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A political decision? Pickles blocks 880 homes as inspector gives verdict on five-year supply

Secretary of State (SoS) Eric Pickles has refused an appeal for 880 homes, a retirement  village, a local centre, a community building and a primary school on 43 hectares of agricultural land in Cheshire East.

The council could not demonstrate a 5YLS and the Inspector was critical of the council. SoS concluded, agreeing with the inspector that:

  • Overall the SoS considers that whilst the proposed scheme can be seen as sustainable development providing much needed housing, deferring a commitment to the reduction of an area of green gap in advance of the resolution of that matter through the local plan examination also represents a sustainable approach to development in accordance with the framework.

    Whereas the scheme does have many benefits, the adverse impacts of approving the development resulting in the premature permanent loss of part of this Green Gap area outweighs the presumption in favour of sustainable development might otherwise pertain.

This is a clear signal that the SoS is taking a cautious approach to allowing controversial developments in the lead up to the election.  Note that he has invoked his old friend ‘prematurity’ which he used a lot in his first few years as SoS.

This decision appears to essentially defer the issue until after the election using localism to appeal to voters in the short term, but not necessarily precluding allocation or consent in the future.

My prediction is if he remains as SoS within 6 months he is likely to have a more positive stance and abandon prematurity again.

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