The Planning Inspector has released her decision following the Public Inquiry held earlier this year. We have summarised the main points below but would add that this is our own interpretation and it may not be definitive. We have not sought legal advice on the interpretation, for example. Those wishing to have more details and draw their own conclusions can find the Inspector’s report in the Documents section of our website.
To remind readers, Haytop Country Park Ltd appealed against two enforcement notices issued by AVBC. Those appeals were the subject of a virtual Public Inquiry held between 26 January and 3 February, when WACAG submitted evidence on behalf of the local community.
Notice 1 concerned the change of use on the site in relation to the siting of residential caravans that are not of the trailer type. The Inspector has decided that this appeal should be allowed and the enforcement notice is therefore quashed. Salient points are:
twin unit lodges are allowed because they they are classed as caravans under the modern definition;
the type of caravan is not restricted by the 1966 planning permission;
up to 30 static caravans may be permanently occupied, with up to 30 more being used for 12 month holiday occupation;
“Only an ‘illustrative’ layout plan accompanied the application so the LDC will simply establish the numerical situation and type of caravans permitted; nothing else is being certified. Whether 60 static caravans could physically be accommodated on the site, whilst still complying with other conditions of the 1966 permission, in particular condition 2 concerning layout, and the TRO (Tree Replacement Order), would be a separate consideration that I am not been [sic] asked to certify.”
(N B. The TRO is being appealed by the site owner so the final outcome is not yet known – WACAG)
The Inspector attached a Development Certificate which states that the siting of up to 60 caravans in the area demarcated on an attached plan is lawful (But see below, where she suggests a maximum of 40)
Notice 2 (Operational Development Notice) deals with the matter of the breach of planning control as alleged in the notice being without planning permission:
(i) Engineering operations and other operations to re-contour the Land, creating a series of terraced platforms.
(ii) The construction of concrete bases, hardstandings, gabion retaining walls, lighting columns and service connections on the Land.
(iii) The construction of a new roadway (approximate location identified by a hatched area on the attached plan) on the Land.
(iv) The construction on the Land of raised wooden decking structures and brick skirting around the caravans.
The requirements of the notice are to:
(i) Reprofile the Land to restore it to its previous level and condition.
(ii) Remove all concrete bases, hardstandings, gabion retaining walls, service connections and lighting columns from the Land.
(iii) Remove the roadway (identified by a hatched area on the attached plan) from the Land.
(Such works are to be carried out within a period of 6 months – WACAG)
This appeal is dismissed and the enforcement notice is upheld because the appellant failed to demonstrate that the “operational developments” were permitted. Some of the Inspector’s remarks are:
Whilst the developer has already been prosecuted in separate proceedings for the felling of some 121 protected trees, the fact that it was necessary for at least some of the trees to be removed to enable the development to occur, cannot be set to one side and ignored when considering the effect of the unauthorised development.
I consider that the baseline position for the land identified in Notice 2 is one reflecting the scope of the 1966 planning permission having regard to the constraints of the appeal site prior to the felling of the protected trees and earth re-profiling.
The numerical baseline position would, I consider, be up to around 40 caravans on the appeal site, of which no more than 30 could be occupied permanently.
Whilst I appreciate a desire to upgrade the site, it seems that little regard has been had to the importance of the site’s location and from where it can be viewed in the context of the WHS buffer zone. The removal of trees, the resultant layout comprising engineered platforms retained by gabion walls and newly constructed tarmac roads with formal kerb edgings which display urbanising characteristics, has paid little regard to the global importance of the WHS and its supporting attributes displayed within the buffer zone within which it sits. It results in an incongruous and urbanised development at odds with the otherwise rural relict landscape.
….. the continuation of this linear form for the full extent of the appeal site adds to the urbanising and harmful appearance of the development. Amongst the wooded surroundings, your eye is drawn to the site when viewed from across the valley. It appears as a harsh and discordant feature in a sensitive landscape setting.
I consider the changes that have occurred as a result of the operational development, impact negatively on the ability to appreciate the relict landscape which is an important attribute of the WHS buffer zone.
I am not satisfied, based on the evidence before me, that the operational development that has occurred preserves the character and appearance of the Alderwasley Conservation Area or setting of Alderwasley Hall. I refer to my assessment of the harm caused by the alignment of the road and regimented layout of bases that corresponds with that alignment in particular. The terraced platforms are an alien feature, clearly at odds with the parkland setting.
The alignment of the road in particular, in combination with the extent of the regimented layout of the bases and loss of trees, draws the eye to the appeal site, which appears as an incongruous feature on the wooded hillside. The result is that the operational development has an adverse effect on the landscape quality on this part of the SLA …..
The TRO cannot be complied with in the appeal site area until such time as the land is restored or an alternative layout is agreed having regard to both the requirement to replace trees and the conditions of the 1966 permission. Whilst discussions between the appellants and the Council should be encouraged, given the harmful effect of the development on the significance of the heritage assets, including the WHS, I do not consider the period of 6 months should be extended; rather any discussions should be progressed as a matter of urgency.
An appeal could be lodged in the High Court against the decisions so the matter may not yet be finally resolved. Whether or not that happens we would suggest that local residents and the Parish Councils should encourage AVBC to impose strict conditions governing the manner in which the site can be developed and used. Those might include, e.g., insistence on the grouping and orientation of the lodges in accordance with the plan associated with the 1968 site licence; ensuring that the replacement trees are planted in the exact locations where the original specimens were illegally felled – and that they are of species and significant size as stipulated by the Council’s Tree Officer; a requirement that all caravans should be of materials and colours to blend with the landscape and so be as unobtrusive as possible; internal roadways should be without kerbs and surfaced with gravel/stone chippings, as in the past; light pollution should be minimised; etc., etc. Such requests/suggestions could be made directly to the Planning Department or via our AV councillors.
We await further developments and will post information accordingly as and when we have it.