Significant housing shortfall insufficient to warrant green belt incursion

An outline proposal for 150 dwellings in open countryside in the Berkshire green belt was refused as inappropriate development causing loss of openness and harm to the character and appearance of the surrounding conservation area with insufficient considerations, including a housing shortfall in the area, to determine otherwise.

The inspector noted the intention of providing a doctor’s surgery, generous community park, with related open space, football pitches, allotments and landscaping as part of the housing scheme. However, he considered the construction of 150 new homes and other buildings on open, agricultural land would harmfully diminish the rural character and appearance of the area. Additionally, he felt the development would have a greater impact on the openness of the green belt as it would be seen as an urban form increasing the sprawl of such built-up development across the site in the context of the wider open green belt setting. With regards impact on the appearance and character of the area generally and that of the conservation area, the inspector opined the appeal development, due to its scale and location, would very substantially and significantly diminish the current open, undeveloped character of the area and would affect views into and out of the conservation area resulting in less than substantial harm.

Apart from the acknowledged benefit of the new homes in an area of signifiacnt housing need, the inspector afforded only limited or moderate weight to the many benefits offered as other considerations, referring to lack of substantiated need for health facilities, sports facilities and allotments. On this basis, he did not consider the public benefits were sufficient to outweigh the harm to the conservation area in his heritage balancing exercise. Overall, the inspector concluded very special circumstances to justify inappropriate development in the green belt did not exist.

Inspector: Christopher Butler; Inquiry

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