The Court of Appeal, in a recent decision in relation to development within a Green Wedge in Liverpool, included some valuable guidance on considering the impact of development within a designated Gap.
Much of the Appeal centred around the exact wording of the Gap policy, and this will of course differ between Councils. Gaps are also often designated to prevent neighbouring settlements from merging. However, in this case, part of the Appeal related to the consideration of the effects of the proposed development on the ‘predominantly open character’ of the Green Wedge – a concept also found when considering the effects of development in the Green Belt.
Lady Justice Rafferty, along with Lord Justices Lindblom and Newey, in their decision on the Appeal, noted that:
‘The “predominantly open character” of a Green Wedge is itself something for the decision-maker to judge.’
Furthermore, quite sensibly, they also noted that:
‘What is required is a realistic assessment of the impact that this development, on this site, and in its own surroundings, will have on the “the predominantly open character” of the Green Wedge. Whether that impact is acceptable, or not, is for the city council to judge, as decision-maker.’
In the first instance, this judgement makes it very clear that there is not necessarily a blanket ban on development within a Gap, but that a ‘realistic assessment of the impacts’ needs to be undertaken. While this case was concerned with the impacts on the openness of the Gap, other impacts depending on policy wording, such as on the separation of settlement or their individual characters, will clearly also need to be realistically assessed.
CSA have many years’ experience in providing clients with valuable initial landscape advice in relation to the potential to develop within Gaps and Wedges. By designing a scheme sensitively from the outset, the effects of the proposed development on a Gap will already be reduced. We have helped many of our clients over the years to gain planning permission for development within Gaps and Wedges, as well as in instances where a Council allege harm to the separation of settlements (where no Gap policies exist or apply). We do this by undertaking a thorough and realistic assessment of the effects, in order to not only give our clients and the Council the best advice, but also to produce and give robust evidence at appeal and at Public Inquiries. CSA have a proud record of winning Gap arguments at appeal, and we relish producing strong evidence to clarify the potential effects of developments.
Whilst, sadly, we are ultimately unable to control the decision-maker’s judgement on the impact of the effects of a development on a Gap, we are able to put our clients in the best possible position, by giving early advice, and by undertaking realistic assessments which stand up to scrutiny.
If you have a potential development site within a Gap or a Wedge, or are considering redevelopment within the Green Belt where openness may be an issue, or any other specific landscape concerns, contact Clive Self or Silke Gruner at CSA Environmental for a chat to see how we can help.
R on the Application of Liverpool Open and Green Spaces Community Interest Company v Liverpool City Council. Case Number: C1/2019/0388
(and the link is https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2020/861.html&query=(C1/2019/0388)