An appeal in 2006 had sought confirmation that the appeal site could lawfully be used as part of the existing waste transfer station. The appeal had been dismissed on the basis that the use would fail to retain the openness of the area and would be incongruous and incompatible with the location.
However, the inspector determining the current appeal noted that matters of incongruity and incompatibility were not determinative as to whether a development was appropriate or inappropriate to the green belt. She had to start from first principles in establishing what the lawful use of the appeal site was, noting the council’s claim that it was a railway yard. However, a previous enforcement notice suggested that the council viewed the land as having a storage use.
On the basis of the adopted development plan policy the planned development would have no greater impact on the openness of the area and therefore on this basis it would be appropriate. But she noted that the national planning policy framework no longer categorised the change of use of land as being appropriate and this was an important material consideration which had to be afforded substantial weight. On this basis the appellants had to demonstrate that very special circumstances existed.
Turning to other planning matters the site was well contained and would not harm the character of the area provided a landscaping scheme was implemented and having regard to the lawful use of the site for storage. The scheme would not increase waste transfer activities on the land but would increase the space for skips and vehicles. This would not therefore lead to unacceptable impacts on residents living approximately 200 metres from the site.
There was a need to ensure that existing waster transfer stations continued to be efficient in dealing with the borough’s waste particularly since some waste was transferred to other local authorities for processing. In her opinion the lack of harm and benefits to the appellants amounted to the very special circumstances required to allow the appeal.
Inspector Jennifer Vyse; Inquiry