Ian Ponter: Another View of Green Belt Openness

An appeal made against an enforcement notice in an effort to retain 5 large detached houses built in the Green Belt at a site known as Grundy Fold Farm in Bolton has been dismissed by a planning inspector. The fact that the appeal site benefitted from a fallback position comprising 4 large detached houses was not enough to persuade the inspector to allow the appeal.

Central to the inspector’s decision was impact on the openness of the Green Belt, and the fact that the appeal scheme comprised 5 houses dispersed more widely across the site than in the fallback position. Whilst the appeal scheme came with significant structural landscaping (in contrast to the fallback position), the inspector found that;

“impact on openness is not necessarily confined to works which amount to development for the purposes of the 1990 Act. In both appeals, it is proposed to infill gaps between the dwellings with substantial new planting upon parts of the land where such vegetation does not currently exist. Whilst trees and plants can appear as natural features in the landscape, the planting here would appear more formalised, carefully designed to serve and complement the built form within which it will sit. It will therefore have the effect of tying together the dwellings as one dispersed mass of built form.

…Moreover, the planting will have the effect of reducing long range views of the distant landscape which would otherwise be obtainable between the substantial gaps between the built form. Again, when viewed in the context of the developments as a whole, the proposed planting will reduce any appreciable visual openness of the area.”

A modified form of the enforcement appeal scheme (that was the subject of a section 78 appeal) was found to generate similar levels of loss of openness. That loss of openness (together with other elements of harm) was not clearly outweighed by scheme benefits. As a result, the appellants fell short of demonstrating the very special circumstances required to justify the grant of consent.

The inspector’s decision letter can be found here.


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