Draft policies in South Downs National Park plan ‘hold little weight’

Scenery at Harting Down
Scenery at Harting Down
  • A government planning inspector has thrown out a planning appeal on the South Downs Way
  • Fighting the appeal planners relied on Chichester Local Plan which expired in 2006 and emerging national park local plan policies
  • The inspector warned draft policies carried little weight

A Government planning inspector has thrown out an appeal for development close to the South Downs Way, but warned the national park’s draft policies hold ‘little weight’.

Gwilym Powys Jones has dismissed the appeal by Mr and Mrs John Westmacott for permission to demolish an existing house, garage and outbuildings on one side of the South Downs Way together with an agricultural barn and stables on the other side.

He said the couple in effect wanted to reverse the current situation at Downlands.

They wanted to replace the existing Dutch barn with a new home and change the use of land the other side of the South Downs Way to agriculture after removing all the buildings.

Mr Powys Jones said the main issues were the effects of the proposals on the landscape and scenic beauty of the site which stood inside the South Downs National Park, and their sustainability.

He said he saw no objection in local or national policy to the principle of what Mr and Mrs Westmacott proposed. But the decisive factors were the sustainability of the plans and whether or not they conformed with the objective of conversing the landscape of the national park.

The Westmacotts claimed the park had relied on the Chichester Local Plan adopted in 1999 which was ‘time expired’ and its policies should be given ‘limited weight’.

Although the local plan was meant to cover the period to 2006, it remains the development plan for areas inside the national park because there is no South Down National Park Authority Local Plan in place.

Mr Powys Jones said: “The South Downs Local Plan is at an early stage in its preparation and its draft policies are therefore subject to change. “In these circumstances the draft policies attract little weight.”

But he said the government required the highest status of protection to be given to landscape inside national parks “and great weight should be given to conserving their landscape and scenic beauty.”

He said he was not convinced that those advising the appellants on landscape matters and a landscape architect who consulted on the scheme ‘have attributed sufficient weight to these aspects as required.’

He believed the scheme would not mean significant economic or social benefits to sustainability standards.

Although a new house would have improved energy conservation the adverse impacts on the landscape would “significantly and demonstrably outweigh the relatively minor benefits.”

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