A sporting chance

Following on from the International Olympic Committee’s acceptance of Big Air as a competitive sport at the Beijing Winter Olympics we are pleased to report that the planning system has also validated a new high-injury-risk sports discipline: dog agility.

In determining an appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the change of use of agricultural land to a mixed agricultural and sui generis use for the training of canines in the green belt near Bath (DCS Number 400-034-303), the inspector recorded that paragraph 150e) of the Framework states that material changes of use, including ‘outdoor sports’ are not necessarily inappropriate in the green belt provided they preserve its openness and the purposes of including land within it. 

The inspector noted, however, that the Framework does not define ‘outdoor sport’. The appellant indicated that the dog training area would be used for dog agility sessions, whereby a handler guides a dog through a series of obstacles in a race against the clock. The inspector remarked that it therefore involves an element of physical activity and skill on the part of the handler, while timing of the event suggested that the handler and dog are competing against others. To the inspector’s mind the combination of physical activity and competition would likely be entertaining and enjoyable for participants, factors that would commonly be associated with sporting activities. Therefore, in the terms of the Framework, she determined that the proposal would constitute an ‘outdoor sport’. 

While this appeal was dismissed, primarily on harm to openness and rural character resulting from the presence of apparatus and extensive car parking, there’s a sporting chance it might work elsewhere?

Section 4.2513 of DCP Online concerns the issue of appropriateness in the green belt.