Planning permission failed to properly address impact on Green Belt openness

The National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) says:

“89. A local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt. Exceptions to this … [include]:

provision of appropriate facilities for outdoor sport, outdoor recreation and for cemeteries, as long as it preserves the openness of the Green Belt and does not conflict with the purposes of including land within it;
… ”
In Boot, R (On the Application Of) v Elmbridge Borough Council [2017] the Defendant’s development plan policy DM17 – Green Belt (Development and New Buildings) said:

“b. Built development for outdoor sport, recreation and cemeteries will need to demonstrate that the building’s function is ancillary and appropriate to the use and that it would not be practical to re-use or adapt any existing buildings on the site. Proposals shall be sited and designed to minimise the impact on the openness of the Green Belt and should include a high quality landscape scheme.”

The planning officer’s report found that the new £17.9m sports ground use proposed, and the buildings and structures required to support it, including the pavilion, floodlights, fencing and car park, would have an impact on the openness of the Green Belt but considered that it would not be significant.

The Defendant’s planning committee accepted in its Statement of Reasons that:

“There will be a limited adverse impact on landscape and visual amenity and ‘openness’ of the Green Belt, however there will also be significant benefits in terms of facilitating the beneficial use of land within the Green Belt by providing significant opportunities for public access and outdoor sport and recreation by improving damaged land which is supported by para 81 of the NPPF.”

Quashing the planning permission the High Court agreed with the Applicant’s barrister that:

“if a proposal has an adverse impact on openness, the “inevitable conclusion” … is that it does not comply with a policy that requires openness to be maintained. A decision maker does not have “any latitude” to find otherwise, based on the extent of the impact. In the present case the Defendant concluded that there was an adverse impact on openness, but nevertheless granted permission without giving consideration to whether under paras 87 and 88 of the NPPF there were very special circumstances that would justify it.”

This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not replace the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.