Airport parking harms openness of green belt

A material change of use of garden land for airport parking in the green belt in Surrey was refused, and the enforcement notice for the ceasing of the use upheld, on the grounds of inappropriate development in the green belt with no special justification and additional harm to openness and encroachment into the countryside.

The appellant had accepted that his use of the land for airport parking constituted inappropriate development. The main issue in the case was one of harm to the openness of the green belt. On the evidence of aerial photos, and even though the site was previously hard surfaced, the inspector concluded that the parking of up to 150 vehicles bumper to bumper for much of the time had further reduced openness of the green belt as a matter of fact. In terms of its visual impact, the inspector held the appellant’s airport parking significantly and visibly diminished openness from particular viewpoints and, notwithstanding the previous uses and hardstanding, it represented further, urban encroachment into the countryside, in conflict with the purposes of including land in the green belt. This was contrary to saved local plan policies and the Framework.

In an assessment of whether there were any special circumstances justifying inappropriate development, the inspector noted that whilst the business appeared to be successful and the parking spaces in demand, it was not clear whether the use was meeting a previously unmet need, or whether "affordable" parking had created extra demand. The inspector accepted that the efficient and effective functioning of Heathrow airport was in the national interest, but it was not clear whether this development contributed to that or merely added to congestion on local roads. In dismissing the case, the inspector allowed four months instead of two for compliance with the enforcement notice as one person employed at the site would have to find alternative work.

Inspector: J A Murray; Written representations

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