The inspector observed that the site was at the side of a former public house that had been converted to a McDonald's restaurant and contained many trees of differing ages. Many of the larger specimens were covered by a tree preservation order.
The building would require the felling of two lines of beech trees to the north and south of the former bowling green. The main internal access road and associated parking would extend for the full length of the east of the site and the surfaced area would require the removal of some of the trees. Although a substantial number would remain near the boundary, the density of growth would be reduced considerably.
The inspector considered that the scale of the development would be apparent near the southern and eastern sides of the site through the much-reduced density of vegetation. From positions both close to the site and from more distant views, the roof would be an obvious large feature with a height and mass wholly different from the surroundings, he found. He opined that the considerable reduction in tree growth needed to accommodate the building and car park would reduce the natural appearance of the site to a detrimental degree.
Making efficient use of urban land is an important aim for all development, the inspector acknowledged. But in the case before him he decided that the intended density exceeded the range listed in PPG3 by a considerable margin and he felt that it did not add weight to the merits of the scheme.
The inspector noted that the council's classification of playing fields in the emerging unitary development plan included bowling greens. He remarked that PPG17 says that the loss of a playing field for development might be acceptable if it is replaced by an equivalent or better facility. While the appellant had shown a willingness to comply with council policy, he noted that a draft undertaking submitted at the hearing offering a sum of money to provide an alternative bowling green was of no effect. The proposal as it stood would be contrary to the development plan objective, he concluded.
DCS No: 35062399; Inspector: Peter Brown; Hearing.