Lead Forensics
Prettys Solicitors Ipswich


Isolated Location Defined in Planning Terminology

Unsurprisingly, in the recent case of Braintree District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and others 2018, the Court of Appeal has decided that the application of the word "isolated" within the meaning of paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should be given its usual plain English meaning i.e a site for residential development in a rural area should not be considered to be isolated, if there are other houses close by.

The aim of Paragraph 55 of the NPPF is to seek to promote sustainable housing development in rural areas, and states that local planning authorities should "avoid new isolated homes in the countryside unless there are very special circumstances..." In this case Braintree District council’s view was that development outside a defined rural settlement should be treated as isolated, and consequently refused to grant a planning permission.

In the court of appeal judgement Lord Justice Lindblom stated:

"In my view, in its particular context in paragraph 55 of the NPPF, the word 'isolated' in the phrase 'isolated homes in the countryside' simply connotes a dwelling that is physically separate or remote from a settlement. Whether a proposed new dwelling is, or is not, 'isolated' in this sense will be a matter of fact and planning judgment for the decision-maker in the particular circumstances of the case in hand.

What constitutes a settlement for these purposes is also left undefined in the NPPF. The NPPF contains no definitions of a 'community', a 'settlement', or a 'village'. There is no specified minimum number of dwellings, or population. It is not said that a settlement or development boundary must have been fixed in an adopted or emerging local plan, or that only the land and buildings within that settlement or development boundary will constitute the settlement.

In my view a settlement would not necessarily exclude a hamlet or a cluster of dwellings, without, for example, a shop or post office of its own, or a school or community hall or a public house nearby, or public transport within easy reach. Whether, in a particular case, a group of dwellings constitutes a settlement, or a 'village', for the purposes of the policy will again be a matter of fact and planning judgment for the decision-maker. In the second sentence of paragraph 55 the policy acknowledges that development in one village may 'support services' in another. It does not stipulate that, to be a 'village', a settlement must have any 'services' of its own, let alone 'services' of any specified kind."

As a result it was held that the inspector did not misinterpret or misapply the policy in paragraph 55 of the NPPF and the High Court was correct to uphold the decision of the inspector.


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