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 National Planning Policy Framework.

However, the inspector felt that an access, car parking, hardstandings and interpretation boards occupying only a small proportion of the well screened site would cause limited harm to openness and no harm to visual amenity. She afforded significant weight to the benefits of public open space for informal recreation, increased biodiversity and additional native tree planting.

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

Inspector: Sheila Holden; Written representations

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