Housing Developments - Economic Benefits v Environmental Harm

Housing developments are almost always controversial and, in deciding whether or not to approve them, planners have to balance environmental and other objections against social and economic benefits. That was certainly so in one case in which the High Court breathed new life into proposals to build more than 180 new homes on the outskirts of a market town.

In refusing consent for the proposals, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government noted that the area had a five-year supply of available housing land in place. The proposed development would cause environmental harm and conflict with local development and neighbourhood plans that were directed at maintaining the boundaries of existing settlements and preserving the open countryside.

In overturning his decision, however, the Court found that he had not given adequate reasons for rejecting the would-be developer's suggestion that conditions be attached to any permission granted that would maximise the economic and employment benefits to local people.

Those conditions included requirements that a high proportion of the workforce used on the project would come from the local area and that much of the work would be carried out by small or medium-sized local building firms. The Secretary of State was directed to reconsider the developer's application in the light of the Court's ruling.