A local plan policy stated that areas of urban open land should not be developed unless it would assist in reinforcing their primary function. However, the inspector also noted that the district plan identified the site as falling within an employment area within which economic development was supported. Although the national planning policy framework urged local authorities to maintain open spaces in his opinion the government also placed particular emphasis on the need for economic growth and this weighed heavily in the appeal’s favour. When coupled with its limited value as a wildlife site its redevelopment would not cause significant harm to nature conservation interests.
Turning to the request for financial contributions, the council claimed that schemes which had limited impacts still generated a cumulative need for improvements to public transport facilities.
The county council had adopted a ‘toolkit’ for making such assessments which sought to pool contributions from smaller developments to offset the cumulative effects. In his opinion limited weight could be applied to the toolkit and he held that it had not been demonstrated that a financial contribution to off-site improvements was necessary. The appeal was allowed.
Inspector Peter Willows; Hearing