Open space held justified to unlock homes supply

Very special circumstances justify creation of public open space and a nature reserve in the Surrey green belt, an inspector has ruled.

The 34.5-hectare site was used for cattle grazing but was not high-quality agricultural land. The appellant and the council agreed that the proposal, which had been identified in an emerging plan as potential suitable alternative natural greenspace (SANG), represented inappropriate development in the green belt as it did not meet any of the exceptions set out in paragraphs 89 and 90 of the NPPF.

However, the inspector felt that use of the land as open space would result in only limited harm to openness from an access, car parking, hardstandings and interpretation boards, which would occupy only a small proportion of the well screened site. She found no harm to visual amenity and afforded significant weight to the benefits of public open space for informal recreation including a 2.3km circular walk, increased biodiversity including a wildflower meadow, and additional native tree planting.

She noted that the proposal would allow for reduced recreational pressure on a nearby special protection area and help speed up delivery of up to 1,835 new homes affected by the SANG this issue. She held that these benefits, in an area of housing need, were significant and clearly outweighed the limited harm to the green belt.

Inspector: Sheila Holden; Written representations

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