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Appeal: Previously recovered 600-home Salford scheme rejected again

Worsley, Salford / Shutterstock: 1178038822

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has refused plans for 600 homes on ‘green wedge’ land near Salford, after his predecessor Eric Pickles’ 2015 dismissal of the scheme was quashed by the High Court.

AUTHORITYSalford City Council
INSPECTORMichael Boniface
PROCEDURERecovered appeal

The appeal concerned three separate sites to the east of Worsley, Greater Manchester, totalling just under 35 hectares. 

The appellant sought permission for an “aspirational housing” development comprising 600 homes, of which 30 per cent would be affordable, along with a 130-berth marina, playing fields and other ancillary development.

The application was initially rejected by the council in late 2013. The subsequent appeal was recovered by then-housing secretary Eric Pickles, who upheld the inspector’s decision to dismiss the appeal.

However, Pickles’ decision was then quashed by the High Court and a new inquiry set up, with inspector Michael Boniface appointed to report to new housing secretary James Brokenshire.

The appeal centred on the Worsley greenway, a “strategically important green wedge” covering 195 hectares and incorporating part of the appeal site. 

Policy EN2 of the council’s development plan restricts development that would “fragment or detract from the openness and continuity” of the greenway.

Even in the absence of policies covering the need for and distribution of housing, Boniface ruled, in policy EN2 the council had “a policy relating to the land in question which unambiguously restricts development of the type proposed”. 

The development plan could not therefore be considered “absent, silent, or out of date“ with regards to the greenway, he found. Brokenshire agreed, ruling that unacceptable harm would arise from the scheme’s conflict with policy EN2.

The appellant argued that the council’s housing land supply figures should be considered a “work in progress”, given the then-upcoming government consultation on calculating housing need.

In response, Brokenshire undertook his own calculation, finding a supply of over 13 years. On this basis he considered that the development plan was clearly not hindering the council’s delivery of housing.

Despite its large housing land supply, the appellant argued, the council was not meeting the needs of the Salford housing market as a whole, pointing to “significant deficiencies” in the number of larger "“aspirational” homes and “wider issues with homelessness and affordability”. 

RAID (Residents Against Inappropriate Development) – a community group opposed to the scheme that had been granted Rule 6 status at the inquiry – challenged this view, stating that “to suggest that the proposed development will make any meaningful contribution to tackling homelessness is simply an insult to our intelligence”.

Notwithstanding the council’s strong housing supply position, Brokenshire afforded significant weight to the scheme’s provision of aspirational housing. 

He gave no additional weight to the appellant’s voluntary “enhanced offering” of 30 per cent affordable housing – 10 per cent higher than the 20 per cent requirement set out in the development plan – however, because it failed to meet the regulations for planning obligations set out in the NPPF.

Brokenshire afforded little weight to the fact that the scheme would add to “already unacceptable” levels of air pollution in the area, because the increase would be “negligible”. None of the other issues raised at the four-week inquiry, including traffic, school capacity and flooding, received decisive weight.

In his conclusion, the housing secretary ruled that despite the benefits of the scheme’s provision of “aspirational and affordable housing”, there were no material considerations to justify departing from the development plan. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

The inspector’s report – case reference 2209607 – can be read here.

Image credit | Shutterstock