“The social merits of the proposal cannot be disputed, with the delivery of the proposal aiding in meeting one of the Council’s key priorities of delivering more affordable homes across the District. As such, the development would have a significant positive effect on providing the housing needed for present and future generations within a high quality environment.”
It is true that the social merits cannot be disputed. However, more importantly and most damaging to Grainger’s case, that is because the “social merits” haven’t been asserted in any meaningful manner.
Grainger’s claim rests on “delivering more affordable homes across the district”. Yet, this is achieved only because Grainger is meeting the minimum SODC obligation for any development. They are not proposing to go beyond this. They are only paying their “development tax”. There is no additional social donation here. As a result it is a big overclaim to suggest the development delivers a “significant positive effect”.
In any case, this is all to largely to miss the point of the social role as defined in the NPPF at paragraph 7. The social role is about “supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities”. It is surely not a great indication of a “strong, vibrant and healthy community’ that by the Applicant’s own analysis over 97% of the immediate community are not in favour of the proposal. Just as Grainger failed miserably in their engagement with the community prior to submitting the application, they are completely silent as to how these communities will be integrated into a harmonious and healthy whole.
“Strong, vibrant and healthy” communities are not ones that undergo massive transformation overnight; they grow organically, evolving over time. It is for this reason that sound-planning policy recommends limited and considered new housing development in villages. It is also why SODC has policies designed to prevent the footprint of town expanding in an unplanned manner. It is why SODC has planned development holistically at GWP and DNE. It is why speculative development should resisted. As we have seen “strong, vibrant and healthy” profit (not communities) is Grainger’s strategy
The NPPF goes on to say that a social role includes: “accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being.” Grainger’s proposals deliver no new, additional infrastructure for the community. (Typical of the Applicant’s approach is his proposal to colonise existing play areas on Fleet Meadow.) And, of course, the site is inaccessible to local services, not least as Grainger hasn’t bothered to provide any.
So, actually, the social merits of Grainger’s proposal can be disputed: there are none.