Never mind the quality

An inspector has ruled that a Surrey council’s blanket ban on extensions to houses on a recent development in the green belt is “plainly wrong” (DCS Number 400-019-143).

In the case before him the inspector considered that the proposed extensions would be innocuous and inconsequential. Accordingly, he concluded that the scheme would not be inappropriate development in the green belt and would not harm either the appearance and character of the existing building or the rural character of the estate and its setting in the open countryside. There would therefore be no conflict with government policy in the Framework or with the relevant local plan policy.

Notwithstanding the scheme’s compliance with both government and development plan policy, the council had refused permission because the proposal included a two storey extension precluded through a legal agreement concluded at the time of the permission for the estate. The refusal notice said that through an adverse effect on the character and amenities of the area the cumulative effect of two storey extensions would be contrary to the Framework ‘which seeks to protect the openness of the Green Belt’. The inspector took the view that this was plainly wrong in the context in which it was raised. He explained that in Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, R v Epping Forest District Council & Anor [2016], the Court of Appeal endorsed the conclusion of the High Court to the effect that where development is found to be ‘not inappropriate’, applying paragraphs 89 or 90 of the Framework, it should not be regarded as harmful either to the openness of the green belt or to the purposes of including land in the green belt.

The inspector ruled that, in summary, the legal agreement’s blanket ban on two storey extensions ran counter to the well-established principle in the planning system of each case being considered on its individual merits, and in that respect it was unfair and illogical. If the council considered that the estate warranted an extra layer of control over and above the weighing of the balance of public and private interests and the flexibility inherent in development plan policy and the Framework, he continued, he would expect it to prepare and consult on a Design Guidelines SPD, as indicated in general terms in the first sentence of paragraph 62 of the Framework. In this way, a system of qualitative development management rather than quantitative control would then merit significant weight in the decision-making process, either by the council or at appeal.

Section 12.632 of DCP Online provides further information on green belt house extensions.