Essential need for worker's dwelling in green belt not justified

The change of use of land for the siting of a mobile home at a farm in the Oxfordshire green belt has been refused with the special circumstances of the case, namely the potential need for a rural worker’s dwelling in this location, not outweighing the harm to the green belt and other harms, including flood risk and adverse impact on appearance and character.

The site was in flood zone two and considered at a medium risk of flooding, so the sequential test applied. The council claimed the proposal failed this test because there was no evidenced need for a rural worker’s dwelling in this location and there were other areas with a lower risk of flooding where general needs housing could be provided and in any event they had a five-year supply of housing land.

The inspector disagreed, however, calling this reasoning contrived and an artificial approach. He felt the sequential test had been met as the proposal was intrinsically linked to a proposed livery business to be run at the site utilising the existing equine buildings and facilities granted permission there in 2015.  But the inspector maintained the exception test still needed to be met as a highly vulnerable use was proposed. Whilst the flood risk assessment had been accepted by the Environment Agency showing the proposal was safe for its lifetime thereby fulfilling part b) of the exception text, the inspector held the wider sustainability benefits of the proposal needed to be demonstrated for part a) of the test depended on whether there was an essential need for the dwelling at the farm or not.

In this regard the appellant claimed the dwelling was essential to set up a new livery business at the existing farm utilising the existing stables already built but not used. The inspector referred to paragraph 79 of the Framework and PPG on this issue and noted that it remained necessary to show the financial soundness of a business and its ability to endure at least for the lifespan of the permission sought, in this case three years. Having considered the evidence submitted, he opined the latest proposal for the business was not supported by a sufficient level of information, particularly regarding the experience and abilities of the person proposed to run the equine business, evidence of local demand for such a proposition or any financial substantiation in relation to the existing farm business. He was not persuaded that sufficiently clear evidence had been submitted to have confidence that the enterprise would be viable in the short or medium term and could not therefore determine that the mobile home was essential. Following from this the inspector determined that the special circumstances which might have warranted a green belt location, loss of openness and other harms, was not justified overall.

Inspector: J P Tudor; Hearing

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