School secures major new facilities on sensitive site

In a recovered appeal decision the secretary of state approved plans for new sports and science buildings at a famous independent school in an outer London borough after finding public benefits overcame any policy conflict.

Given the location of the site in metropolitan open land, the development amounted to inappropriate development which would also erode openness, although the secretary of state agreed with his inspector that in visual terms openness would not be harmed. Looking at the case as a whole, he concluded that a number of factors amounted to very special circumstances that clearly outweighed the harm to the metropolitan open land. Substantial weight was given to meeting the educational needs of the school alongside generous arrangements for access to top class sporting facilities by the local community and state schools, in addition to compliance with adopted supplementary planning guidance steering future development at the school. A lack of realistic and feasible alternative sites also weighed significantly in favour but a legal agreement proposing an extension of MOL designation onto other school land was accorded only minimal weight.

The secretary of state also judged that the community use agreement allowing access for roughly two-thirds of the available user time was a significant public benefit that overcame some harm to the setting of heritage assets in line with the heritage test of paragraph 196 of the NPPF.

Inspector: Cullum Parker; Inquiry

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