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Development Management
East Herts Council
Pegs Lane
SG13 8EQ 4 September 2020
Your ref: 3/20/1374/FUL – Proposed removal of stables and change in land levels to allow for the erection of 1 dwelling submerged into ground with associated access, parking and landscaping works to include the creation of water features and landscaped terrace.

I am writing on behalf of the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation to object to this application.

The site is within the Green Belt and, as para 143 of the NPPF makes clear, inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances. Para 145 then sets out some limited exceptions to the general prohibition on development and the applicant relies on para 145 (g) of the NPPF (partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed land) as a permitted exception. It is therefore important to identify what the established use of the site is.

Unfortunately, from the correspondence quoted in the applicant’s planning statement, there seems to be room for debate about what the status is, whether it applies to the whole of the site or whether it has changed over time. The site has three small stables at one end, one of which seems to have been granted planning permission in 1989, but only as an extension to pre-existing stables which do not appear to have been granted planning permission. The inference therefore is that the original stables were erected without planning permission which would have been permissible if they were agricultural buildings. If that is the case, then the development site cannot be treated as previously developed land. If the 1989 planning permission led to a change of use, then, as the case officer responding on the second occasion pointed out, if the stables are no longer in use, the site does not become redundant but reverts to its previous use as agricultural land. Moreover, since the site is divided between the stables area and a far larger area of paddocks, it may well be the case that the larger area has always been agricultural land.

Taking a common sense view, the proposed development is entirely out of scale with anything that might previously have been regarded as developed land and most of the site has never been developed. It does not appear to fall within the permitted exceptions listed in para 145 of the NPPF and would be far in excess of any previous development of the site if the present buildings do qualify as development. It should therefore be treated as inappropriate development which should not be approved except in very special circumstances.

The application also addresses the issue of very special circumstances (which the NPPF does not attempt to define). However, the whole of that part of the application has been redacted. We infer from other correspondence that the very special circumstances which have been adduced concern the special health requirements of the applicant or a family member. We do not know what these are, but it must surely be the case that those needs could be met by a similar development at another location, not within the Green Belt. Moreover, we do not think these circumstances, however special they are for the family, should be applicable to the interpretation of planning law and the Green Belt. Inevitably, the family circumstances will be of a time limited duration, but the development proposed will be permanent, or at least, remain in place for long after any very special circumstances have ceased to exist. In our view, for any permission to be granted on the basis of very special circumstances, those circumstances should be of a similar duration to that of the development, and not a temporary phenomenon which leads to a permanent change of use.

We hope therefore that you will refuse to grant permission for this application.

Yours faithfully

John Rhodes