CASEBOOK: Appeal cases - Householder Development - Replacement for barn rejected in green belt area

The replacement of a modern barn in Surrey with a house extension has been held to be inappropriate development, despite claims that it would enhance the green belt and an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

The barn had been erected as permitted development in the 1960s and had subsequently become used for residential purposes in association with the main dwelling. The appellant argued that this use was now immune from enforcement and that the conversion would enhance the openness of the green belt and the character of the AONB through the replacement of a utilitarian structure with a building of traditional and attractive design.

The inspector noted that the proposal would result in a considerable reduction in building footprint but proportionately less of a reduction in volume. He agreed that it would materially benefit the openness of the green belt, but not to such an extent as to be of substantial weight.

He judged that the building would be an acceptable element in the landscape but would not of itself lead to an enhancement.

He concluded that the benefits to the green belt and AONB were material but not substantial. On balance, he judged that these benefits were insufficient to outweigh the harm arising from the inappropriate nature of the development and did not constitute the very special circumstances needed to justify allowing the appeal.

DCS No: 40398245; Inspector: Simon Emerson; Inquiry.

COMMENT: This may seem to be a harsh decision, turning away a development to which no harm from additional residential use or activity was found and which had identifiable visual benefits. It was a matter of judgement for the inspector whether these benefits amounted to the very special circumstances required to overcome the block on inappropriate development in the green belt imposed by PPG2. However, if the appeal had been allowed, the appellants would be seen to benefit from a breach of planning control and this might have had an underlying influence on what must have been a knife-edge decision.

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