We know that planning inspectors are not heartless people so it must be very difficult for them when they feel compelled to deploy an all-too-familiar piece of text. This runs along the lines of “Whilst I have given these personal circumstances careful consideration, I am mindful of the advice contained in Planning Policy Guidance that in general planning is concerned with land use in the public interest. It is also probable that the proposed development would remain long after the current personal circumstances cease to be material.” [Translation: The building will be there long after your frail parent/disabled child is dead so I’m really sorry but I’m going to have to dismiss this one.]
Thank goodness, then, for the Equality Act 2010, which came to the aid of an inspector dealing with a proposal in Lincolnshire for a building and the use of land to support a land skills programme for young people with special needs (DCS Number 400-014-546). The intention was that the site would provide a programme where the students could learn about planting, seeding, growing, compost manufacture and general site maintenance. The inspector considered that the building was an urbanising feature within the rural area and therefore harmed the character and appearance of the countryside. On that basis the proposal conflicted with national and local planning policy, she found.
Nevertheless, the inspector was able to turn to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) contained in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, which sets out the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it. She reasoned that since the appeal was made for the use of the building for training/activities for people with a disability, it was for people who shared a protected characteristic for the purposes of the PSED. With this in mind she decided that the social benefit of the scheme outweighed the harm to the countryside and the conflict with development plan policy. She accepted that the viability of the scheme had not yet been proven so granted permission for three years in order to allow the project time to prove itself.
The following DCP section is relevant: 4.175