Burnt to a cinder

A couple who wished to replace a Hertfordshire cottage which had been destroyed by fire found their hopes were in cinders when an inspector pointed out that it would be contrary to green belt policy (DCS Number 400-028-695).

The inspector set out that Paragraph 145 of the Framework establishes that the construction of new buildings should be regarded as inappropriate in the green belt, unless they fall within certain categories of development which may be regarded as not inappropriate, subject to certain conditions. Part d) of this paragraph, he recorded, lists the replacement of a building as one such exception, provided that the new building is in the same use, and not materially larger than the one it replaces. He appreciated that both parties had considered the dwelling as a replacement for that which existed prior to the fire. However, for something to be considered as a replacement, he pointed out, the element that it replaces must exist at the time the replacement development is considered. However, there was no existing building on the site, and as such, the proposal did not fall to be considered under the exception at Paragraph 145(d) of the Framework, he ruled.

Rather, the inspector determined, the proposal comprised the redevelopment of previously developed land and fell to be considered under Paragraph 145(g). This exception allows for the redevelopment of previously developed land providing it would not have a greater impact on the openness of the green belt than the existing development. But, he reasoned, the proposed new building would have a greater impact on openness as no building currently existed on the site. 

The inspector next turned to a consideration of openness in spatial and visual terms. He found that due to its overall height and bulk, the proposed dwelling would be visually intrusive. In addition, he found that the development would result in less than substantial harm to the setting of a conservation area and listed building. 

The inspector recognised that the appellants had lost their established residential use for reasons beyond their control and he accorded this factor great weight. He nonetheless concluded that the benefits of providing a replacement dwelling following the destruction of the previous property by fire did not clearly outweigh the harm he had identified. Consequently, there were not the very special circumstances necessary to justify inappropriate development in the green belt.

There is an interesting section on the loss of original dwellings by accident at section 9.6311 of DCP Online.