The council did not dispute that the proposal complied with three of the criteria of a local plan policy exceptionally permitting the conversion of disused and redundant rural buildings, but argued that a fourth requirement for a positive impact on the immediate setting of the building and protection of wider rural character had not been met.
In the inspector’s assessment, the thoughtfully designed subterranean building would preserve landscape character, but to comply with policy a positive enhancement of the immediate setting also had to be achieved. Weighing the proposed improvements to the roof of the modified reservoir tank, involving replacement of gravel with wild flowers and replacement of a chain link fence with hedge, the inspector found, at best, a neutral effect on the immediate setting of the building because of the inclusion of rooflights and cut-out courtyards. He concluded overall, that the regular manmade form of the site, projecting into the rural landscape, would still be apparent and this was not sufficient to comply with policy.
In dismissing the appeal, the inspector acknowledged that the NPPF encourages the re-use of previously developed land, but given the minimal influence of the reservoir on the character and appearance of the area, he attributed this only limited weight.
Inspector: Matthew Bale; Written representations