Green belt fitness centre enforcement supported

A conflict with green belt policy has led an inspector to uphold enforcement action directed against a fitness centre on farmland in Essex.

The appellant explained that the leisure use, which included an extensive assault course, a football pitch and activities area and gymnasium housed in a large marquee, combined a diverse indoor and outdoor fitness experience. Weighing the facilities against NPPF green belt policy, the inspector was satisfied that the assault course and activities area constituted appropriate facilities for outdoor sport or recreation. The same applied to the gym because it was used in connection with the overall outdoor sports use, he found.

However, he decided that the components of the leisure use, individually and cumulatively, harmed openness, as did a parking area, toilets and various ancillary structures. He concluded that the use was inappropriate development in the green belt in the context of paragraphs 145 and 146 of the NPPF. Although he attached significant weight to the facility’s health and social benefits for the local community, he did not consider that these amounted to the very special circumstances necessary to justify the development.

The inspector also dismissed a second appeal for construction of a gymnasium building. He decided that, whereas the existing marquee was used in connection with the assault course and football activities area, this would not apply to the proposed building, which also included office space, two meeting rooms and a boxing ring, for which he failed to see any correlation with outdoor sport. He considered that the proposed building would not constitute an appropriate facility for outdoor sport or recreation and was not an exception to the principle that the construction of new buildings should be regarded as inappropriate in the green belt.

Inspector: Paul Freer; Written representations

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