Full circle

We appear to have come full circle with regard to the definition of an isolated dwelling. Readers will recall that in Braintree District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Others [2017] the High Court judge found that “isolated” should be given its ordinary objective meaning of, “far away from other places, buildings or people, remote”. Also, that it was subsequently held in the Court of Appeal, in Braintree DC v SSCLG, Greyread Ltd & Granville Developments Ltd [2018] that, “…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…”

So as long as a site is not far away from other places, buildings or people, planning permission should be forthcoming, right? No, wrong, there’s more to it than that, as a recent appeal case in Devon indicates (DCS Number 400-019-320).

In this case the inspector held that the location of the two proposed dwellings, being adjacent to one row of existing houses, roughly opposite another row of houses, and on the outskirts of the town, could not be said to be physically remote from places, buildings or people. However, she reasoned, it does not necessarily follow that a site that is not ‘isolated’ in the terms of paragraph 55 will be reasonably accessible to services when considered in the context of other requirements of the Framework. She was advised that the site was around 580m from the town centre, which she considered a reasonable walking distance in general terms. Nevertheless, she was concerned about the generally unattractive nature of the route. She considered, for example, that there was substantial potential for conflict between vehicles and pedestrians, even though traffic speeds might be generally low due to the nature of the road. Notwithstanding the reasonably manageable distance involved, therefore, she found that this would make walking an unattractive option for journeys into the town, including for parents with young children or pushchairs. Furthermore, the return journey would involve a significant and sustained uphill section.

The inspector concluded that, while the site was reasonably proximate to the town centre, its degree of accessibility to essential services by alternative modes was significantly limited.

She determined that the site was not a suitable location for dwellings having particular regard to accessibility for future residents to essential services.

National guidance on isolated homes in the countryside is set out in DCP Online section 9.231.