There has been head-scratching here at the DCP Blog about how to recognise a ‘valued landscape’ (Paragraph 109 of the NPPF). Valued by whom?
In Leckhampton, Cheltenham (DCS Number 200-004-992) the secretary of state agreed with his inspector that the site, whilst not designated, had its own intrinsic charm which gave it value and that it was a locally valued landscape.
In County Durham, on the other hand, (DCS Number 200-005-628), an inspector found that “It is not appropriate to find that the appeal site, because it is valued by the local community, should be compared to, and be regarded in the same way, as the site at Leckhampton.” “It is valued by the local community but it is unremarkable in character. The site, fundamentally, cannot be regarded, with regard to paragraph 109 of the NPPF, to be a valued landscape”, he ruled.
Similarly, an inspector dealing with an appeal in Norfolk (DCS Number 200-005-550) stated “I recognise that the landscape has value for local people.” Nevertheless, he regarded it as open agricultural land of no special value and therefore did not accept it as being a valued landscape in the terms of paragraph 109 of the Framework. A valued landscape should comprise matters above the ordinary, he ruled. In addition, he gave greater weight to the evidence of the appellant’s chartered landscape architect than the informed opinions of the council’s generalist planner.
So, despite being valued by local people, indeed, despite having an action group on side in the Durham case, the sites in both (DCS Number 200-005-628) and (DCS Number 200-005-550) do not make the grade as valued landscapes in the terms of the NPPF.
A couple of court cases have addressed this issue. In Stroud DC v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 6/2/15 the court upheld an inspector’s ruling that a valued landscape had to have some demonstrable physical attribute rather than just popularity, and in Forest of Dean DC v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 4/10/16 the inspector had been entitled to conclude that there were no landscape features, characteristics or elements elevating the site above the countryside in general, the court decided. The court decisions therefore necessitate objective analysis of the landscape. What puzzles the Blog is that the wording of the NPPF appears to require subjective assessment.
Do readers have views on this?
The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.25