22nd May 2023
Landowners facing hurdles in their attempts to diversify should take note of a recent successful appeal to turn farmland to a dog exercise paddock. Here’s what you need to know:
The initial application, proposing a change of use of land in the Green Belt from agriculture to a dog exercise area with an associated access track and parking, went to appeal after it was refused by Stafford Borough Council in November 2022.
Among the reasons for refusal, the council contested that the scheme would have a detrimental impact on an AONB and would be introducing urbanised features that would result in a loss of integrity to the character of the landscape.
This was contested in the appeal, with the site lying on the edge of a built-up area, forming part of an open field enclosed by a hedge. In the inspector’s opinion, the appeal scheme would fall within the exceptions set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for outdoor recreation and would not, therefore, be inappropriate development in the green belt.
With limited physical changes to the appeal site ensuring it retained its open and rural character, the inspector was satisfied that the scheme would preserve the openness of the green belt, would not conflict with the purposes of including land within it, and would not harm the landscape of the wider area including the scenic beauty of the AONB.
Subject to a condition exceptionally removing permitted development rights to prevent further subdivision of the field, the inspector allowed the appeal.
One of the most obvious challenges to the success of this scheme was its location in the Green Belt and AONB both of which are heavily protected landscapes.
Other common complaints surrounding farm diversification projects are usually the likes of traffic and parking concerns as well as more explicit environmental harm.
The application was controversial locally, dividing opinion among residents, with two thirds of public responses having opposed the proposals citing the visual impacts as well as traffic, parking and environmental concerns in their reasoning.
This case useful reminder of how even relatively low impact development in rural areas can face significant planning hurdles, and that getting robust professional advice early in the process can be beneficial in ensuring its success.
Thinking ahead can help avoid the common obstacles before they appear on the horizon and you should look to consider your applications weaknesses early on to identify and mitigate the impact of the proposed development. Be sure to also check what restrictions are already in place on the land and surrounding area.
Comprehensive engagement with the various stakeholders in your application is another key route to success. Whether that is working with council officers to seek pre-application guidance or communicating your plans to neighbours and those in the surrounding community to help them understand the proposals and get any potential arguments against the scheme on the radar early on will pay dividends in the long run.
The Thrings Agriculture and Planning & Environment teams have been chosen by the NFU to act for its members in more counties than any other firm. Find out more about how we can support farmers, food producers and rural communities on our Information for Farmers page.