Citing the council’s own local landscape character assessment, the appellant argued that the site had a degraded character from horse grazing. The inspector noted that none of the normal paraphernalia associated with "horsiculture", such as intrusive fencing or stables, was present. In his view, the site had a pleasant open and semi-rural character that made a positive contribution to the town’s setting.
He noted that the proposal would materially enlarge the settlement, resulting in a far less clear-cut urban edge, and substantially diminish the perception of open countryside beyond its edges. Extensive landscaping would not diminish this impact, he opined. He also observed that the scheme would move the urban edge closer to another settlement, reducing the current gap of slightly more than one kilometre to about 850 metres. Protection of such gaps was a long-standing spatial planning tool in the borough, he remarked.
The inspector did not accept the appellant’s contention that the council’s strategic gap policy was rendered out of date by the absence of a five-year supply of housing, although he did agreed that its policy restricting housing development in the countryside was out of date and the presumption in favour of sustainable development therefore applied. However, he concluded that harm to the settlement’s character and erosion of the gap were sufficient to outweigh the scheme’s benefits.
Inspector: Paul Dignan; Inquiry