Beech Cottage

Outline application for 30 dwellings (siting, design, landscaping and external appearance reserved for future consideration).

Exeter City Council had refused the proposed development on the grounds that it would constitute a piecemeal development of land forming part of a wider land allocation and would be likely to result in a material increase in the volume of traffic entering and leaving Old Rydon Lane. The layout of the access roads to the site was considered unacceptable due to inadequate width and poor horizontal alignment.

The Council also determined that the proposal failed to meet the local plan policies that require a:

“…co-ordinated, integrated and comprehensive approach to the development of this land in the interests of creating a distinct identity and sense of place for the area.”

The Exeter local plan allocates the wider hinterland as having the capacity to accommodate at least 300 houses with an integrated residential approach which creates a distinct identity and sense of place. The site is part of a wider masterplan area, however the masterplan is primarily a land use plan and does not indicate how the distinct identity might be achieved.

Decision at appeal

The inspector supported the use of preparing a design strategy, development brief or design code in these situations to establish the principles for the whole development.

The inspector concluded that the proposal would fail to meet the local plan requirement to avoid the:

“typically suburban, open plan, motor vehicle and highway dominated arrangements...the layout has a strongly suburban feel, with small groups of houses fronting the road in a conventional manner, and parking provided in groups either close to the road or in courts at the rear.”

The inspector also noted that:

  • there was “no obvious coherence” to the layout
  • the designated area of open space was “tucked away in a corner and makes a very weak contribution to the overall design”
  • and the location of the proposed cycle path was arbitrary.

He reasoned that these deficiencies did not conform to government advice (such as By design - urban design in the planning system and Better places to live by design) and were likely to deliver a poor design.

Without a design code to guide the design parameters for the area the inspector said: “there is little purpose in submitting a layout with an outline application unless it gives a true indication” of future development.

He dismissed the appeal, stating that

“…the illustrative layout does not demonstrate a sufficiently high quality design to be acceptable” and that “the proposal is contrary to PPS3: Housing which regard good design as fundamental to the creation of sustainable communities.”

The appeal was dismissed

Key lessons

  • The importance of a design strategy, as part of a masterplan or a design code, to establish the design principles and phasing strategy for a development site
  • Better places to live by design is a material consideration in assessment of planning applications
  • Design as advocated in PPS3: Housing is essential to new development and councils have the right to require high quality design
  • Design at appeal provides guidance for local authorities and appellants to navigate the appeal process when design is an issue.

Further information

  • Appeal decision date:
    17 May 2007
  • Local authority:
    Exeter City Council
  • Region:
    South West
  • Type of application:
    Outline planning
  • LPA planning reference:
  • Planning Inspectorate appeal reference:
    APP/Y1110/A/07/2033786 (Adobe PDF)