Mixed-use redevelopment would erode bucolic setting of conservation area

A mixed-use redevelopment proposal for the re-use of two barns as offices and addition of 15 new residential units at a site on the edge of a green in a Buckinghamshire village was refused, mainly for harm to the appearance and character of the surrounding conservation area, but also for harm to biodiversity, highway safety and landscape character.

The appeal site was located partly within a village development boundary, but mostly in open countryside beyond it. The inspector determined that in locational terms the proposal was acceptable as a small-scale addition to a village with good accessibility to services and facilities in the light of the fact that the council’s housing policies were out of date. Howevr, that part of the site within the village, including the two barns to be converted, adjoined a village green which the inspector held had a sense of peace, verdancy and openness. The bucolic setting of the green and the surrounding buildings and its rural setting and relationship with the countryside was, the inspector opined, an important aspect of the character and appearance of the conservation area in the vicinity of the site. It was the proposal’s potential to erode this bucolic setting that the inspector was most concerned about. 

A number of factors came into play in this regard including the proposed access to the site for motor vehicles and pedestrians which the inspector considered would, by its scale and engineered appearance, result in an urbanising form out of keeping with the green’s informal, verdant character. The inspector also considered the development of the new residential properties beyond the settlement boundary would have an enclosing effect on the character of the conservation area, erode the rural setting of the green and harmfully impact on views towards the conservation area from the public footpath which crossed the site. Additionally, he felt the re-use of the buildings at the front of the site for offices would increase activity on that frontage of the conservation area, further undermining its peaceful bucolic setting. All these factors would result in less than substantial harm to the significance of the conservation area which, in the heritage balance and regardless of the housing land supply position, the inspector concluded still outweighed the scheme’s moderate benefits to housing and the economy, even in light of their increased weight from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inspector: I A Dyer: Written representations

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