‘Horse exercise track’ plans on outskirts of Sunderland rejected again after inspector dismisses appeal
Plans for a ‘horse exercise track’ on the outskirts of Sunderland have been dismissed by a government-appointed planning inspector.
This included forming a horse track through partial re-levelling of land and associated fencing and tree planting to screen the site.
A report prepared for councillors at the time said the works were partly retrospective as the application was submitted after some of the work had already taken place.
Planning officers recommended the application for refusal as they said it represented an “inappropriate form of development within the Green Belt. ”
Following debate, this proposal was backed by councillors with the horse exercise track refused in early June 2021.
The applicant Ajay Brickworks later lodged an appeal against the city council’s ruling, with the matter sent to the Planning Inspectorate and inspector Diane Cragg appointed by the Secretary of State to rule on the plans.
After considering all representations, the planning inspector upheld the council’s decision to refuse the horse training track and dismissed the appeal in November 2021.
The main issues in the appeal included impacts on the Green Belt and the effect of the development on the character and appearance of the area.
The inspector also looked at whether the harm to the Green Belt could be outweighed by other considerations to amount to the “very special circumstances” required to justify development on the protected land.
According to the decision report, the appeal site included the formation of separate paddocks for the grazing of horses, a car parking and turning area and an oval shaped horse track.
Supporting statements from the appellant described the development as a “horse training track and as a track for horses to exercise upon.”
The planning inspector’s report set out various impacts to the openness of the Green Belt, including the track’s “scale and form appearing incongruous” against the landscape and the plans “encroaching into the countryside.”
In addition, the planning inspector’s report noted that the “width, scale, form, and design of the horse track provide a significant footprint of permanent development that is prominent to the extent that it results in a visual and spatial loss of openness.”
In terms of character and appearance, the decision report stated the development “does not protect, conserve, and enhance the landscape character of the area.”
Elsewhere, the planning inspector added the plans would have a “very small benefit to outdoor sport, recreation and healthy lifestyles” as it was for “the appellant’s use.”
The planning appeal report goes on to say: “The proposal results in moderate harm to Green Belt openness and some limited harm in respect of countryside encroachment therefore the development is inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
“Having regard to the [National Planning Policy Framework], I give this Green Belt harm substantial weight.
“The proposal also results in some limited harm to the character and appearance of the area. These factors weigh heavily against the proposal.
“In this context, very special circumstances will not exist unless the harm to the Green Belt and any other harm are clearly outweighed by other considerations.
“I have given little weight to the other considerations cited in favour of the development.
“In my view, these would not clearly outweigh the substantial harm to the Green Belt caused by the development’s inappropriateness.”