The 21.6-hectare site was based around two lakes. The appeal proposal included a new access, parking for 100 cars and three coaches and an 850 square metre single-storey multi-use building to facilitate the proposed wakeboarding use. The main issues revolved around the site’s location in the green belt and its status as a site of nature conservation interest, particularly for birds.
The inspector held that the multi-use building would result in a substantial built form where none existed before. She decided that the building, alongside the proposed car park and associated paraphernalia, would result in a loss of openness and encroachment into the countryside that would be harmful to the green belt, contrary to the NPPF.
She also found that direct habitat loss for breeding birds and disturbance from proposed recreational activities, including cables for wakeboarding posing a risk for bird collision, could have an adverse effect on the number of priority bird species found at the site. She held that proposed habitat compensation and enhancement, including the creation of a floating island, a wildflower meadow and a hedgerow, might not contribute positively to the site’s ornithological interest, resulting in residual harm after mitigation. However, on the balance of the evidence, she decided that this harm was not sufficient to refuse the proposal.
The inspector concluded that the proposal would be inappropriate development that would harm the openness of the green belt and lead to some residual harm to biodiversity. She held that other considerations, including the scheme’s benefits in terms of health and well-being, education, job creation and the tourist economy, did not outweigh the harm that would result to a site that already provided considerable benefits as a tranquil bird-watching location.
Inspector: Elizabeth Pleasant; Hearing