Car park use inappropriate in outstanding landscape

The change of use of a protected woodland to a car park serving a café in the Gloucestershire green belt and an area of outstanding natural beauty has been refused and an enforcement notice requiring the cessation of the use and removal of the hardstanding upheld, with the inspector determining inappropriate development in the green belt and harm to the AONB and the health and amenity value of the protected woodland.

The appeal related to a car park which had been laid out in a protected woodland accessed from a layby adjoining a cafe on a main trunk road in open countryside. The car park served as overflow parking for the café. At the outset the inspector found that allowing the use would lead to cars being parked with sufficient frequency so as to cause a loss of physical and visual openness in the green belt. He considered the car park would also conflict with the purpose of including land within the green belt namely, to safeguard the countryside from encroachment. He concluded the car park use was inappropriate development in the green belt.

On the second main issue, the inspector held the amenity value of the woodland made a notable contribution to the landscape and scenic beauty of this part of the AONB, with the car park urbanising and detracting from the intrinsic character and appearance of the woodland. He accepted the concerns of the council’s tree officer regarding the long-term health of the protected trees at the site through soil compaction from the loading of vehicles and potential pollution from vehicles using the car park.

The inspector concluded that the appeal development failed to conserve or enhance the landscape or scenic beauty of the AONB and the health and amenity value of protected trees, harm that could not be overcome by tree planting or re-surfacing the land in grasscrete as offered by the appellants. In the green belt balance, the inspector concluded the harms outweighed the social and economic benefits of the proposal. He gave only moderate weight to the viability concerns of the appellant in terms of the ongoing use of the café, especially as the appellant had not shown that the café would not be viable without the appeal car park.

Inspector: Richard S Jones; Written representations

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