Company News

The Planning System, ‘previously developed land’

December 7, 2023

In 2010 Rickett Architects assumed control of a 2 acre site in the West Midlands.  The site sits on the edge of a settlement but  within the Green Belt. It benefits from a certificate of lawful use for open storage of plant and machinery.  Prior to acquisition the site had been levelled with clean, compacted hardcore.

The certificate of lawful use was unrestricted, that is, the occupier could access and egress the site 24 hours a day from a substandard access onto an A road adjacent to a roundabout, could stack material and containers to any height and any coverage.

Previously developed land, I hear you cry. Notwithstanding impact on the openness, the fallback position is more damaging than a sensitively designed residential scheme.

12 years later, Bromsgrove and Redditch District Council remain unconvinced. Despite an appeal decision that confirmed the status and previously developed, that the fallback position was a material consideration and that the LPA did not have a 5 year land supply (and have failed their Housing Delivery Test – again), a further refusal was issued on the basis of Greenbelt policy.

The NPPF has been amended to crack open the door of greenbelt development, under very specific and tightly controlled circumstances.

What will finally tip the balance in the favour of this site, is that the LPA have manifestly failed to deliver sufficient housing, nor even progress their local plan sufficiently to understand what where their housing delivery will come from.

We have now lodged a detailed planning application for a 100% affordable scheme, to be delivered by our development partner, on behalf of a registered social landlord. The access has been resolved; the landscaping enhanced to minimise impact on the openness of the Green Belt. The irony is we needn’t had bothered, in the light of recent planning appeals, failures of the LPA means openness considerations are now nullified.

The issue here is the quality of Green Belt land.  The perception is that because it is designated as Green Belt, it is of high amenity value. This simply is not always the case. If a site on the edge of a settlement can be bought into sustainable and appropriate use that can be demonstrated is of greater value and less impact that the existing use, Green belt designation should be immaterial.  Of equal merit is the fact that development of this site would remove an uncontrolled non-conforming use from the edge of the village – immediately behind residential properties – and would also remove an unsafe (and, to be frank, a highly dangerous) site access, both to the immediate benefit of the local community.

The missed opportunity on behalf of the LPA , aside from contribution to housing numbers and community gain, is that control over the quality of development is slipping from their grasp, again.

The above was drafted in November 2022, but never published on our knowledge hub. Following further protracted negotiations with the LPA, we succeeded in procuring a recommendation for approval, which was promptly unanimously overturned at committee in November 2023.

We march onwards to appeal and application for costs.