The inspector noted that there was no dispute that the mobile home amounted to inappropriate development in the green belt and that PPG2 stated that such development was by definition harmful. Although the appeal did not relate to an agricultural unit, both main parties accepted that it would be necessary for the proposal to meet the functional and financial tests for agricultural uses.
In relation to the functional test, the appellant stated that the keeping of dogs and cats presented particular animal welfare and security needs that could only be met by the night-time presence of a full-time member of staff. He also maintained that his licence to operate the kennels required a permanent on-site residential presence.
The council argued that these needs could be met by a member of staff living in a nearby settlement. However, the nearest suitable property was five minutes' drive away. To the inspector's mind, this would be too great a separation to provide adequate on-site supervision of the animals and would conflict with the requirements of the appellant's licence. He considered that a functional need for a permanent on-site presence of at least one full-time member of staff had been demonstrated.
Turning to the financial test, the inspector felt that the stated level of investment was sufficient to demonstrate a clear intention to continue the business and agreed that its longevity suggested a sound financial basis. He considered that the mobile home had passed the functional and financial tests and concluded that this provided the very special circumstances needed to outweigh the harm caused to the green belt.
He acknowledged the council's comment that the site's previous history represented an abuse of the planning system and that dwellings had become detached from the kennels. However, this did not affect his ruling on the present functional need for residential accommodation. He considered that any concerns over possible separation of the mobile home from the kennels could be addressed by imposing an occupancy condition.
DCS No: 44175025; Inspector: Mike Hetherington; Hearing.