For its own sake

In determining an appeal relating to the siting of three mobile homes in rural Berkshire (DCS Number 400-024-202) an inspector has confirmed that, although we no longer seek to protect the countryside “for its own sake”, there are stretches which are worthy of protection from development even though they carry no designation.

Local planning policy concerning development on land outside settlements indicated that the council would protect such land for its own sake and particularly from development that would adversely affect its character, appearance or function, the inspector noted. The council acknowledged that the NPPF does not seek to protect countryside for its own sake but drew the inspector’s attention to paragraph 170 which indicates that planning decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural environment and recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.

The appellant claimed that the site had no beneficial use in its current state. The inspector disagreed, however, finding that it had a semi-natural appearance, could be seen from the adjacent park homes site, and provided a green edge to the existing built development. He accepted the council’s point that although the NPPF does not seek to protect the countryside for its own sake it does seek recognition of its intrinsic character and beauty. In his view this does not just seek to recognise areas of special designation but also includes areas of the countryside such as the appeal site, where their open and generally green character is taken as a positive contributor to the locality. He considered that the proposal would have a significant and negative effect on the semi-rural character that the site currently possessed.

The interesting point to note is the inspector’s emphasis that in making his judgement he “set aside the notion of seeking to protect the countryside ‘for its own sake’ and”….”sought to recognise the intrinsic positive aspects of the appeal site.” In his view these were reflected in the council’s policies and also within the NPPF. He concluded that the proposal would have a harmful effect on these qualities, contrary to the policies set out and to the NPPF.

Section 4.25 of DCP Online discusses rural protection policies.