The main planning issues in the case were:
• the effect of the development on the character and appearance of the surrounding area, with particular regard to the South Devon AONB; and
• whether the development’s housing mix would be appropriate.
The ‘lessons’ for future include:
Not a major development, but!
While the Appellant and the SHDC considered that the development did not constitute major development with respect to paragraph 173 of the National Planning Policy Framework. Some objectors disagreed. But, the Inspector was satisfied that the appeal proposal, taking account of its nature, scale and setting, did not constitute major development in this instance. He notes: “However, this does not lead me to a different conclusion about its effect on the AONB or the character and appearance of the surrounding area and the Undeveloped Coast. ” So even a ‘non major development’ can harm the countryside and AONB and other protected landscapes.
Harm to the South Devon AONB
The Inspector concluded that the proposal would “harm the character and appearance of the surrounding area, with particular regard to the South Devon AONB, and that the proposal failed to accord with Policies SPT1, SPT12, DEV23, DEV25 and TTV26 of the Districts Joint Local Plan.“
Those plan policies require that development should: “respect scenic quality and the area’s distinctive sense of place and characteristics; and protect, conserve and enhance the site’s setting and natural beauty of the protected landscape, with particular reference to the special qualities and distinctive characteristics of the AONB and the unique landscape of the Undeveloped Coast. These policies are broadly consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework in so far as they relate to achieving well-designed places and conserving and enhancing the natural environment.“
Even if housing supply is not demonstrated
The evidence presented indicated that the Council can demonstrate sufficient housing land supply following the recent adoption of the Joint Local Plan. However, “even if sufficient housing land supply could not be demonstrated, the harm to the AONB means that the application of Framework’s policies that protect areas or assets of particular importance, including AONBs, provides a clear reason for dismissing the appeal. “
Another excellent result for the South Hams Society, the South Devon AONB and the South Hams community, which provides some more important markers for future planning cases and supports the Society’s aims of protecting and enhancing the natural beauty and heritage of the Devonshire South Hams.
Here is the Inspectors full Selworthy Appeal Decision.
The Society get a ‘mention’ in the Case Officers Report to the Council
Here is the Letter of Representation sent by the South Hams Society
This image shows the location of the proposed development (centre right) which the Appellants repeatedly described (inaccurately) as a ‘brownfield site’. Image by South Hams Society member Leslie Pengelly. His Letter of Representation to the Planning Inspectorate played a significant part in the Appeal Inspectors considerations and Decision.
Every Planning Application, Appeal or Public Inquiry is unique and must be assessed on its merits. Past cases do however provide planning guidance to all those interested in protecting or improving our natural or built environment. Here are examples of important resent Planning Appeal and Public Inquiry Decisions which have significantly protected or enhanced the landscapes and countryside in the Devonshire South Hams: