Major development

Rewind to the 150-year anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland in 2015 and you have a suitable setting for appeal case (DCS Number 200-005-666) in which the inspector considered the definition of ‘major development’.

The appeal concerned the redevelopment of a cheese factory in a national park village with 26 houses. Development plan policy stated that major development should not take place within the national park other than in exceptional circumstances, and major development would only be permitted following rigorous consideration of the criteria in national policy. The inspector recorded, however, that national planning policy is now contained within the NPPF, and it does not provide a definition of ‘major development’.

The inspector noted that The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure)(England) Order 2010 provides a definition of ‘major development’, and it was clear to him that the proposed 26 new dwellings, on a 2.56 hectare site, would fall within this definition. Parties, however, referred to Deborah Jane Aston and Westcott Meadow Action Group Limited v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Mole Valley District Council and Taylor Wimpey UK Limited [2013], the judgment in which concluded that the phrase ‘major development’ should not have a uniform meaning for policy, procedural rule or Government guidance, but rather be construed in the context of the document in which it appears.

The court ruling, then, signifies that the meaning of the phrase ‘major development’ changes according to where it appears, not unlike in Wonderland: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

Given the prominence of the appeal site in the national park landscape the inspector determined that redeveloping it in the manner proposed would be an act of major development. That was how the inspector dealt with the conundrum but how would readers answer Alice?

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 5.1551

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