‘THE FROGMORE 28’ – PLANNING APPEAL REFUSED
HARMING THE CHARACTER OF THE LANDSCAPE
The Appeal Inspector concluded that the proposed 28 houses, community allotments, highway improvements and associated landscaping. would seriously harm the character and appearance of the Frogmore area, which is in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The developer’s appeal has been turned down.
He concluded that the development would “diminish the perception of a deeply rural rolling patchwork agricultural landscape” and that “This sizeable urban addition would detract from the setting of Frogmore and have a significant adverse effect upon the natural beauty and landscape character of the AONB.”
He also noted, “The agricultural use of the site would be permanently lost and it would erode the rural landscape setting of the village.”
AONB AN ECONOMIC ASSET
The Inspector makes the point that “The high-quality environment within the South Hams is also important to the local economy, not least in attracting visitors and the income this generates to local services and businesses.”
VISUAL IMPACT UNDER-ESTIMATED
The Inspector disagreed with the developer’s Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment that the protected landscape is of High-Medium sensitivity” and confirmed, it’s “High Sensitivity.” He also say’s the developers under-estimated (again!) the landscape and visual impact of the proposed development on the landscape
CONSERVING AND ENHANCING LANDSCAPE
He has reiterated that the National Planning Policy Framework sets out that “great weight should be given to conserving and enhancing the landscape and scenic beauty in the AONB.” The scale and extent of development should be limited and planning permission should be refused for major development other than in exceptional circumstances, and where it can be demonstrated that the development is in the public interest.
THE HARM CAUSED
In this instance, the proposal would involve a substantial extension of a very modest-sized settlement along the lower slopes of an unspoilt river valley (Ria Valley). The number of new buildings and the extent of likely internal roads, footways, hard surfaced areas and street lighting on this sizeable area of land would be of a significant scale in this part of the AONB. It would comprise major development within the AONB. As a consequence, it would harm the distinctive characteristics of the iconic wide, unspoilt and expansive panoramic views include long framed views along combes, river valleys, estuary creeks and green lanes.
EACH CASE IS DIFFERENT
The Council also drew his attention to another appeal decision in respect of 15 dwellings elsewhere in the district which was found to comprise major development. The Inspector points out that “Each case must be determined on its own merits and none of these other decisions set a precedent that must be followed.”
The benefits of the proposal do not amount to exceptional circumstances necessary to justify major development within the AONB and outweigh the environmental harm that the Inspector identified. Whilst there is support for the proposals by some local residents there is much opposition, including strong objections from the Parish Council.
COUNCIL TO CONSERVE AND ENHANCE THE AONB
The Inspector noted “the appellant’s argument that within the Council’s 2017 Strategic Housing and Economic Land Assessment the only available sites for housing at Frogmore are within the AONB and that development in much of the district is constrained by landscape and environmental protection policies. However, the Council has informed me that sites are being brought forward through the eJLP and these have been carefully selected to ensure that the AONB is conserved and enhanced.”
The Inspector says “The appellant, as a local landowner, should be commended for the continuing effort to help meet the housing needs of the local community. It is perhaps unfortunate that a scheme could not be worked up with the support of the Parish Council.” For anyone with detailed knowledge of the evidence presented at the Frogmore wind turbine Public Inquiry, the Inspectors point will ring lots of bells about the ‘openness and transparency’ issues involving the ‘then’ Parish Council, in that case
FOR THE INSPECTORS DECISION IN FULL: