but also met.
25. In view of the overwhelming strategic and site specific policy difficulties which face this proposal, it is not surprising that the owners, rightly, made no attempt to have the site included as an allocated site in the SADMPDPD. To grant it now, at such an advanced stage of a plan preparation process which nowhere advances the idea of a housing allocation on this site, would make a mockery of the idea of plan-led development decisions and subvert the statutory primacy of the development plan.
26. HBBC has demonstrated that a five year housing land supply exists within the plan area, calculated in accordance with the requirements of the NPPF. The applicants have not sought to contend otherwise. Thus, paragraph 49 of the NPPF is not engaged. However, it is in any case clear that uncertainties about the housing land supply position in the Borough which have existed historically now been resolved, as the Planning Inspectorate has recognised. In appeal decision APP/K2420/W/15/3003301 (Land south of Markfield Road Ratby), decided on 9th October 2015, the Inspector concluded:-
11. The District’s housing strategy over the Core Strategy plan period is heavily reliant on two Sustainable Urban Extensions (SUEs), at Earl Shilton and Barwell, which are referred to in Policies 2 and 3 of the Core Strategy respectively. The Appellants argue that neither site is likely to deliver new homes in the next 5 years and that, combined with the absence of delivery on a large site west of Hinckley, there is less than a 5 year supply of housing land in the Borough.
12. It has taken a long time to bring the two SUEs forward, but I consider that there is now reasonable evidence that things are moving. At Earl Shilton, a letter dated 3 September 2015 from Bloor Homes on behalf of the developer consortium, which also includes Barwood Developments, Jelson Homes and Persimmon Homes, states that all the parties have now confirmed that they are in a position to enter into a collaboration agreement. The focus is now on viability in the light of recent sales evidence. This will clarify what the scheme can deliver in terms of affordable housing and other off-site contributions once essential on site infrastructure has been accounted for. Subject to settling the collaboration agreement and the viability position, an outline planning application is to be submitted before Christmas this year.
13. The Barwell SUE is subject to a resolution to grant planning permission subject to a s106 agreement; the Chief Planning and Development Officer has been granted delegated powers to finalise the remaining matters including the obligation and the latter is expected to be completed and planning permission issued by the end of the year.
14. These are complex sites and the process of reserved matters approval and infrastructure provision will take time, but I consider that there is enough evidence to conclude that, even allowing for time to provide initial infrastructure, both sites are likely to make some contribution to the supply of housing in the next 5 years. This will clearly be towards the back end of the 5 year period, but the Council’s revised September 2015 calculation of the 5 year housing trajectory, submitted to the Inquiry, rightly makes realistically low assumptions about the level of early delivery on these sites.
15. The site west of Hinckley is included in the submitted Site Allocations and Development Management Policies DPD as HIN02, and is subject to both outline application and a full application for the development of the first two phases. No permission has yet been granted and the Appellants argue that the site should be discounted completely, pointing to an absence of recent information on the Council’s website. However, a letter dated 3 September 2015 from the owner, Bloor Homes, indicates that negotiations are well under way in connection with the applications. Issues regarding measures at the site access have been resolved, negotiations are continuing with bus operators, a further round of traffic modelling has been completed, the design has been the subject of a favourable design review and the s106 obligation for the main site outline is at an advanced stage. The developer’s suggestion that first build completions are likely to take place in June 2016 seems tight, but in the light of the information available I consider it probable that this site will make a significant contribution towards the housing supply in the first five years.
16. I consider that the Council has been realistic about housing delivery from these large sites. I am satisfied that all three sites are deliverable within the terms of the Framework".
27. Rejecting an argument that there has been persistent under–delivery of housing in the Borough, so as to warrant the imposition of a 20% rather than 5% buffer, the Inspector concluded:-
“19. Taking all these factors into account, I consider that the housing land supply calculation submitted by the Council to the Inquiry, which is based on the Sedgefield method and a 5% buffer, is as sound a calculation as is possible to make at this time. The new positive evidence from the Council and from the developer in respect of the sites at Earl Shilton and on land west of Hinckley, the information update on Barwell, and the fact that the Site Allocations and Development Management Policies DPD is now at the stage of Examination, clearly point towards a different conclusion on the 5 year supply from that of the Inspectors in appeals at Sketchley House, Burbage APP/K2420/A/13/2208318 (Secretary of State’s decision November 2014) and at Ratby Road, Groby APP/K2420/A/12/2181080 (Inspector’s decision March 2015). I conclude that there is currently sufficient housing land in the Borough as a whole to meet requirements for the next 5 years”.
