We welcome planning appeal decisions upholding protection of the Green Belt

10th February 2022

Good news for the countryside! Two recent planning appeal decisions have confirmed the protected status of the Green Belt.

Here in Hertfordshire, on 25 January the Planning Inspectorate dismissed an appeal for a sand and gravel quarry in the Green Belt at Ellenbrook Fields, on the site of the former Hatfield Aerodrome. Further afield, on 31 January the Planning Inspectorate dismissed an appeal for 800 homes in the Green Belt at Broke Hill golf course, north of Sevenoaks in Kent.

Both decisions reiterate and reinforce the protection from inappropriate development given to the Green Belt in national planning policy.

Ellenbrook Fields

Hatfield Aerodrome was a private airfield linked to the de Havilland aircraft factory in the 1930s. The site was redeveloped in the 1990s with offices, businesses and homes on part of the site, and around 400 acres set aside as grassland.  This is known as Ellenbrook Fields and is a publicly-accessible recreational space popular with walkers, runners, cyclists, bird-watchers and photography groups.

Hertfordshire County Council had rejected a proposal to extract up to eight million tonnes of sand and gravel at Ellenbrook Fields.  The plans included a processing plant, a concrete batching plant and other facilities and would have been in place for 32 years.

In dismissing the developer’s appeal, the Inspector noted the county’s need for sand and gravel. But he made it clear that this did not outweigh the harm that would be caused to the Green Belt.

'I consider that the harm to the Green Belt, along with harm to the character, appearance and amenity of the area, and to pedestrian safety, is not clearly outweighed by the benefits of aggregate extraction.'
John Woolcock, Inspector

He concluded that there were no very special circumstances to justify the development and that it was, therefore contrary to national Green Belt policy.

Full details are available in the Planning Inspectorate decision. Planning Inspectorate decision Ellenbrook Fields land at Hatfield Aerodrome 25 January 2022

Broke Hill golf course

In the Broke Hill case in Kent, the Inspector confirmed that, where planning policies protect areas of particular importance and provide a clear reason for refusing the development, the so-called “tilted balance” presumption in favour of granting planning permission does not apply.

The policies of particular importance related to protection of the Green Belt. This is especially important as Sevenoaks does not have the required five-year supply of housing land nor has it met the government’s housing delivery test for 2021. The inspector also noted a number of benefits of the proposed development including provision of affordable housing, and a variety of educational, recreational, social and environmental benefits. However, he concluded that notwithstanding the lack of five-year housing supply, the housing delivery test, and all of these benefits, they did not outweigh the harm that would be caused to the Green Belt, and were not sufficient to override national and local planning policies protecting the Green Belt.

'The tilted balance is not invoked, however, because the Framework at Paragraph 11d(i) and footnote 7 protects both areas and assets of particular importance, which include the Green Belt, and provides a clear reason to dismiss the appeal.'
Stephen Wilkinson, Inspector

See the Planning Inspectorate decision for further details, particularly the discussion of Planning Balance and Conclusions on pages 21 and 22. Planning Inspectorate decision Broke Hill golf course 31 January 2022

Huge relevance for our local planning authorities in Hertfordshire

Both the Ellenbrook Fields case and the Broke Hill case are hugely relevant for everyone concerned about the Hertfordshire countryside. Both cases should give confidence to our Hertfordshire local authorities that they can, and should, invoke the protection of the Green Belt, as specified in paragraph 11 of the National Planning Policy Framework, as sufficient reason to refuse permission for planning applications seeking to build on Green Belt land. These cases further reinforce our call for a temporary moratorium on granting permission for major development proposals in designated protected areas including the Green Belt, pending the government’s new Planning Bill.

Two walkers in a green grassy field with trees in the background and a blue sky with puffy white clouds
Green Belt countryside Elizabeth Hamilton