'Valued landscape' appeal cases soar

The number of planning appeal decisions on cases which involved debates about "valued landscape" issues have rocketed since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework, according to new research.

An analysis of the COMPASS database, Planning's sister service that reports and archives planning appeal decisions, reveals 159 cases considered by a planning inspector that featured "valued landscape" issues last year.

This number is up more than sevenfold from the 21 relevant appeals in 2013 – the first full year following the introduction of the term in 2012’s NPPF.

Joanna Ede, head of landscape at consultants Turley, has voiced worries about the growing number of cases where the issue is being considered.

She said the term "is often being used as a reason for refusal in a situation when there is general local opposition to a scheme,"

"Members are finding it relatively easy to use as a reason for refusal because there is no hard definition of what a valued landscape is. It is cropping up quite often and is subjective, which means from our developer clients’ perspective it’s a high risk."

COMPASS data shows that of all appeals it has reported relating to "valued landscapes" since 2012, 315 (58 per cent) have been dismissed, while 231 (42 per cent) have been allowed.

July’s revised NPPF added new wording to the section on valued landscapes, stating that they should protect the environment "in a manner commensurate with their statutory status or identified quality in the development plan".

However, an October 2018 appeal that concluded that Charnwood Borough Council was justified in refusing planning permission for 66 homes near the Leicestershire village of Rearsby, the inspector did not appear to find the new wording in the NPPF meant that only locally or nationally designated landscapes can be valued.

"It is a good early indication of what inspectors will do, although it hasn’t yet been tested in the courts," according to Dr Ashley Bowes of Cornerstone Barristers, who acted for the council.

"It indicates that because a landscape isn’t statutorily protected like an AONB or a national park and is not in a local plan doesn’t preclude it from being valued." 

To read Planning's full feature article on the issue, click here.

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