Fish rearing held outside agriculture definition

An inappropriate location, loss of openness and harm to the area's character and appearance have been cited in a decision to refuse permission for a fish rearing enterprise in the Worcestershire green belt.

The scheme, which had mostly been implemented, involved lake excavation and silt deposition, widening of an access road, a hardstanding area and four log cabins. Focusing on the appellant's argument that rearing fish constituted an agricultural use, the inspector concluded that breeding fish to be sold on to stock other fisheries allowing public angling did not correspond with the legal 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 that the new track and hardstanding represented a visual intrusion and encroachment into the countryside. In his view, the log cabins harmed openness and added a domestic element that was out of accord with the area's character - 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

Comment This decision is helpful in confirming the delineation between on-site fish farming and provision of breeding stock for off-site use in interpreting the definition of agriculture in section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The inspector took the view that breeding fish to be sold on to stock other fisheries does not correspond with the section 336 definition and does not comprise agriculture in its own right, although he accepted that it could represent farm diversification.

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