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Planning Permission Granted for New Golf Course in the Green Belt at Barnet London

Simon Bird QC
Stephanie Hall

Planning permission has been granted for a new golf course in the Green Belt at Barnet, London.  The proposed course designed by one of the world's leading golf course designers, Dye Designs, is proposed to be built and operated to international standards,

The London Borough of Barnet had refused planning permission for the new golf course on the principal ground that it represented inappropriate development in the Green Belt and no very special circumstances existed to justify its development.  The council argued in particular that:

(i) In the circumstances, the evidence on need was insufficient to justify inappropriate development in the Green Belt;
(ii)  The proposed club house and car park were larger than was essential to meet the needs of the proposed golf course and did not preserve the openness of the Green Belt;
(iii) Whilst the use of Green Belt land for playing golf was capable of being appropriate, the design of the proposed course coupled with the inevitable paraphernalia associated with playing golf (flags, signage and golf buggies) led to the scheme being inappropriate in Green Belt terms.

The Inspector reviewed the recent case law on the interpretation and application of paragraph 89 of the NPPF including Boot v Elmbridge [2017] EWHC 12 (Admin), Turner v SSCLG [2016] EWCA Civ 466, R(oao Samuel Smith Brewery in North Yorkshire CC [2017] EWHC 442 (Admin), Europa Oil and Gas Ltd v SSCLG [2014] EWCA Civ 825 and concluded that the proposed development was appropriate development in the Green Belt finding that:

(i) The terms "need" and "demand" in the context of sporting facilities are on the whole interchangeable, for an appropriate use such as playing golf, there was no need to subject the proposal to a sequential test so as to avoid the Green Belt and the proposal was in any event justified;
(ii)  A golf clubhouse is an intrinsic part of playing golf and paragraph 89 of the NPPF must be given a broader rounded interpretation consistent with the judgment in Europa Oil.  The proposed building was restrained in scale and limited in terms of function to a building intended to serve a course of international standard such that it was highly efficient, practicable and elegantly pared back. In spatial and visual terms the clubhouse would preserve openness;
(iii)  The re-profiling necessary to construct the course would not materially raise the overall land levels and the earthworks would preserve openness;
(iv)  There would be no harmful or incongruous concentrations of tee mound or bunlers and the sparse presence of flags, tee markers and signage would have no credible effect on reducing openness; and
(v) The proposed car park was an inherent functional element of any golf course and the location and landscaping ensured that openness was preserved;
(vi)  "The eye and spirit would remain unrelieved from the prospect of unrelenting urban sprawl and the proposal would therefore preserve the important concept of openness.

Conditional planning permission was granted.  A copy of the decision letter can be found here.

Simon Bird QC appeared at the inquiry for the Appellant Bridgedown Limited.  Stephanie Hall appeared for the London Borough of Barnet.