The issues in the case revolved around whether there was an identifiable need for the care home to be in the countryside and the effect of the proposal on the appearance and character of the surrounding area and specifically its physical impact on a strategic gap.
The council had an up to date development plan policy which restricted development outside settlement boundaries except where there was an identified need for essential facilities and services and no suitable alternative sites existed within defined built up areas. The appellant argued a shortfall existed locally for extra care facilities based on a methodology which applied national statistics to local populations and based on a catchment area centred on the site. The inspector did not feel this methodology was as robust as the council’s district wide approach which showed that the current need for extra care facilities was being met. The inspector concluded the exemption to the settlement boundary policy did not apply as no identified need could be shown.
The site was well screened but formed part of a strategic gap. The inspector disagreed with the appellant’s landscape assessment showing limited impacts from the proposal, stating that the introduction of a considerable amount of built form in this location would materially alter the character of the nearby rural lanes, encroaching into the surrounding countryside and significantly eroding the area’s distinctive rural character, contrary to local plan policy. Even though he acknowledged that the site was located along the periphery of the strategic gap, he felt the land included within it performed an important role in defining the settlement character of the area and in separating settlements at risk of coalescence. Although it would not result in the coalescence of settlements, the proposal would materially reduce the distance between them.
Inspector: Rory Cridland; Hearing