The scheme, which had mostly been implemented, involved change of use from agriculture, lake excavation and silt deposition, widening of an access road, a hardstanding area and four log cabins. The inspector predominantly focused on the appellant’s argument that rearing fish constituted an agricultural use and so no change of use had occurred.
He reasoned that while the definition of agriculture in section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 includes breeding and keeping livestock, this had not been held to be agriculture if it did not lead to specific outcomes set out in the act. In his view, breeding fish to be sold on to stock other fisheries allowing public angling did not correspond with the definition of agriculture, so a change of use had taken place.
Since the operations did not fall within the exceptions for development in the green belt, he continued, they were automatically inappropriate development. He found that the formation of spoil areas and bunds from the lake excavation failed to preserve openness and the new track and hardstanding represented a visual intrusion and encroachment into the countryside.
He found the over-engineered access track a jarring addition and decided that the log cabins harmed openness, attaching moderate weight to this factor. In his view, they added a domestic element that was out of accord with the area’s character, contrary to local plan policy - a factor he gave significant weight.
The inspector gave only limited weight to the farm diversification benefits claimed by the appellant, due to an absence of financial information supporting the proposal. He gave very limited weight to claims that enhancement of the lake and grassland offered ecological benefits, finding that the land’s condition would be no better than if it were left as a naturalised pond and wetland habitat.
Inspector: Mike Robins; Hearing