Car wash at green belt football club harms openness

The use of part of a car park at a football club in the metropolitan green belt in south London was inappropriate and undermined the openness of the area, an inspector has decided, these factors outweighing economic and sustainability benefits.

The wider area around the site included large buildings and structures associated with the football club, the inspector noted. In his opinion a policy within the council’s UDP was less restrictive than more up to date guidance in the national planning policy framework (NPPF) and consequently the policy was out of date. Paragraph 90 of the NPPF identified various forms of development which were not inappropriate provided they maintained the openness of the green belt. However, changes of use of land were not listed as an exception and consequently a commercial car wash was by definition inappropriate. It had also reduced the openness of the green belt to a limited degree.

Set against this harm was the benefit to the club. The car wash provided an additional income stream and this supported the community and recreational use of the wider complex. It also provided the opportunity for users of the site to get their car washed on the same trip thereby reducing the need to travel. These were significant benefits, the inspector held, but protecting the green belt was of prime importance and very special circumstances had not been demonstrated.

Inspector: David Warden; Written representations

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