The main issues in the case related to the two-storey structure’s effect on the area’s appearance and character and whether an essential need to live on-site provided special circumstances to justify the proposal. The inspector noted that existing single-storey buildings at the site were in a discreet position, lying low in the landscape.
He gave full weight to adopted council policies identifying the site as open countryside, distinct from the built-up edge of the nearest settlement. He found that the proposed dwelling would intrude into an open hillside, creating a pocket of suburban development that would undermine the landscape quality of the AONB, contrary to local and national policy to protect its scenic beauty.
In looking for any special justification for the dwelling, the inspector noted that that the proposal was contrary to the council’s exceptions policy. This specified that new dwellings in the countryside would normally only be acceptable where a proven and essential need for functional reasons could be shown at a viable business.
The appellants, who lived five minutes away from the site, argued that the vines were extremely susceptible to weather changes such as frosts that could destroy the crop in one night and therefore needed urgent action. From the evidence presented, the inspector held that it was not clear that adverse weather conditions were so localised or so frequent that living five minutes away, or the use of better technological approaches, would be inadequate to deal with such problems.
He also found that the business was not commercially viable. While accepting that the NPPF does not require a viability test, he also noted that the main parties had agreed at the hearing that the council’s local plan policy on dwellings in the countryside, which required business viability to be demonstrated, was consistent with the NPPF and represented the council’s interpretation of how to apply government advice at local level. He concluded that special circumstances justifying a dwelling at the site, and consequential harm to the AONB, did not apply.
Inspector: Andy Harwood; Hearing