The bulk of the appeal site lies in a parcel of land between the A30 and the M3 motorway in a predominantly rural area close to the outskirts of Basingstoke. The development proposals would require the transformation of rolling fields into a flat plateau in order to accommodate the warehouse buildings and associated HGV parking.
Planning permission had been refused for two reasons relating to the effect of the proposed development on the landscape character and appearance of the area and the failure to make adequate provision for the necessary infrastructure for the proposed development. It was agreed that the second reason for refusal could be addressed through an appropriately worded s.106 agreement. The principal matters debated at the inquiry were therefore landscape and the planning balance.
Following a four day in-person inquiry the Inspector agreed with the Council and the Rule 6 party that the proposed development breached the Council’s development plan in relation to its effect on landscape, thereby breaching the plan as a whole. As there were no material considerations to outweigh this finding, the Inspector concluded that planning permission should be refused.
On landscape effects, the Inspector concluded that the appeal site has a high landscape function value in its contribution to the “Open Downs” character of the Landscape Character Area in which it lies and the fact it is seen as an integral part of the surrounding landscape. The changes to the site, which would include extensive engineering works to create the development platform and the creation of new vehicular access resulting in the loss of a length of around 120m of trees from the site boundary and central reservation of the A30, would be major effects. Overall, the extent of the landscape effects would be major.
Regarding the impact on visual amenity, the Inspector found that in a number of views the proposed development would continue to have a major adverse effect notwithstanding the mitigatory planting proposed by the Appellant, including on views identified as being of value to the Conservation Area in the village of Dummer. The extent of harm arising from the visual effects of the development was acute and adverse. The scheme would also emit light to the surrounding areas at night, affecting the area’s existing dark skies.
The Inspector concluded that the extent of harm that would remain 15 years after the construction of the proposed development demonstrated that the scheme’s landscape impacts are not satisfactorily minimised as required by policy, and there was therefore a conflict with the development plan as a whole. While he recognised that the proposed development would make a considerable beneficial impact on the local and sub-regional economy, that was insufficient to outweigh the conflict with the development plan.
A copy of the decision can be found here.
George Mackenzie acted for Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, instructed by Katherine Fitzherbert-Green. Esther Drabkin-Reiter acted for Dummer Parish Council, instructed by Nicholas Kingsley-Smith of Kingsley-Smith Solicitors LLP.