Benefit of children's play building to tourist economy justifies inappropriate development

A building for children's play has been allowed and a separate one for employment purposes refused at a rural business park in the green belt in Worcestershire in a split decision where the inspector felt that special circumstances justified inappropriateness for the one building but not the other.

One of the main issues related to the appropriateness of the proposed buildings in the green belt and any consequential harm. It was agreed between the parties that the site comprised previously developed land where redevelopment and infilling could be acceptable subject to impacts on openness. The proposed children’s’ play building would be sited next to and complement an existing children’s indoor play centre already existing at the business park. However, the inspector considered the proposed buildings did not constitute infilling and because the land where the buildings would be sited currently had no buildings on it, the inspector held they would result in a loss of openness and therefore be inappropriate. He acknowledged, however, that in visual terms, the erosion of openness would be more limited for the proposed children’s play building than that of the proposed employment use building because of its relationship to existing buildings, topography and screening. 

The appellant put forward other considerations in support of the buildings including the long term future of the business park and extensive landscaping proposals which the inspector afforded moderate weight. In relation to the employment building however, he found no overriding need in economic development policy terms for such a speculative proposal to be located at the business park, given the site’s location outside designated employment areas and the evidence relating to other vacant business premises that existed. In terms of the children’s play building he concluded that aspects of the proposal would be of considerable benefit to the rural and tourism economy and this, along with other benefits of the scheme, would clearly outweigh the totality of the harm to the green belt. He considered this amounted to the very special circumstances necessary to justify inappropriate development in the green belt.

Inspector: Gareth W Thomas; Hearing

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