Judges rule on meaning of ‘isolated’ homes and National Planning Policy Framework

As if we really needed to be told, the term ‘isolated’ has its ordinary meaning in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and needs no over-interpretation, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Developer Granville had successfully appealed against Braintree District Council’s refusal of planning permission for two detached single-storey homes on the sites of two agricultural buildings outside the settlement boundary defined in the emerging development plan. 

The site lies between two listed farmhouses and the two pre-fabricated agricultural buildings that stood there were demolished in 2015.

Braintree argued that the inspector had misunderstood and misapplied paragraph 55 of the NPPF when he said that Blackmore End was “a recognisable village and is characterised by linear development extending along several roads”.

The inspector said: “There are a number of dwellings nearby and the development would not result in the new isolated homes in the countryside to which framework paragraph 55 refers.” He also concluded no material harm would be caused to the setting of two nearby grade II* and grade II listed farmhouses.

In giving the lead judgment in the Court of Appeal, Lindblom LJ said “Planning policies, whether in the development plan or in the NPPF, ought never to be over-interpreted. As this case shows, over-interpretation of a policy can distort its true meaning – which is misinterpretation”. He said paragraph 55 was “expressed in general and unprescriptive terms”, did not dictate a particular outcome for an application, contained no presumption and simply advised local authorities on how to promote sustainable development in rural areas.

The paragraph’s advice was to avoid “new isolated homes in the countryside”, which Lindblom J said: “Simply differentiates between the development of housing within a settlement – or village – and new dwellings that would be ‘isolated’ in the sense of being separate or remote from a settlement”. He explained: “Whether a proposed new dwelling is, or is not, ‘isolated’ in this sense will be a matter of fact and planning judgment for the decision-maker in the particular circumstances of the case in hand. In my opinion the language of paragraph 55 is entirely unambiguous, and there is therefore no need to resort to other statements of policy, either in the NPPF itself or elsewhere, that might shed light on its meaning.”

A copy of the judgment can be found here.