Skip to main content

Appeal rejected due to loss of open space: East Langton Neighbourhood Plan

Appeal dismissed due to concerns over loss of open space
A recent appeal for 5 dwellings has been rejected by a Planning Inspector, in part, due to conflict with a Neighbourhood Plan - despite a Local Green Space designation having been removed during examination.

The development proposal, for the erection of 5 dwellings and children’s play area with associated vehicular access at land rear of the Hanbury Centre, Stonton Road, Church Langton LE16 7SZ, was initially refused outline planning permission by Harborough District Council. The subsequent appeal was dismissed by a Planning Inspector, see appeal reference: APP/F2415/W/18/3212873.

Relevant to this appeal is the East Langton Neighbourhood Plan (ELNP), which was formally made by Harborough District Council in June 2018.

Impact on open space, sport and recreation

In assessing the scheme, the Planning Inspector's main concern was that the development would lead to the loss of an open space used for sports and recreation.

The ELNP seeks to retain the appeal site as an open space, indicating the site on a map and describing it as a "Site of environmental and community significance, including Open Space, Sport & Recreation sites".

Local Green Space status

Where an open space satisfies certain criteria, Neighbourhood Plans can designate the open space as a 'Local Green Space'. This designation gives open spaces protection from development akin to 'Green Belt' policy.

The criteria which an open space must satisfy to qualify for Local Green Space designation are set out in paragraph 100 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Whilst the ELNP notes the significance of the appeal site to the local community for its recreational value, the site is not designated as a Local Green Space (LGS).

The submission version of the ELNP did in fact propose the site for LGS designation. However in his Report the Neighbourhood Plan Examiner concluded that whilst the site is an 'attractive green area', it does not satisfy the national policy criteria of being 'demonstrably special...'.

The Neighbourhood Plan Examiner also noted the 'sustainable location' of the open space, concluding:

I must consider whether its designation as an LGS might prevent the making of the Plan from contributing to the achievement of sustainable development.

This implies that the site's future development potential is somehow relevant to considering whether the site should be designated as LGS. The NPPF's criteria for designating LGS's do not require the assessment of a site's future development potential - rather it is an assessment of the open space's value to the community it serves at present.

The basic conditions require a neighbourhood plan as a whole to "contribute to the achievement of sustainable development". However it is unclear how the designation of one modest open space as a LGS would undermine the whole plan's contribution to delivering sustainable development.

Planning balance

At the time of the planning appeal, Harborough District could (and presumably still can) demonstrate in excess of a Five Year Supply of Housing Land - in other words, it has sufficient land supply to meet its housing needs in the short term. The NPPF's 'tilted balance' under the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not therefore apply in this case.

The site is located outside the defined Development Boundary which, the Inspector notes, is contrary to strategic policies in the district's Core Strategy.

In his Decision Letter, the Inspector makes reference to national policy which states that existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land should not be built on unless clearly surplus to requirements, or their replacement would be at least equal in quantity and quality.

The Inspector noted the ELNP's aspiration to retain the site for open space, sport and recreation, and perhaps takes a more sympathetic view than the Neighbourhood Plan Examiner, concluding that any future development potential is 'not significant at this time' and, 'since there will be periodic reviews and monitoring through the development plan process, if there should be a shortfall it will be appropriately addressed in the future'. In other words, a future review of the ELNP can consider whether the site should be retained in its current use, or should be allocated for development.

During the appeal local people clearly expressed their concerns regarding the potential loss of open space, along with evidence presented by the district council, leading the Inspector to note:

I have found from the evidence before me that the OSSR [open space, sport, recreation] site off Old School Walk is much valued by local people with strong opposition to it being taken away.

Ultimately, the Inspector concluded the proposal does not conform with the ELNP, certain strategic policies of the Core Strategy, and National Policy which seeks to protect open spaces for sport and recreation.

Importance of evidence

Through the appeal it was demonstrated that the appeal site is of particular local significance to the local community due to the site's recreational value. It is therefore regrettable that, during the examination process, the Neighbourhood Plan Examiner recommended the proposed Local Green Space designation be removed from the site.

The appeal process is lengthy and costly, and in this case will likely have caused a good deal of upset for the local community who faced the threat of losing a valued open space.

If the site had been designated as an LGS in the ELNP, the outcome would have been the same, the site would remain unsuitable for development - without requiring the expense of a planning appeal to determine this fact.

The ELNP was accompanied by a clear assessment of open spaces, and perhaps there was nothing more the ELNP could have done to convince the examiner the site should be designated.

However, it was the culmination of various evidence sources which led the Inspector to determine the site's recreational value. When making Local Green Space designations, it is essential that Neighbourhood Plans are accompanied by an assessment which demonstrates that the open space satisfies the NPPF's criteria. Crucially, this should contain clear evidence to demonstrate the open space is of 'particular local significance' to the community it serves. Local Green Spaces are a powerful tool, and consequently should be supported by robust evidence.

Locality has recently published a very helpful toolkit for making Local Green Space designations which explains the types of evidence that can be used as justification.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why the Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan failed

News that the Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan was rejected at referendum has spread rapidly across social media and has even been picked up by local and national press - see BBC article.

The story has garnered a lot of attention as it is highly unusual for a Neighbourhood Plan to be rejected. The Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan is only the third Neighbourhood Plan not to be supported by residents.

At the referendum held on 14 March 2019, the Neighbourhood Plan was rejected, albeit by a very slim margin of just 22 votes.
'No' Campaign Prior to the referendum, Labour town councillors led a campaign which encouraged local people to vote against the Neighbourhood Plan. 
Based on the literature shared by the campaign group, opposition to the Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan appears to be pointed at three key issues: Impacts on the town and its infrastructure of the overall scale of growth Middlewich is expected deliverDisagreement with the individual sites identified by the Neighbourhood …

New Interactive Map of Neighbourhood Plans

ATNP's Interactive Neighbourhood Plan map is a new tool showing locations with a Neighbourhood Plan in force.

The interactive map is free to use and compatible with desktop and mobile devices. It allows the user to pan and zoom across the country to locate areas with Neighbourhood Plans, Neighbourhood Development Orders & Community Right to Build Orders in place. Each marker represents a different plan, and provides a web link to view or download the plan.

This new map builds upon the Neighbourhood Plan Finder which lists Neighbourhood Plans by local planning authority area.

Try the Interactive Neighbourhood Plan Map now

For details of mapping services offered by All Things Neighbourhood Planning, visit the Maps section.

Neighbourhood Plan Finder

Hundreds of Neighbourhood Plans have passed referendum and are being made across the country. It can therefore be tricky to keep track of which areas have plans in force.

All Things Neighbourhood Planning's Neighbourhood Plan Finder tool can help you quickly and simply locate Neighbourhood Plans.

Simply select a local authority area from the Neighbourhood Plan Finder to reveal a list of Neighbourhood Areas with made Neighbourhood Plans.

For groups writing Neighbourhood Plans, the Neighbourhood Plan Finder can help you to find other local examples of plans which have completed the process. The Finder will also help applicants and decision-makers to locate Neighbourhood Plans which may affect their proposals.

Try the Neighbourhood Plan Finder now.