The site formed part of a walled garden at a former country house now converted to flats. The focal point in the case was whether the site could properly be defined as previously developed and, if so, whether the proposed development would have more impact on openness than the existing situation. The inspector considered that enough of the former buildings survived to conclude that the land was previously developed.
Referring to site coverage and volumetric information comparing the appeal proposal with structures previously on the site, the appellants argued that openness would be preserved, rendering the scheme not inappropriate development. But the inspector, citing Euro Garages Ltd v SSCLG , held that some loss of openness would still occur from views into the site, albeit with limited visual impact, and through erosion of openness in spatial terms.
While finding that the proposal was inappropriate development, he saw many positive considerations in its favour. He judged that the building, which had been praised by the North East Design Review and Enabling Service, would be of exceptional architectural quality, serving as an exemplar and thus promoting good design. He gave very significant weight to this consideration.
He also found that the proposal would promote sustainable construction methods and saw potential for this to be accentuated through a community use agreement. Finally, he gave significant weight to the scheme’s contribution to the site’s heritage through restoration of the walled garden, an undesignated heritage asset. He concluded that this combination of positive considerations carried very considerable weight in its favour and, on balance, clearly outweighed the limited green belt harm.
Inspector: Tim Wheeler; Written representations