The appellants proposed to build a food store and two non-food units on an open and undeveloped piece of land behind the shopping centre. The parties agreed that the scheme involved inappropriate development in the green belt but the appellants argued that very special circumstances applied, including the need to increase choice and reduce overtrading at a nearby Asda store.
The inspector had little doubt that the scheme would reduce one of the essential characteristics of a green belt, namely its openness. He found that the site, which was overgrown with grass, was clearly distinct from the district centre. He was concerned that the proposal would encroach beyond the built-up area, so it would fail to prevent urban sprawl and would not assist in recycling brownfield land within the built-up area.
He also noted that a retail study suggesting that the Asda store was overtrading was of some age. He found that the store did not seem unduly crowded or congested. Other retail developments approved since the study was published might well have reduced trading levels at the Asda outlet, he reasoned. Neither could he see any need to boost the health of the district centre, which appeared to be trading well. The benefits from increasing retail choice and jobs were limited compared to the harm to the green belt, he concluded.
Inspector: John Morrison; Hearing