The appellant claimed that the well-established waste use had a negative effect on the openness of the area due to the tall heaps of material stored on the land and the buildings serving the operation. The inspector considered that the proposal would have a neutral impact on the green belt's openness because the existing business operation would be replaced by a sizeable residential development.
His main concern related to the impact on the SPA. Natural England objected to the scheme after concluding that a significant number of new households would increase pressure on the heathland. Increased public use would adversely affect nesting habitats for a number of rare and endangered birds, it advised.
The inspector referred to interim supplementary planning guidance produced by the local authorities in the SPA. This established a protocol whereby proposals could be made acceptable by mitigating works in suitable alternative natural green space. These works were intended to divert recreational activity and visitor pressure away from the SPA via agreed financial contributions.
The council explained that it was reviewing the interim strategy to ensure that sufficient green space was created to mitigate the impact of new homes. It maintained that at present it was incapable of guaranteeing sufficient sites to satisfy Natural England. The inspector agreed that instability in the formulation of planning policies on this matter made it inappropriate to grant permission for the scheme.
In his view, it was important for the council to ensure that the review of the principles set out in the agreed protocol was capable of mitigating the potential harmful effects. As the appellant was also unable to demonstrate very special circumstances to justify inappropriate development in the green belt, he dismissed the appeal.
DCS Number 100-050-866
Inspector Michael Aldous; Hearing.