The overriding issue was whether the farm’s continuing viability justified the harm arising to the landscape and scenic beauty of the AONB. The inspector noted that the proposed lagoon would measure 60 metres by 35 metres and would require six-metre-high banks to contain the slurry on the sloping valley side and a barbed-wire safety fence. In his view, the structure’s scale, angular shape and form would result in an incongruous feature in a high-quality landscape. He did not accept that proposed landscaping, whose effectiveness he found overstated, would ameliorate this harm even in the longer term.
In considering the proposal’s agricultural and economic benefits, the inspector noted that current arrangements for slurry disposal at the site did not allow the dairy unit to operate at an economically viable level. He accepted that the lagoon would enable the dairy buildings to be stocked in accordance with the originally intended levels, thus providing a viable enterprise. The agricultural and economic benefits were therefore significant, he allowed.
He also accepted a need for the development in light of a history of pollution events from the dairy unit affecting a nearby watercourse, noting Environment Agency advice that a suitable lagoon was required to avoid the potential for further such incidents. This environmental benefit weighed in favour of the scheme, he agreed. However, in the final balance, he was not persuaded that the appeal proposal represented the optimal solution in landscape terms, given the great weight afforded by the NPPF to conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty in AONBs.
Inspector: Nick Davies; Written representations