Housing secretary uses first appeal decision to turn down controversial 1,250-home scheme in Medway

Michael Gove has rejected plans to build 1,250 homes in Kent despite the local authority having no five year supply of land for homes and a local plan dating back to 2003.

The new housing secretary dismissed the appeal of landowner AC Goatham & Sons on the grounds that the plans would cause significant landscape harm, severely impact on the local road network and harm local heritage.

Fruit-grower AC Goatham had applied to Medway Council to build 1,250 homes in Rainham alongside a local centre, village green, primary school and two care homes on the site of an orchard off Pump Lane in the town.

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Michael Gove said the impact of the 1,250 home scheme would outweigh the benefits

Given the council’s out of date plan and lack of a supply of land to meet housing need, the application was assessed under the presumption in favour of development contained in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Gove followed the advice of the planning inspector in turning down the appeal, deciding that “the adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits” – the test set out in the NPPF.

The decision letter said Gove had taken the age of the Local Plan and the significant shortfall in housing land supply “very seriously” but added: “However, on the particular facts of this case, he considers that the material considerations indicate a decision in line with the development plan.”

The inspector had concluded that the scheme would have a “substantial adverse landscape and visual impact” on the Gillingham Riverside Area of Local Landscape Importance, was outside of any existing settlement boundary and not allocated in the local plan – putting the scheme in conflict with several development plan policies.

He also found there was “less than substantial harm” to a number of protected heritage sites, attracting “considerable importance and weight” in his decision, and potentially a “severe” impact on local roads at peak times.

Medway council was identified in the appeal as having a “significant” housing land shortfall, with supply of between 1.78 and 3.03 years. Gove said he gave substantial weight to the provision of both housing overall and affordable housing and also factored in the large increase in biodiversity proposed under the scheme.

The news came as Gove at the same time approved separate plans by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey for 900 homes in Sweechbridge Road at Herne Bay in Kent, again in line with the advice of the inspector.

The two decisions are the first planning appeals to have been decided by Gove since taking up the post of housing secretary in the September reshuffle.

A Facebook page set up to oppose the Rainham plans published a statement saying Gove’s decision represented a “strong and decisive rejection of the outrageous plans by AC Goatham” and was “such great news for our community”.

AC Goatham & Sons declined to comment.