Michelle Bolger to speak at the Landscape Institute's 'Valuing Landscape' Conference in September

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Michelle will be one of three speakers who will be discussing their experiences of how GLVIA3, Inspectors and the Secretary of State have helped to shape the interpretation of  ‘valued landscape' in the NPPF. This will form part of an interactive workshop on how the relevant policy in the new NPPF is likely to be applied in practice – and will give attendees the opportunity to add to the discussion about what still needs to change.

The other speakers are:

  • Peter Radmall, Environmental Planning Consultant
  • Dr Ashley Bowes, Cornerstone Barristers

The workshop will be facilitated by:

  • Rebecca Knight, Director of Landscape Planning, LUC

We hope to see you there on the 7th September!

MBELC SUCCESSFULLY DEFENDS LANDSCAPE REASONS FOR REFUSAL AT TWO MORE INQUIRIES

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common, Oxfordshire (appeal ref: 3183391)

Bayley Gate Farm, Cranfield, Bedfordshire (appeal ref: 3190779)

Two recent appeals against decisions by South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) and Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC)) to refuse planning permission have been dismissed following public inquiries. MBELC provided expert evidence at both inquiries and successfully defended the landscape reasons for refusal.

Both decisions were by Inspector, Kenneth Stone.  Although the ‘tilted balance’ was applied (a presumption in favour of sustainable development – as per para 14 of the 2012 NPPF) the harm to the landscape was, in both cases, considered to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole.   The tilted balance was engaged as some relevant development plan policies were found to be out-of-date in both cases.   

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common (appeal ref: 3183391)

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The first appeal was made by Gallagher Estates. It concerned SODC’s refusal to grant permission for up to 95 dwellings on land off Kennylands Road in Sonning Common.  

The appeal site is located on the south-western edge of the village, adjacent to the Chilterns AONB. The Inspector found that the site and its surrounding area demonstrated many of the attributes of the local landscape character type and some of the special qualities of the AONB. Such attributes led the Inspector to agree with Michelle Bolger’s evidence that the site is part of an NPPF para 109 valued landscape because it 'fulfils an important function in maintaining the rural setting of Sonning Common and the setting of the built-up area in the wider landscape, including with the AONB.' 

With respect to the proposed development the Inspector concluded that 'The site forms an important landscape and visual element in the locality and there is harm to it. It adds positively to the setting of the village in the countryside. It assists in the separation of the settlement from the Chilterns AONB boundary. Moreover, it is an attractive area of countryside in association with the wider countryside to the south, not in the designated Chilterns AONB. The harm would be material and significant. There would be an adverse effect on the Chilterns AONB, in that the views from within and immediately to the west beyond the woods would be of a more urbanised settlement edge closer to the AONB. These are views from within the AONB.'

Of particular importance to the inquiry was the Sonning Common Neighbourhood Development Plan (SCNDP). The SCNDP is a recently made plan (October 2016) which sets out how many new homes should be built within the village and where. A small part of the appeal site included an allocation for 26 homes. However, the appeal site as a whole was not allocated and the development did not constitute infill – the proposed development was therefore in conflict with the housing and allocation policies of the SCNDP.  

Both parties agreed that the Council could not demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply (4.1 was agreed) and therefore housing policies in SODC's Core Strategy were out of date.   However, polices for the policies for housing supply in the SCNDP were not to be considered out of date because SODC could demonstrate a 3-year supply of deliverable housing sites as established in the Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) on neighbourhood planning (December 2016).   

Applying a tilted balance the Inspector found that the harm from conflicting with the SCNDP  and the harm to the character and appearance of the area, including the setting of the AONB and Sonning Common, and a valued landscape, would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the scheme when assessed against the NPPF, taken as a whole.

A copy of the full decision for Sonning Common can be downloaded here.

 

Bayley Gate Farm, Cranfield (appeal ref: 3190779)

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This appeal concerned CBC’s decision to refuse an application for up to 300 dwellings on land at Bayley Gate Farm, College Road, Cranfield. The appeal was made by Gladman Developments Limited and the Kinns Family.

All parties agrees that the site, which is located on farmland bounded in part by Cranfield University and the Milton Keynes Boundary Walk, was not part of a valued landscape for the purposes of para 109 of the 2012 NPPF.  However, as the Inspector noted this 'does not mean that it has no value and although it may not be rare or have significant conservation interest or have any known associations it is very representative of the wider landscape, has a pleasant and attractive scenic quality and is in good condition. Its arable nature, strong boundary hedge and tree treatment ensure that it, along with the surrounding fields, narrow country lanes, bridleway and public rights of way create a strong rural character.'  The Inspector agreed with Michelle that existing development at Cranfield University does not have a strong visible or urbanising presence over the site – contrary to the appellant’s position.