28. There being a five year housing land supply, the relevant development plan housing and countryside protection policies remain in full force and effect.
29. Whilst it is recognised that the existence of a five year housing land supply does not necessarily represent a ceiling for site allocation, attention is again drawn to paragraph 5.28 of the SADMPDPD. In addition, the residents of Markfield and Field Head accept, however reluctantly, that the Jelson development at London Road has set both the principal and the location of expansion of Markfield for the foreseeable future. It is understood that the developer controls or has the means of controlling a further 50 acres at London Road which would be more than sufficient not merely to meet but substantially to exceed development plan led demands for housing land allocation for the foreseeable future. This land is better related than the application site to the built form of Markfield and to such facilities as Markfield has. Its sustainability credentials are demonstrably better than those of the appeal site. There is simply no warrant for further intrusion in to open countryside.
30. It is suggested by the applicant that the site is a sustainable location for development. This is not so. As noted above, the supporting text to the Core Strategy states that the Borough’s urban areas are the focus for the largest volume of new development as the most sustainable locations for additional growth and development, whereas Key Rural Centres are the focus of limited growth to help sustain existing services and ensure the future sustainability of the settlements. That sets the general context.
31. It cannot be said that the site is sustainable in transport terms. The applicant’s analysis of bus services in section 6 of the Planning and Consultation statement shows a frequency of service which is characteristic of rural areas rather than the more intensive services which are to be expected in urban and suburban areas and which provide truly sustainable transport links for work, leisure, shopping and access to services. The level of suggested provision of car parking incorporated in the proposal suggests that the applicant expects, it is suggested realistically, that the occupiers of the proposed scheme would assume high levels of car ownership and use.
32. It should in any case not be assumed that the existing, inadequate, levels of bus service will continue. Leicestershire County Council is in the process of preparing and approving its medium term financial strategy for 2016/17 to 2019/20 (“MTFS”). The current proposed strategy includes annual savings of £2m from the Transport and Environment budget for “Public bus services – revised policy on subsidised transport”. The draft MTFS presented to cabinet dated 12th January 2016 stated (underlining added):-
“Savings will delivered through a revised approach to Highways Maintenance, reviewing contracts and service reviews. Also by making savings to non-statutory services such as rural bus subsidies.”
The MTFS is due to be considered by cabinet again on 5th February 2016 and to be approved by full Council on 17th February 2016.
33. At the date of writing it is impossible to say whether services to and from Markfield and Field Head will be affected. However this state of affairs demonstrates that in the current and foreseeable public expenditure climate all bus services outside of large urban areas are vulnerable. It is self-evidently not a proper approach to sustainable development to rely upon transport infrastructure whose own sustainability is in imminent doubt.
34. Markfield of course has no railway station: the nearest are Leicester and Loughborough at approximately nine and ten miles respectively. By contrast both of the SUEs are close to Hinckley station with frequent and fast trains to Leicester, Birmingham and other destinations. Hinckley also offers both regular and express bus services to Leicester. The SUEs and Hinckley itself thus offer far better sustainability credentials in transport terms.
35. In terms of the facilities, the position is very similar. Whilst Markfield and Field Head offer the facilities listed at paragraph 6.17 of the Planning and Consultation statement they do not offer:-
35.1 A dentist;
35.2 A vet;
35.3 Any food store larger than a Co-operative convenience store;
35.4 A bank;
35.5 Entertainment facilities;
35.6 More than basic sports facilities. The Sports Centre offers a large and small sports hall and outdoor multi-purpose sports area, a basketball pitch and a football pitch. There is no swimming pool and Markfield does not offer facilities for specialised sports or, for example, rugby;
36. There are only two restaurants (one of which is a pub/restauarant) within the village of Markfield and only two nearby (the Field Head Hotel and the Flying Horse).
37. It is to be noted that Mercenfeld primary (the village school for Markfield) is now almost full and has no space on its campus to expand. Because of that it is already using some of the facilities at Markfield Community Centre and the Community Library. Traffic movements at the beginning and end of school days are an increasing problem.
38. It is suggested that it is therefore quite wrong to assert, as the Planning and Consultation statement does at paragraph 6.19, that the application site is “in close proximity to the majority of facilities”. The statement does not identify a class of facilities out of which it is said that the majority is covered. The reality is that access from the application site to facilities which Markfield does not provide will in all probability be made by car.
