Kennylands Road, Sonning Common, Oxfordshire (appeal ref: 3183391)

Bayley Gate Farm, Cranfield, Bedfordshire (appeal ref: 3190779)

Two recent appeals against decisions by South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) and Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC)) to refuse planning permission have been dismissed following public inquiries. MBELC provided expert evidence at both inquiries and successfully defended the landscape reasons for refusal.

Both decisions were by Inspector, Kenneth Stone.  Although the ‘tilted balance’ was applied (a presumption in favour of sustainable development – as per para 14 of the 2012 NPPF) the harm to the landscape was, in both cases, considered to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole.   The tilted balance was engaged as some relevant development plan policies were found to be out-of-date in both cases.   

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common (appeal ref: 3183391)


The first appeal was made by Gallagher Estates. It concerned SODC’s refusal to grant permission for up to 95 dwellings on land off Kennylands Road in Sonning Common.  

The appeal site is located on the south-western edge of the village, adjacent to the Chilterns AONB. The Inspector found that the site and its surrounding area demonstrated many of the attributes of the local landscape character type and some of the special qualities of the AONB. Such attributes led the Inspector to agree with Michelle Bolger’s evidence that the site is part of an NPPF para 109 valued landscape because it 'fulfils an important function in maintaining the rural setting of Sonning Common and the setting of the built-up area in the wider landscape, including with the AONB.' 

With respect to the proposed development the Inspector concluded that 'The site forms an important landscape and visual element in the locality and there is harm to it. It adds positively to the setting of the village in the countryside. It assists in the separation of the settlement from the Chilterns AONB boundary. Moreover, it is an attractive area of countryside in association with the wider countryside to the south, not in the designated Chilterns AONB. The harm would be material and significant. There would be an adverse effect on the Chilterns AONB, in that the views from within and immediately to the west beyond the woods would be of a more urbanised settlement edge closer to the AONB. These are views from within the AONB.'

Of particular importance to the inquiry was the Sonning Common Neighbourhood Development Plan (SCNDP). The SCNDP is a recently made plan (October 2016) which sets out how many new homes should be built within the village and where. A small part of the appeal site included an allocation for 26 homes. However, the appeal site as a whole was not allocated and the development did not constitute infill – the proposed development was therefore in conflict with the housing and allocation policies of the SCNDP.  

Both parties agreed that the Council could not demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply (4.1 was agreed) and therefore housing policies in SODC's Core Strategy were out of date.   However, polices for the policies for housing supply in the SCNDP were not to be considered out of date because SODC could demonstrate a 3-year supply of deliverable housing sites as established in the Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) on neighbourhood planning (December 2016).   

Applying a tilted balance the Inspector found that the harm from conflicting with the SCNDP  and the harm to the character and appearance of the area, including the setting of the AONB and Sonning Common, and a valued landscape, would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the scheme when assessed against the NPPF, taken as a whole.

A copy of the full decision for Sonning Common can be downloaded here.


Bayley Gate Farm, Cranfield (appeal ref: 3190779)


This appeal concerned CBC’s decision to refuse an application for up to 300 dwellings on land at Bayley Gate Farm, College Road, Cranfield. The appeal was made by Gladman Developments Limited and the Kinns Family.

All parties agrees that the site, which is located on farmland bounded in part by Cranfield University and the Milton Keynes Boundary Walk, was not part of a valued landscape for the purposes of para 109 of the 2012 NPPF.  However, as the Inspector noted this 'does not mean that it has no value and although it may not be rare or have significant conservation interest or have any known associations it is very representative of the wider landscape, has a pleasant and attractive scenic quality and is in good condition. Its arable nature, strong boundary hedge and tree treatment ensure that it, along with the surrounding fields, narrow country lanes, bridleway and public rights of way create a strong rural character.'  The Inspector agreed with Michelle that existing development at Cranfield University does not have a strong visible or urbanising presence over the site – contrary to the appellant’s position.

The Inspector found that the structural planting proposed by the appellant would ‘do little to ameliorate and integrate the significant residential neighbourhood that would be created into the wider landscape’ and that any structural planting alongside the MKBW could not remove views of the development if the proposed planting were to be in-keeping with the character of the area.

Unlike the Sonning Common appeal above, the Council could demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply. However, the tilted balance was still engaged as a policy relevant to housing distribution (Policy CS5) was found to be out of date.

Due to the ‘substantial harm to the landscape character of the area and visual amenity and appearance of the locality’ and the finding that the site was not sustainably located and would not provide access to facilities meeting the day to day needs of future residents the impacts of granting permission were found to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole.  The appeal was dismissed.

A copy of the full decision for Bayley Gate Farm can be downloaded here

These dismissals mark seven consecutive appeals at which MBELC have successfully defended the Local Authority’s landscape reason for refusal at inquiry.