DC Casebook: Leisure and Entertainment - Pitches ruled out at local nature reserve

The change of use of land in the Hertfordshire green belt to a football pitch and car park has been prohibited due to concerns over the likely impact on an area of important grassland.

The appeal site lay in the grounds of a large country house encompassing 68ha of formal parkland, open meadows and mature woodland designated as a local nature reserve. The 2ha appeal site comprised semi-improved grassland. The appellants sought consent for two full-sized football pitches and a seven-a-side pitch. They argued that the nature reserve and protected animal species would be safeguarded on other parts of the estate.

The inspector was not convinced by this argument. Natural England advised that the nature reserve would have to be de-designated if the scheme went ahead, she noted. The land would become a monoculture of hard-wearing turf and its biodiversity would be markedly reduced, she found. There would be little point in designating locally important nature reserves only to approve development that would fail to conserve or enhance their flora and fauna, she remarked.

The development was also objectionable in green belt policy terms, the inspector decided. She found that the pitches and car park would be readily visible from public vantage points and predicted that noise and activity would detract from the quiet enjoyment of the area when matches were played. The needs of the club did not outweigh this harm, she judged.

Inspector: Gyll Grindey; Inquiry

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