Assessing Countryside Sensitivity by its Verdant Appearance

By decision letter dated 28 June 2021 Inspector I A Dyer (BSc (Eng) FCIHT) has refused outline planning permission for residential development (150 units) in Wymondham, South Norfolk, when underscoring the harmful visual impact of the development on the verdant appearance of a sensitive countryside location, within the Wymondham Settled Plateau Farmland area.

In assessing the impact of residential sprawl on the sensitivity and vulnerability of the character of the area, the decision offers a considered appraisal of the significance of verdancy, viewed in context, and in particular, when assessing the open and rural character of the site (DL: paras 9-25). The decision letter serves as a helpful example of a detailed exploration of verdancy in this important context, resonating with many LPA local plan policies which often vary in their articulation of verdancy – a characteristic which is often misunderstood by visual impact appraisals.

Separately, the Inspector found that the loss of a (15 metres) section of 'important' hedgerow (Hedgerows Regulations 1997) required for the creation of a vehicular and pedestrian access, and attendant break to hedge continuity, would compound the unacceptable harm caused to the character and appearance of the site. The decision serves as a further reminder that the characterisation of hedgerow 'importance' is not reliant upon any formal designation within local plan policy and may also withstand a finding of no net biodiversity harm in relation to hedge species (DL: 26-38).

The Decision Letter can be found HERE

Juan Lopez represented the successful local planning authority, South Norfolk District Council.