The estate includes Chevening House, a Grade I Listed property usually put at the disposal of the Foreign Secretary, but which also serves as a venue for diplomatic functions held by the Foreign Office and other government departments. The House sits within a Grade II* Registered Park and Garden, adjacent to the Grade I Listed Church of St Botolph’s. The cluster of buildings also lie within the Chevening Conservation Area, as well as within the Kent Downs AONB and the Green Belt.
The proposals will entail the importation of some 760,000 cubic metres of construction arisings, which will be used to create an area of parkland consisting of landscaped mounds. The development, which will be carried out over a 5 year period on some 40 hectares of the estate, will complete the parkland surrounding Chevening House, and improve the setting of the various heritage assets. In particular it will serve to ameliorate the visual impact caused by elevated sections of the M25, as well as providing a more suitable approach to the House.
Permission had originally been refused by the local planning authority, Sevenoaks District Council, on the basis of alleged harm to the Green Belt.
The Inspector accepted the Estate’s case that the proposals did not comprise inappropriate development in the Green Belt, such that it was not necessary to demonstrate ‘Very Special Circumstances’ in justifying a grant of permission. The Inspector nevertheless concluded that the scheme would give rise to significant heritage benefits, and would also contribute positively to the landscape and scenic beauty of the AONB. She also rejected arguments that permission should be refused on the basis of HGV traffic impacts of the scheme, or for ecological reasons.
Alexander Booth KC appeared on behalf of the joint appellants, the Board of Trustees of Chevening Estate and Rural Arisings Ltd. He was instructed by Charles Russell Speechlys.