The case related to a change of use of agricultural land to a new rugby training field which had been implemented without complying with conditions regarding the keeping and fencing of a buffer zone to protect nature conservation in and adjoining a watercourse. The watercourse discharged into a special area of conservation (SAC).
The inspector considered the main issue was whether the original conditions, requiring the buffer zone to be seven metres in width and to be fenced off, were reasonable and necessary. The site had already been converted from open grassland to flat mown grass and no buffer margin existed. The inspector considered the watercourse did have significant ecological interest but the low intensity of the use by humans and lack of floodlights meant that a narrower buffer zone of three metres width would be sufficient to protect nature conservation interests and not fragment or degrade the wildlife corridor. A revised landscaping and mitigation scheme had been submitted and this included new tree planting which would add to biodiversity value. The inspector also felt the fencing of the buffer zone was unnecessary and a different form of demarcation, to be agreed with the council, would be acceptable. The inspector allowed the appeal subject to revised conditions.
Inspector: Paul Selby; Hearing