Covid-19 pandemic supports retention of informal open space

The loss of open space from the provision of eight dwellings in a Derbyshire settlement has resulted in a refusal with the inspector concluding the social and environmental harm arising from the loss of open space and the proposal’s adverse effects on the appearance and character of the area outweighed any benefits from the new homes.

The determining issue in the case affected the provision of open space in the area as the proposed dwellings would replace the open space in its entirety. The appeal site constituted a square with dwellings around its perimeter and an axial road running through it resulting in two roughly equal areas of open space laid to grass. The site was not identified as formal open space in the local plan but was covered by other policies protecting such spaces from loss unless it could be demonstrated there was no demand for their continued use, or they would be replaced by alternative facilities at least as accessible and equivalent in terms of size, usefulness and quality, and there would be no harm to character. The inspector afforded this policy significant weight as it was consistent with the NPPF. The appellant had argued the open space was surplus to requirements as there was a significant supply of open and recreational space within the immediate vicinity which was easily accessible on foot. The inspector accepted other, better quality open spaces were easily accessible but did not accept that this was determinative evidence that there was no demand for the continued use of the appeal site. The inspector paid particular regard to the comments from interested parties that the open space was valued as a safe, overlooked place for children to play and for the community to gather for social events and that it had beneficial effects on mental health, particularly in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The inspector referred to paragraph 91 of the NPPF in this regard and its importance on achieving healthy, inclusive and safe places which support well-being needs. Moreover, the inspector held the open space was a deliberate part of the layout of the square and provided a verdant focal point and an open bright and spacious outlook for residents indirectly supporting their well-being.

The inspector concluded the evidence indicated that the open space still held value for adjoining residents, and it had not been demonstrated that there was no demand for its continued use or that it was surplus to requirements. The proposal would therefore result in the unjustified loss of open space which would have a significant adverse impact on the local community and amenity of the area, contrary to the requirements of local plan policies and the Framework. 

Inspector: K Savage; Written representations

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