Secretary of State Grants consent for new dwellings in the Oxford Greenbelt

FPCR are delighted to have advised Oxford Brooks University on the application for the Wheatley Campus. Working with Chris Young QC and Avison Young, FPCR provided the masterplanning , landscape and arboricultural advice. The Wheatley Campus is proposed for redevelopment and had an allocation for at least 300 dwellings in the emerging South Oxfordshire Local Plan. The site is currently in the Green Belt, protected by TPO and includes a range of buildings including an 11 storey tower block. Heritage sensitivities include a moated site scheduled monument in the site and a number of listed buildings within the adjacent Holton Park. The scheme was refused consent by the council and taken to appeal. Gary Holliday provided expert evidence at the appeal on Green Belt Openness and Landscape.

Inspector Young noted in his report; “Overall, the proposed dwellings would be smaller in scale than the current educational buildings and would be more appropriate to a countryside edge location. Notwithstanding the increased footprint and encroachment into areas that are currently open, the Masterplan and photomontages demonstrate that the spacing and scale of the dwellings would be appropriate to the site’s rural setting and clearly preferably to the existing scenario. All the housing especially that in the south-west quadrant would be visually contained with little impact on the wider landscape. The development would read as a logical northern extension to Wheatley albeit separated from it by the A40. There would be a significant visual benefit from the removal of the existing buildings. These benefits along with on-site mitigation in the form of additional planting and landscaping and large areas of open space would be in my view be sufficient to secure an overall net-gain in landscape and visual terms over the wider area.” The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector on this.

In terms of the Green Belt, the SoS agreed with the inspector that much, but not all of the site should be considered previously developed land (PDL). For the part of the site that was not PDL, the SoS concluded the “harm arising from that part of the development which would be inappropriate must be afforded substantial weight, in line with the Framework.” The SoS went on to examine “other considerations” and concluded “ that the significant visual benefit to openness over a wide area of the South Oxfordshire Green Belt resulting from the removal of the tower and other large, unsightly structures on the site is a consideration that carries very substantial weight.”

The SoS examined a range of other considerations but concluded “that the overall benefit to the openness of the Green Belt alone would be enough to outweigh the harm by reason of inappropriateness. Like the Inspector.., he considers that the ‘other considerations’ …clearly outweigh the ‘definitional harm’ to the Green Belt by virtue of inappropriateness identified in this case. He therefore concludes that very special circumstances exist, which would justify development in the Green Belt

The full decision can be read here.