The Inspector found that the structural planting proposed by the appellant would ‘do little to ameliorate and integrate the significant residential neighbourhood that would be created into the wider landscape’ and that any structural planting alongside the MKBW could not remove views of the development if the proposed planting were to be in-keeping with the character of the area.

Unlike the Sonning Common appeal above, the Council could demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply. However, the tilted balance was still engaged as a policy relevant to housing distribution (Policy CS5) was found to be out of date.

Due to the ‘substantial harm to the landscape character of the area and visual amenity and appearance of the locality’ and the finding that the site was not sustainably located and would not provide access to facilities meeting the day to day needs of future residents the impacts of granting permission were found to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole.  The appeal was dismissed.

A copy of the full decision for Bayley Gate Farm can be downloaded here

These dismissals mark seven consecutive appeals at which MBELC have successfully defended the Local Authority’s landscape reason for refusal at inquiry.

PARK ROAD, DIDCOT - APPEAL DISMISSED

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An appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s (SODC) decision to refuse outline planning permission for up to 135 residential dwellings on land east of Park Road, Didcot has been dismissed. This decision follows a public inquiry at which Michelle Bolger presented evidence on behalf of SODC.

Integral to our evidence was that the site forms an essential part of a valued landscape with respect to NPPF paragraph 109. With reference to the East Hagbourne decision (Appeal Ref: 3153639) Michelle argued that it is not necessary for a site to achieve a ‘high’ value on all of the criteria identified in GLVIA Box 5.1 in order to be considered as a valued landscape. Particularly significant defining qualities are sufficient and ‘some of this value arises as a consequence of the site’s location’ (Para 28, Appeal Decision Ref: 3153639).

Our justification for the site being part of a valued landscape comprised:

  • Its location within an area that provides an unspoilt pastoral edge to Didcot; 
  • Its scenic value by virtue of the attractive views and visual links to the open countryside, including towards an AONB;
  • Its integral role within the Coscote Fields Local CA which provides separation between Didcot and the historic settlement of Coscote;
  • Its integral role within the rural landscape that provides a setting to the North Wessex Downs AONB and a buffer between the AONB and the urban area of Didcot; and
  • The presence of ridge and furrow within and around the site, which was identified as making a significant contribution to the conservation interest of the area.

The inspector agreed with Michelle that ‘It is not necessary for a landscape to rank highly against all criteria to be considered to be valued’ (para 40). He found that the scenic qualities of the site were high and specifically referenced the quality which exists as a result of the ‘sharp contrast between the urban nature of Didcot and the rural nature of the fields’ (para 36). He agreed with Michelle that ‘the area should be considered to be a valued landscape for the purposes of paragraph 109 of the Framework’ (para 40). 

The Inspector concluded that harm to the setting of the AONB, even limited harm, engaged paragraph 115 of the NPPF and Consequently, the last bullet point in paragraph 14 of the Framework is engaged and consequently the normal, rather than the tilted, balance would apply.

Overall the inspector found that ‘the proposal would be harmful to the character and appearance of the area and would not protect, and therefore not enhance, a valued landscape’ and in doing so would be contrary to:

  • Policy CSEN1 of the CS which requires that the district’s distinct landscape features will be protected against inappropriate development and where possible enhanced.
  • Policies D1, G2 and C4 of the LP as set out above and which require that the district’s countryside and settlements will be protected from adverse developments, and that development which would damage the attractive landscape setting of settlements will not be permitted.
  • paragraphs 17, 109 and 115 of the Framework which seek to recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside, to protect and enhance valued landscapes and conserve landscape and scenic beauty in AONBs’. (para 47)

The inspector also found that South Oxfordshire DC now has a 5 year housing land supply.

The dismissal marks the fifth consecutive appeal at which MBELC have successfully defended the Local Authority’s landscape reason for refusal at an inquiry.

A copy of the full decision can be downloaded here.

HIGH STREET, TETSWORTH - APPEAL DISMISSED

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An appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s (SODC) decision to refuse outline planning permission for 60 new dwellings on land south of the High Street, Tetsworth has been dismissed. This decision follows a public inquiry at which Michelle Bolger presented evidence on behalf of SODC.

A key issue in the case concerned the impact of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area. Michelle’s evidence on this matter included a detailed account of the proposal’s harm to the development pattern of the village and the visual amenity of PRoW users.

The Inspector agreed with SODC’s landscape evidence on a number of matters and found overall that the proposal would be:

…significantly and demonstrably harmful to the character and appearance of the area, with particular harm to those undertaking recreation on the public rights of way network, to the outlook of local residents and would be out of keeping with the pattern of development in the village’.   

(Paragraph 96, Appeal Decision, Appeal Ref: APP/Q3115/W/3182192)

A copy of the full decision can be downloaded here