Open textured

An inspector has deleted a condition specifying that the demolition of a locomotive shed and its replacement with two houses in Cheshire should be carried out in total accordance with the drawings, finding no harm to the openness of the green belt through a proposed increase in height of the garages (DCS Number 400-032-263).

The inspector recorded that openness is capable of having both spatial and visual aspects. He then gave regard to various High Court judgments: Euro Garages Ltd v SSCLG & Anor [2018]; Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster), Oxton Farm v North Yorkshire CC & Darrington Quarries Ltd [2018]; and Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster) and others) (Respondents) v North Yorkshire County Council [2020]. He explained that, in summary, these judgments highlight that, rather than treating any change as having a greater impact on the openness of the green belt, the correct approach is to consider the impact or harm, if any, wrought by the change. Whether or not any change will have an adverse impact, he continued, and so cause harm to openness, might depend on factors such as the scale of the development, its locational context, and its spatial and/or visual implications. The word openness is open textured and a number of factors are capable of being relevant when it comes to applying it to the particular facts of a specific case but how to take account of the visual effects is a matter of planning judgement rather than one of legal principle.

Turning to the case before him, the inspector noted that although the proposal did not increase the footprint of the garages, it would result in them having a greater volume than the approved garages due to the increase in height. However, the increase in height and volume would not be substantial. Furthermore, the increased height of the garages would not be conspicuous from the lane as a result of the existing built development within the surrounding area, siting of the new dwellings, new planting, existing vegetation, setback from the highway and, that the garages would appear modest compared to the size of the dwellings. 

Given the scale of the proposal and the context of the site, the inspector determined that the scheme would not have a detrimental effect or have a materially greater impact on the openness of the green belt than that approved. As such, the proposal would not conflict with the fundamental aim of green belt policy to keep land permanently open. He concluded that the development would therefore preserve the openness of the green belt and would not conflict with the purposes of including land within it. 

This topic has also been covered in an earlier blog post Shape shifting and further information on green belt policy can be found in section 4.251 of DCP Online.