On 1 August 2013, the Planning Inspectorate overturned a decision of a local authority and granted a temporary planning permission for a waste storage facility in Billingshurst, West Sussex. The temporary permission will allow for the loading, unloading and storage of waste containers on land adjacent to a large industrial park subject to a number of planning conditions.
The application for permission was first made in February 2012, but was dismissed by Horsham District Council in May 2012. Following this, an appeal was lodged by Mr Nick Pope and Rosier Business Park Limited on behalf of Acorn Plus Waste Recycling Service under powers contained in s.78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
The appeal was heard by the Planning Inspector, who held a site visit and hearing on 3 June 2013 before issuing her decision to overturn the council’s refusal and to grant planning permission.
Main issues In finding in favour of the appellant, the Inspector identified two main issues.
Whether the new facility would have a detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the surrounding countryside.
Whether the relevant planning policies supported the inclusion of the appeal development within a rural location.
Issue 1: character and appearance
The appeal site is located on the western end of the Rosier Business Park, which lies to the east of Billingshurst. Despite being a significant-sized development, the business park is located within a rural setting and is some distance from the nearest large-scale residential settlement.
A range of businesses are based on the park, including vehicle hire companies, architectural salvage companies and photography studios. Access to and from the site is via the A272, which provides good access for heavy goods vehicles visiting businesses on site.
Despite the size and nature of the business park, it is not designated in the Horsham District Local Development Framework Core Strategy 2007 (the Core Strategy) as being an employment site, and the council indicated that it has no intention of designating it as such in the foreseeable future.
In considering the potential impact of the appeal development, the Inspector noted that the permission sought was of limited scope and would solely allow the loading, unloading and storage of waste containers. The appeal site is currently used by a company called Acorn Plus Waste Recycling Service in connection with a waste collection business. The new permission would allow waste to be more effectively stored and transported on and off site by the company as necessary.
In emphasising the limited nature of the permission, the appellants stated that the appeal facility would not involve any new structures or development and that there would not be any employees based on site. Furthermore, the appeal site already had an area of hardstanding on which containers could be placed, so no further construction work would be required.
While the appellants conceded that the presence of the storage containers on site could be viewed as new temporary structures, they indicated that it was expected that a maximum of six containers would be stored on site at any one time.
The appellants also emphasised that the appeal site was close to a large hedgerow and grouping of trees, which would help to provide natural cover for the containers on site.
The Inspector stated that the site visit had supported this contention and that it was unlikely that the containers would be easily viewed from outside the site. The Inspector did note that there is a train line to the south of the appeal site, but concluded that it would be difficult for train passengers to see the storage facility when passing and that the presence of the containers would not diminish any views from the train.
The Inspector also drew attention to policy CP1 of the Core Strategy and policy DC9 of the Horsham District Local Development Framework: General Development Control Policies 2007 (the “DCP”). These require new developments to, among other things, maintain the character of the surrounding area, preserve existing vegetation and landscaping and avoid causing unacceptable harm to users or residents of neighbouring properties.
In assessing the appeal development in light of these requirements, the Inspector stated that the new use had to be viewed in conjunction with the existing industrial use of the business park. Given the small-scale nature of the appeal proposal, particularly considered against the size of the business park, the Inspector held that the appeal proposal would not be out of keeping with the existing character of the surrounding area.
With regard to the development’s impact on the appearance of the area, the Inspector emphasised again the limited views of the appeal site from outside of the park and the proposed retention of all existing landscaping.
On this basis, the Inspector held that the appeal proposal met the requirements of the local planning policies and found in favour of the appellants on the first issue.
Issue 2: location of the development
Turning to consider the second issue, the appellants informed the Inspector that Acorn Plus Waste Recycling Service currently transports waste for disposal from its two depots in Storrington and Horsham to a landfill site in Burgess Hill or a facility in Kent. This means that waste is often transported over large distances in order for it to be properly disposed of.
By contrast, the appeal site would be conveniently located between the two depots and the two disposal sites, meaning that waste collected by the company could be stored closer to the disposal sites. This would reduce transport costs, cut down on carbon emissions and meet the objective of treating waste closer to its source.
In reviewing this argument, the Inspector noted that there were two main local policies to consider when assessing developments such as this within the countryside. The first of these is policy DC1 of the DCP. This provides for two elements that must be satisfied by any new development.
The first element is that it should enable the disposal of the waste, which the Inspector held was clearly the case here. The second element is that the proposed development must be essential to, or require, a countryside location. On this point, the Inspector held that it had not been shown that the new storage facility was integrally linked to the countryside or that it could not be accommodated within a more urban setting. As such, the Inspector held that this element of policy DC1 was not satisfied.
However, the Inspector then turned to review the second key policy to the appeal, policy DC25 of the DCP. This provides support for developments within the countryside where it can be shown that the development would provide economic benefits or meet an identifiable need in the local economy.
Although the new facility would be small, the Inspector stated that she was of the view that the development would provide economic benefits for the local rural economy and would go some way to meeting the waste disposal needs of the surrounding community. As such, the appeal proposal would be in keeping with the requirements of this policy.
In assessing the conflicting support of the relevant local policies, the Inspector emphasised the importance of limiting commercial developments that encroach on the countryside outside of built-up areas. However, she also stressed that the permission sought was temporary in nature with a maximum duration of three years.
The appellants had supported their case for a temporary permission by indicating that this period of time would enable Acorn Plus Waste Recycling Service to continue meeting its existing business demand while also affording time for it to find a more suitable location within an urban setting and/or within a designated employment zone.
In the Inspector’s view, the temporary nature of the permission sought, coupled with the fact that no built developments would be required, justified finding the policy balance in favour of the appellants.
The Inspector therefore concluded in favour of the appellants on the second issue.
Having found in favour of the appellants on both issues, the Inspector stated that planning permission would be granted in favour of Acorn Plus Waste Recycling Service. However, she indicated that the permission would be subject to a number of conditions designed to ensure that the new development would not have an adverse impact on the surrounding environment. In deciding which conditions to impose, the Inspector took into account the requirements of Circular 11/95 — The Use of Conditions in Planning Permissions and the suggested model conditions. Having reviewed these, she imposed the following four conditions.
The planning permission is valid for a period limited to three years from the date of the appeal decision.
The permitted development can only be conducted by Acorn Plus Waste Recycling Service and would not run with the land.
The appeal site can only be used for the loading, unloading or storage of waste containers.
The containers must not be stacked when on site.
For further information on the decision, see The Planning Inspectorate .
Last reviewed 4 October 2013