Green belt racehorse building linked to hay storage agreed as being inappropriate

The High Court upheld an inspector's decision to dismiss an appeal involving the erection of a building in the green belt, Mr Justice Ockelton agreeing that the scheme did not comply with the NPPF and would fail to preserve the openness of the area.

The proposed building would be used for the storage of hay and for exercising and training of racehorses in poor weather. The inspector relied on the NPPF which advised that buildings within a green belt were inappropriate unless related to agriculture or forestry or involved facilities for outdoor sport and recreation where the openness of the green belt was preserved. The exception for agricultural buildings was an absolute exemption but the exception for outdoor recreation was a qualified exception, the nspector had concluded. Since the training of racehorses was not an agricultural use, it did not fall within the exception allowed in the NPPF and would also fail to maintain the openness of the area.

Before the court the claimant asserted that the local planning authority had misunderstood the nature of the scheme since the decision notice did not refer to training horses. The inspector, it was also alleged, had been wrong not to characterise the proposed building as not wholly for agricultural purposes and had failed to consider whether the training of racehorses fell into the definition of outdoor sport and therefore within the qualified exception allowed for in the NPPF.

No matter how the refusal of planning permission had been headed the council was fully aware of what was proposed, the court held. Nor could the inspector’s reasoning be faulted in respect of his conclusion that the building would be used for three purposes: storing hay and training and exercising racehorses. The latter two uses did not fall within the definition of agriculture. The judge did, however, accept that the inspector had not grappled with whether the indoor training and exercising of racehorses fell into the category of outdoor sport but this was not a fundamental flaw because the inspector had gone on to find that the proposed building due to its siting and size would not maintain the openness of the green belt. This was a matter of planning judgment with which the court would not interfere.

Winstanley v Secretary of State for Communities and local Government

Date: 6 October 2015

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