A refreshing new look at sustainable development in rural areas
For a long time, development in rural settlements has generally been fiercely avoided by Councils. The sustainability of a particular settlement is often measured on the walking distance to local facilities, thus if a rural settlement had little of its own facilities, regardless of its proximity to neighbouring settlements with plenty of facilities, it would be given a low sustainability score, be regarded as isolated and an unsustainable location for growth.
Following the Court of Appeal’s Judgment in Braintree District Council v SoS CLG  EWCA Civ 610 (‘the Braintree case’), there is an updated interpretation of the term ‘isolated’.
For the purposes of the NPPF, ‘isolated’ should be given a narrow interpretation limited to a site’s physical separation from a settlement, excluding its functional isolation. At paragraph 78, the NPPF seeks to promote sustainable development in rural areas, “housing should be located where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities. Planning policies should identify opportunities for villages to grow and thrive, especially where this will support local services. Where there are groups of smaller settlements, development in one village may support services in a village nearby.” Allowing development to enhance and maintain the vitality of rural communities would support nearby shops, schools and facilities.
This updated view is adaptive to how society is changing, for example, with the popularity of supermarket online food shopping and delivery, groceries are becoming more available without requiring the use of personal transport. With more people working from home, people’s commuting patterns have also started to change. There is clearly an increasingly lesser need to be in close proximity to local facilities