Need for care home insufficient to justify character harm

An inspector has refused a 66-bed care home in open countryside on the edge of a Cheshire settlement, with the harm to the character and appearance of the countryside deemed to outweigh other considerations relating to need for such a facility in this particular location.

400-027-024 (Image Credit: Cheshire West & Chester Council)
400-027-024 (Image Credit: Cheshire West & Chester Council)

The main issue in the appeal was whether the appellant could establish an argument of need for the care home on this particular edge of settlement site that would overcome the inspector’s concerns regarding the proposal’s adverse impact on the appearance and character of the area. The inspector considered the three-storey scale and overall mass of the proposed care home would create an overbearing and obtrusive addition to the locality, particularly incongruous in the context of the neighbouring more modest one and two storey buildings and would cause material harm to the character of the countryside and the setting of the adjoining settlement.

In looking at other considerations potentially justifying the above harm, the inspector considered the appellant’s evidence set out in a care needs assessment that there was a shortfall of provision for care beds in the specific local area of the appeal site and the appellant's sequential assessment of alternative sites also argued the appeal site was preferential. The council argued, however that their adopted local plan policies made provision for meeting such needs within identified key service settlements, exemplified by the fact that they had a housing land supply, which included provision for care home schemes, of seven years. The inspector accepted the council’s stance in this regard, acknowledging that whilst the proposal would provide for care needs, it was not within an identified key service settlement and the site had not been allocated for housing through a neighbourhood plan and as such the proposal would fall foul of many of the development plan housing provision policies. He also noted the local plan did not require a particular quantum of specialised accommodation in particular locations. In the planning balance, the inspector concluded the appellant’s argument of need did not outweigh the harm arising to the character of the area from the proposal and refused the appeal. 

Inspector: I Jenkins: Written representations

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