We’ve come across an interesting appeal decision which allowed the demolition of existing equestrian buildings and the construction of thirty one dwellings including affordable housing provision, associated parking, landscaping and infrastructure and creation of a new area of community open space.  So why is it interesting?

The site was located in the Green Belt.  The Government places great importance on Green Belts.  Green Belt is one of the longest standing spatial planning tools in planning and development control.  Its main purpose is to control development to within the defined exceptions set out in the National Planning Policy Framework which is essentially mirrored within the relevant Local Plans.  One of these defined exceptions is outlined within Framework and includes the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed land (PDL) whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings) which would either not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt than the existing development or not cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt, where the development would re-use previously developed land and contribute to meeting an identified affordable housing need within the area of the local planning authority.

PDL is defined in the Framework.  It specifically excludes agriculture but includes equestrian sites.  The appeal site was an equestrian livery business but the Council (due to objection from the Parish Council) challenged this stating that the site stored agricultural machinery and hay harvested on the land.   The appellant confirmed that all hay grown on the site is for the purposes of the livery business and not for agriculture, this was supported by the judgement in “Lee Valley” which held that a building not solely in agricultural use is not excluded from the definition of PDL in the Framework.  Based on the fact there was no firm evidence to dispute the hay production was for the livery use the Inspector found that the site was not solely in agricultural use and was not excluded from the definition of PDL for the purposes of the Green Belt and applying Green Belt policy.

The case then rested on an assessment of openness under paragraph 149(g) of the Framework where the Inspector found that the proposal would have a greater effect on openness than the existing development, but compared to the existing situation the difference would be limited in scale, and so would not amount to substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt.  The proposal was not inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

The remainder of the issues covered in the appeal are fairly run of the mill in an appeal of this type.  It is the exploration of equestrian use and hay making, for that use, which is of interest in terms of defining previously developed land in the Green Belt.  Whilst each case is on its own merits, it is certainly a case that I think will lead to more people exploring PDL within equestrian sites and it will be interesting to see how these develop in the not too distant future.

If you have any queries, or wish to discuss a site which may bare similarities to this case – do get in touch via the routes outlined on the contact page of our website….