According to various sources, landscape is being increasingly used as a reason for refusal by local planning authorities, with the term ‘valued landscape’ becoming a significant feature in planning decision making.
The phrase ‘valued landscape’ was introduced in March 2012 with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which refers to “protecting and enhancing valued landscapes”. However, the NPPF does not actually define valued landscapes.
Since being included in the NPPF, there has been a range of high-profile cases surrounding valued landscapes and applications for their development.
In October 2018, an appeal concluded that Charnwood Borough Council was justified in refusing planning permission for 66 homes near the Leicestershire village of Rearsby. The Planning Inspector did not appear to find the new wording in the NPPF to mean that only locally or nationally designated landscapes can be valued. They ruled that, because a landscape is not statutorily protected like an area of national beauty or a national park, it does not preclude it from being valued.
Another example includes the appeal made by Story Homes against the decision of Durham County Council to refuse planning permission for a development of 149 houses in County Durham in August 2016. This case demonstrated that, for land to be valued, it needed to be more than just appreciated to elevate it above the ordinary. Story Homes lost the appeal and the application was refused.
Not all cases of valued landscapes are a success story. An early precedent was set in 2014 when a local council challenged the inspector’s decision to grant permission for 150 homes in the Cotswolds. The high court judge agreed with the inspector’s conclusion, agreeing that in order to be valued the site needed to demonstrate remarkable physical attributes rather than just being popular. Overall, nearly 60% of appeals that raised valued landscapes between 2012 and 2018 were dismissed and permission was granted.
Overall, the inclusion of protection for valued landscapes in the NPPF has led to some interesting cases for planning. From a developer’s perspective, it means that rural projects could become more difficult when applying for planning permission. For those looking to object, it gives extra protection to land they consider as valuable, though it is not always a guarantee that permission will be refused.