Horse grazing paddocks judged brownfield land

A recent decision on appeal regarding the definition of a parcel of land currently used for grazing and the keeping of horses has given cause to jump up out of the saddle.

The appeal was made against an initial refusal to grant outline planning permission for the erection of 14 dwellings on a parcel of land comprising horse grazing land, stables, hardstanding and a manege.  This was based on the grounds that the land was outside of the village development boundary and was, therefore, within the countryside for the purposes of planning policy.

The argument was based on the adopted local plan which provided that land defined as, “open countryside” would only be given permission for development in relation to agriculture, forestry, countryside recreation or other development appropriate to a rural area and could not be located within a settlement.

The local authority core strategy defined the village concerned as being within a settlement where only small scale development and infill development would be permitted.  The development would also conflict with the core strategy which seeks to restrict development to land within defined settlement boundaries.

However, the Inspector appointed for the purposes of the appeal focused his attentions on the National Planning Policy Framework as follows:-

  • The northern part of the site contained development and the paddocks that extended to the southern part were used for equestrian purposes and, therefore, the lnspector concluded fell within the definition of previously developed land (brownfield).

The Framework defines previously developed land (brownfield) as, “Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure”.

  • The Framework encouraged effective use of land by reusing land that had been previously developed, provided that it was not of high environmental value and encouraged sustainable development in rural areas.

From his visit, the Inspector felt that the site did not have a high environmental value.

As the village contained a number of amenities and facilities, with access to a further key settlement and two larger towns that were accessible by public transport, the proposed dwellings would “enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities”.  The dwellings would also provide a social benefit as they would be supporting services in a nearby village, and there would be an economic benefit through the construction and subsequent maintenance of the dwellings.

The Inspector also noted that it was far better to bring forward development on acceptable brownfield sites than build on undeveloped green fields, and that the term, “open countryside” applied to all land outside the development boundaries of settlements.

The appeal was allowed and outline planning permission granted.

It is worth noting that the same council had reached different decisions on two similar schemes on previously developed land in the same village.

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