39. It is suggested therefore that the application site is not sustainable in terms of access to facilities, as well as not being sustainable in transport terms. It therefore cannot be considered to be sustainable in environmental terms.
40. This conclusion is supported by very recent events in the SADMPDPD examination process. In response to discussion at the examination hearing sessions a Sustainability Appraisal Supplement (“SAS”) has been produced to support the SADMPDPD. The scope of the SAS is described in its introduction:-
“The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum did not assess sites in settlements that had already met their Core Strategy housing requirement as it was primarily produced to demonstrate that the most sustainable sites for development had been selected in settlements which had not yet met their minimum housing requirement identified in the Core Strategy. Allocating sites in settlements that did not have a residual housing requirement was not considered a reasonable alternative at that time. Through the process it was found that the residual Core Strategy housing requirement could be met by assessing and allocating sites in settlements that had yet to meet their Core Strategy figure.
However, for completeness the Council has now undertaken a further Sustainability Appraisal for all developable sites (as defined in the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2014 (SHLAA, 2014)) which surrounding settlements that have either met their Core Strategy housing requirements, are subject to the Earl Shilton and Barwell Area Action Plan or did not have an allocation at all. These settlements include … [Markfield]”.
41. The application site is amongst those appraised. Reference may be made to the SAS for the detailed assessment but what is significant is the SAS’s overall conclusion about Markfield (underlining added):-
“Markfield Conclusions Within the adopted Core Strategy, Policy 8 – Key Rural Centres Relating to Leicester, states that to support local services within Markfield and to ensure local people have access to a range of homes; the Council will allocate land for a minimum of 80 homes. Since the adoption of the Core Strategy seven homes have been provided in Markfield with a further 193 dwellings having planning permission. The Sustainability Appraisals conducted for developable greenfield sites surrounding Markfield clearly display that there are some sustainability issues, specifically relating to landscape, mineral safeguarding as well as overall greenhouse emissions and pollutants dependant on the size of the site. In relation to location of existing services, many of the sites in Markfield are well located to local services and facilities with the exception of the larger sites when measured from the centre of the site, thereby increasing the likelihood of vehicular use. Appendix 1 of this Sustainability Appraisal shows a tabular format of the scoring of each settlement. The Council does not consider any of the sites surrounding Markfield to be sufficiently sustainable to warrant their inclusion in the Site Allocations and Development Management Policies DPD as the Core Strategy allocated a sustainable quantum of development for Markfield, which has now been significantly exceeded in the six years since the Core Strategy’s adoption. It is therefore not considered sustainable to allocate further greenfield development in this location until this can be further investigated through the Local Plan review”.
42. That is a considered, reasonable and completely up to date approach. There is no basis for making the application site an exception to it and to do so would be inconsistent with the adoption of the plan-led approach enshrined in statute and the NPPF.
43. In these circumstances, the suggestion that the site is suitable to boost the supply of housing in accordance with paragraph 47 of the NPPF is flawed. It is essential that a realistic view is taken. Despite the best efforts of the applicant to present this outline proposal as capable of accommodating a well-designed and landscaped scheme, in reality it would be (whether or not incorporating high quality elements) an un-remarkable housing estate. In reality it would operate as a dormitory estate for car commuters to Leicester and to a lesser extent Coalville, who would naturally gravitate (by car) to those centres for other purposes and facilities.
44. It should be noted that the public open space over which the general vehicular access to the site passes, as does the access to the proposed pumping station, is in the ownership and control of Groby Parish Council and has been maintained by it since at least 1991. Whilst it is appreciated that ownership is not ordinarily a relevant planning consideration it would appear that this proposal could not be capable of implementation without resort to Grampian style conditions, the use of which would be unsound in these circumstances.
45. In summary:-
45.1 It would not contribute significantly to the Markfield economy or to the needs of Markfield and Field Head generally. No objective evidence has been offered that it would;
45.2 It would diminish the character and identity of the ancient and distinctive settlement of Field Head;
45.3 It is contrary to established and emerging policy, which are consistent with each other;
45.4 It is not environmentally sustainable;
45.5 It would un-necessarily cause development on open countryside;
45.6 In any event it cannot be implemented without resort to land outside of the applicant’s ownership and control.
46. The application should be refused.
 The source for all of the information in this paragraph is the Leicestershire County Council website as it stood on 4th February 2015.