Updated Oct 10, 2022

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250 homes granted in AONB following appeal

Robert Hitchens Ltd has been given planning permission following an appeal to build up to 250 homes in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Cheltenham Borough Council had initially rejected the planning application because it would impact the AONB. They also felt there would be a negative impact on heritage, highways and local schools should the development go ahead. The applicant appealed against this decision.

At the appeal, the appellant argued that the actual site did not show any of the AONB's special characteristics - an argument that planning inspector Matthew Nunn disagreed with. Mr Nunn set out that the development would mean the loss of rural character and would result in harm to the AONB, although had to acknowledge that the area around the proposed site had been altered by residential development.

The appeal also considered the impact of the proposed development on nearby listed buildings. Mr Nunn found that the heritage assets would not be harmed, though the rural setting of those buildings would be, which on balance wasn't that harmful overall. The inspector also doubted the Council's conclusion that the development would have a severe impact on local roads, given that working patterns had changed since the pandemic which could undermine the transport assessment.

However, when it came to the impact on schools, the inspector called for a more collaborative solution between the Council and the appellant. The Council had estimated that the contributions required to accommodate increased pressure on school capacities were around £2.6m, whilst the appellant argued it was £528,180. Mr Nunn said that the amount requested by the council was justified.

In all planning decisions, a balanced judgement has to be reached. Mr Nunn concluded that in this case, although the development would result in damage to the AONB, the development's contribution to a shortfall in housing land supply was a major benefit. The proposed 100 affordable homes on the site were also a benefit and in these "exceptional circumstances", the benefits outweighed the harm to the AONB.

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