Countryside location does not lead to automatic chalet ban

The provision of 25 holiday chalets in the Berkshire countryside has won approval from an inspector who concluded that the absence of any specific local policies supporting the scheme did not mean that it should be refused.

The council stated that the site occupied a rural location and involved a form of isolated housing development outside of the main settlements. It also alleged that the scheme would undermine the intrinsic quality of the countryside, set an undesirable precedent and lead to adverse impacts on highway safety, landscape, heritage assets and biodiversity.

In reviewing the issues the inspector stated that the appeal must be determined on the basis that occupancy would be restricted to holiday makers and not on the assumption that they were permanent or isolated dwellings in the countryside. Since the council’s policies did not specifically address holiday accommodation it was not appropriate to then apply a general housing policy to the scheme, he held. Thus, a countryside location was not inappropriate and while the development did not have support from any of the policies identified by the council this did not mean that it gave rise to a conflict with such policies.

The access leading to the site was largely an un-adopted track and provided access to a canal, lakes and a nature reserve. There was anecdotal evidence that it was used by others to access an industrial estate and golf course, the inspector noted, and while its overall condition and lack of passing places were less than ideal the issue was whether the scheme would make matters materially worse. In his opinion 25 chalets were not likely to generate a significant number of traffic movements and the appellant proposed some improvements which would mitigate the increased use.

In terms of landscape impact the site was well contained by extensive woodland and while the character of the grazing land would change, the development’s overall character would be rural or semi-rural in nature. The site had no ecological designation and the impact on the canal as a designated SSSI and a former gravel pit restored for fishing and nature conservation would be limited and capable of being mitigated by the use of conditions including the submission of a habitat management plan. Nor would the chalets unduly impinge on the setting of listed buildings.

Inspector: John Felgate; Hearing

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