An inspector has rejected four houses proposed as ‘village infilling’ in a small settlement in the Staffordshire green belt, ruling it could not be considered a village because it did not have a church.

The appeal related to a parcel of land within a group of 18 homes that form a settlement known as Ridgeway, in the Staffordshire moorlands. The green belt site contained two garages and a trailer. The appellant sought planning permission to replace these with four new two-bedroom homes.
The appellant referred to NPPF paragraph 145(g), which allows “limited infilling in villages” in the green belt. The parties disagreed on whether or not Ridgeway could be considered a village.

Inspector Andrew McGlone consulted the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines a village as “a small group of houses, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town”. It defines hamlets as “a settlement smaller than a village which strictly does not have a church”.

Although a church may once have existed in Ridgeway, McGlone considered, it had since been replaced by a residential dwelling known as Chapel House. On this basis, he ruled, the settlement did not fit the definition of “village”, and the scheme therefore failed the test at NPPF paragraph 145(g).

Considering whether the site could be deemed “previously developed land”, McGlone noted that the existing buildings had mostly blended into the landscape, and no evidence of how they were used had been submitted.

Even if he did accept the site as previously developed, he added, the proposal would still have a greater impact on green belt openness than the existing buildings.
McGlone did not agree with the council’s assessment that the homes would be unsustainably located, noting the NPPF acknowledgement that “opportunities to maximise sustainable transport will vary between urban and rural areas”.

Although the settlement is not served by public transport, he found, it is within cycling distance of various services and facilities, and private car journeys to these would be short.

McGlone decided that the relative absence of harm did not amount to “very special circumstances”, concluding that the scheme would be inappropriate green belt development. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

08 February 2019