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.