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Eric Pickles blocks 85 Northamptonshire homes over neighbourhood plan conflict

Michael Donnelly
23 March 2015

The communities secretary has blocked plans for up to 85 homes on the edge of a Northamptonshire village, against an inspector's recommendation of approval, after concluding that the development would have been in 'clear conflict' with an emerging neighbourhood plan and would have caused adverse environmental impacts.

Wellingborough Council had refused to grant outline planning permission for the scheme in September 2013.

Following an appeal and public inquiry, an inspector recommended that the development be approved. But a decision letter issued late last week said Eric Pickles had reached a different conclusion.

The letter said Pickles agreed with the inspector "that the economic and social benefits of the proposal should be accorded substantial weight" and that he agreed that "little weight can be ascribed to the relevant but out of date policies of the adopted development plan or its current review".

But it added that the secretary of state did not agree with the inspector's view that there was a lack of demonstrable environmental harm.

"He gives significant weight to the combined harm from the impression of sprawl, the reduction in visual amenity arising from urbanisation of the public footpath through the appeal site and the strong possibility of the loss of some best and most versatile agricultural land", the letter said.

Overall, the letter concluded that, though the benefits of the scheme would be "substantial", Pickles found that "the adverse impacts in regard to conflict with the submitted neighbourhood plan and in consequence the harm to the perceived effectiveness of the neighbourhood planning process, together with the adverse environmental impacts, would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole".

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