Supply benefits outweigh green belt status

The environmental and housing benefits of building 12 homes at a waste transfer station in Berkshire outweigh harm to the green belt and visual character, an inspector has ruled.

The inspector considered the main issues to be whether the proposal constituted inappropriate development in the green belt, the scheme's effect on openness and the area's character, and whether any harm arising would be outweighed by other considerations so as to constitute very special circumstances.

In determining whether the scheme comprised inappropriate development, he considered whether the site met the definition of previously developed land in annex 2 of the National Planning Policy Framework. This refers to land that is or was occupied by a permanent structure and the curtilage of developed land.

He found that although part of the site complied with this definition, not all of it could be regarded as doing so, since some of the land appeared undeveloped. In his view, this section had a separate curtilage to the main waste transfer area, despite having been subject to waste disposal.

He felt that the proposed housing would have a neutral impact on openness but that, in terms of its impact on character, it would diminish a gap between two settlements, causing moderate harm. He also took account of the likelihood that the waste use would continue if permission were refused, leading to a continued visual impact and a risk of contamination affecting local habitats.

The inspector gave substantial weight to the view that the proposal would be inappropriate development and would harm the area's character. However, he found that its advantages, including cessation of the current waste use, remediation of the site, woodland and habitat improvements and a boost to housing provision in an area lacking a five-year land supply, outweighed the harm and represented very special circumstances justifying approval.

Inspector: Michael Robins; Inquiry

Comment The inspector acknowledged that lack of a five-year housing land supply is rarely sufficient to amount to very special circumstances justifying inappropriate development in the green belt. In this instance, however, he gave substantial weight to the council's acceptance that green belt releases would be needed to meet its housing requirements and the fact that the site's current use did not further green belt purposes.

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