CASEBOOK: Appeal cases - Housing: New Build - Green belt designation upheld despite map error

A scheme involving the demolition of a house and the erection of ten new homes at a site in Middlesex has been rejected after an inspector accepted council claims that part of the land fell within the green belt, despite an error in the adopted unitary development plan (UDP).

The northern portion of the 0.41ha site, which the council and the appellants agreed fell outside the green belt, contained part of a domestic garden and a dwelling with its garden. The southern portion contained a cottage whose occupation was restricted to a person working at an adjacent golf course. In asserting that this portion did not fall within the green belt, the appellants pointed out that it was not shown as falling within the green belt boundary in the UDP proposals map.

The council maintained that this was a drafting error that had not been spotted until the application was submitted. The inspector, in accordance with the ruling in St James Homes Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (2001), concluded that in ascertaining the meaning of a development plan it was appropriate to examine factual and policy material from a variety of sources, with experience guiding the decision-maker as to the significance of any extraneous material.

He noted that a previous local plan clearly showed the southern portion of the site as falling within the green belt. Since national policy indicated that green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, he accepted that the council would not have changed the designation without making express reference to it in the text accompanying the policy.

Since this had not been done, he agreed that the council had simply made an error in preparing the proposals map accompanying the plan. In assessing whether very special circumstances justified allowing the appeal, he held that confusion over the precise boundary of the green belt was not of significance. Nor was he persuaded by suggestions that the scheme would have a minimal impact on the openness of the area.

DCS No: 39483010; Inspector: Robert Yuille; Inquiry.

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