The inspector found that whilst it was an objective of local plan policy to protect the countryside, the principle of infill development was acceptable subject to certain criteria such as protecting or enhancing the character of the countryside. There was no definition of infill development in the policy but from the officer’s report she noted that it envisaged small infill plots within groups of properties. The cottage and its garden lay outside the development limit of the village. In the inspector’s opinion, it appeared that the gently rolling agricultural land enclosing the village was just the other side of the hedgerow boundary. She considered that on the approach to the village this impression would largely remain if the proposed layout of the development were to be implemented. This was because the new houses would be set back from the road behind the retained mature trees and tall hedgerow. However, whilst one of the trees along the road boundary was protected, should the hedgerow be reduced in height or the other trees be thinned or removed then the layout of the development would have an adverse effect on the semi-rural appearance of the road, she held. In addition, when viewing the site from a lane where the land rose away from the site, there was a pleasant overview of the village. She found that the garden to the cottage, due to its largely sympathetic planting, merged into the visible and attractive rural belt surrounding the village. She considered that the proposed layout would interrupt this vista and would result in built form that would erode the rural setting of the village. For these reasons the inspector concluded that the development would not be a sensitive infilling of a small gap within a group of properties. Rather, it would have a significant impact on the countryside enclosing the village.
Inspector: Diane Fleming; Written representations