Housing secretary to look again at Kent proposal after realising data is out-of-date

Michael Gove is set to rethink his controversial decision to block a 165-home Berkeley Homes scheme after being advised it may not stand up in court due to reliance on out-of-date housing and land supply data.

The housing secretary made headlines in April after refusing permission for the development in an area of outstanding natural beauty in Kent despite a planning inspector recommending it be given the green light.

Berkeley Kent 3

Michael Gove considers the homes planned to be “generic”

The decision notice said the housing secretary did not find the scheme to be “sensitively designed” and being of “generic” in nature.

Berkeley Homes launched a legal challenge against the decision, which has drawn criticism across the housing development industry, including from the Homes Builders Federation (HBF) and the National Federation of Builders.

Gove is now set to quash the decision in court after realising housing and land supply numbers for the local area referenced in the decision notice are not up to date.

The notice described the current shortfall in housing in Tunbridge Wells as ‘slight’ at 77 homes over five years. It said the borough has identified 4.89 years of housing supply land but these figures are out-of-date.

Gove is understood to be standing by his criticism of the scheme’s design, however, and could decide to try to block the proposal, designed by Kent-based practice OSP Architecture, again.

>> See also: Sector fears drop in housing delivery following blocked Kent scheme

The housing secretary concluded previously that there were no exceptional circumstances which justify the development, in the Colne Valley near Tunbridge Wells, and no factors which suggest granting permission is in the public interest.

David O’Leary, executive director of policy at the HBF, earlier this month said: “The housing secretary is personally intervening to block developments that local communities actually want to see go ahead.”

Berkeley and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities both declined to comment.