A scheme for a solar farm on high quality agricultural land in Devon (DCS Number 200-003-894) failed the sequential test, the inspector not being satisfied that brownfield opportunities including rooftop schemes had been properly looked at. She recognised that the NPPF and PPG on solar farms did not expressly refer to the need to undertake a sequential test but reasoned that it was self-evident that in requiring an assessment as to whether land of lower quality was available a review of the quality of the land which was available needed to be undertaken. Given the ministerial statement of March 2015 which set out a need for developers to provide a compelling justification for schemes involving high quality land she decided that she had no alternative but to dismiss the appeal.
The second case concerned the orientation of roof-mounted solar panels on 20 houses in Nottinghamshire (DCS Number 400-008-261). The Carbon Trust advises that ideally solar panels should be orientated so that they face within 45˚ of south. The council was concerned that whilst five of the houses would adhere to this advice the remaining 15 would be orientated east-west. The inspector pointed out that if all the houses were orientated within 45˚ of south it would not be possible to get so many houses on the site. Anyway, the panels on west-facing roof slopes would generate electricity in the late afternoon and early evening, when most needed. He decided that the layout and orientation of the houses would provide very good levels of renewable energy generation whilst optimising the development potential of the site.
The first case does seem to set the bar very high. Pity the developer who must ask anyone with a roof in the area if there is any chance of putting solar panels on it.
DCP section 26.536 refers.
An inspector has allowed the placing of life-sized sculptures of a cow, a bull and a calf on a roundabout on the A39 (DCS Number 400-008-305). The sculptures were designed to draw attention to the land-based studies courses available at the local college but the highway authority was concerned that they would prove a distraction to motorists. The inspector decided, however, that the bovine family would not be out of context in its rural setting and would not prejudice road safety.
Those of a certain age will be delighted to hear that Ermintrude will be returning to The Magic Roundabout very soon.
And here is planning doing its bit to save the planet:
A one metre high fence was allowed around part of a field used as an apiary in the southeast London green belt (DCS Number 400-008-325). The land had previously been used as an orchard but this had been grubbed up and the land divided into 700 plots which were offered for sale. The council had removed permitted development rights on the land through an Article 4 Direction and was worried that the fence might prove a precedent for the erection of other structures on the land. The inspector reasoned that bee-keeping was an agricultural activity and that the siting of hives and a shed would not amount to operational development anyway. He concluded that the fence would not have any significant impact on the openness of the green belt or harm the character and appearance of the area.
Kent, the bee-friendly Garden of England.
- Minor material amendments
In a mixed use development in southeast London an inspector sanctioned a raft of changes to a building which had already been constructed as minor material amendments (DCS Number 400-008-304). A number of changes to the building had been carried out during construction ostensibly due to the gradient in the road. These included the re-siting of the access, alteration of the parking layout, architectural alterations, and an increase in floorspace of 66 square metres. The inspector disagreed with the council’s claim that the cumulative effect of the changes was substantial. An interesting point to note is that the inspector compared the scale of the changes against the overall scale of the scheme, noting that the increase in floorspace would be only four per cent of the total.
DCP section 5.1352 refers.
- Residential annexe
An inspector issued a lawful development certificate for the conversion of garaging at a property near York to a residential annexe, notwithstanding that it would have two bedrooms each with en suite facilities, a large living, dining and kitchen area and a cloakroom (DCS Number 400-008-282). He acknowledged that the unit would be substantial and would contain all the facilities necessary for day-to-day living. Nevertheless, he found a number of points in its favour, including that only about half the existing building would be converted to residential use. Again, scale counts.
DCP section 10.2 refers.
- Barn conversion
A barn conversion in Shropshire was ruled not to be permitted development in the absence of a bat survey (DCS Number 400-008-314). The appellant pointed to a decision in December 2014 (DCS Number 400-006-116) in which the inspector had decided that the council was not authorised to ask for ecological information under the GPDO. The inspector in the more recent decision acknowledged the need for consistency …. but nevertheless held that without survey information she could not be satisfied that the requirements of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 would be met. Pick whichever suits.
DCP sections 10.1 and 4.3423 refer.
An inspector has taken a firm line and declined to determine an appeal relating to a single wind turbine in Cornwall (DCS Number: 400-008-067). The appellants claimed that they had met the requirements for pre-application consultation set out in The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015, since the turbine would be of the same height as one proposed in an earlier scheme. The inspector would have none of it, however, invalidating the appeal and ruling that fresh consultation must be carried out.
DCP sections 26.5 and 6.3 refer.