Fall back position enables inappropriate indoor golf complex

A clubhouse and indoor golf driving range in the West London green belt have been approved, despite their inappropriateness, loss of openness and encroachment into the green belt, on the grounds the harm to the green belt was not substantially greater than an existing fallback position and because of other considerations including benefits to the local economy through job creation and increased community participation in golf.

The proposal involved the erection of buildings of floorspace 2000 square metres greater than those originally proposed as part of a consented wider scheme for a children’s zoo, adventure park, driving range and golf course which incorporated the appeal site. The buildings in the consented scheme had not been constructed but other aspects of the scheme had, making it extant. The buildings now proposed would be up to two storeys in height and, in the inspector’s view, represented a considerable bulk and mass in an otherwise open area. He concluded inappropriateness, loss of openness and encroachment into the green belt.

In terms of other consideration in the green belt balance, the current proposal would provide an additional £2.5 million investment and would create 29 full time qquivalent (FTE) jobs, which was an increase of 13.5 FTE jobs over the consented development. In addition th einspector noted the indoor golf facilities would provide a year-round attraction which would be likely to create less seasonally dependent job opportunities. A community benefits package was also included as part of a S106 obligation. The inspector concluded that when the benefits were taken in combination with the fall-back position, the other considerations in this case clearly outweighed the harm to the green belt by reason of inappropriateness, reduction in openness and encroachment. Looking at the case as a whole, he considered that very special circumstances existed which justified the development, in line with the requirements of the development plan and the Framework.

Inspector: Matthew Woodward

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