The decision was issued this morning.

As adjacent ward member representing the residents at Higher Metcombe, I accompanied the planning inspector, EDDC’s appeals officer and the applicant, on a site inspection last month.

The appellant, Chris Down, comes in quite a bit of criticism from the planning inspector, for either failing to provide important information, or not backing up statements with evidence, or for providing inaccurate information.

Inspector, Pete Drew devotes the first four pages of his decision to querying landownership details, whether the incorrect paperwork has been completed relating to landownership and questioning the tenancy agreement at Hayes Barton – another farm owned by appellant.

On the main issue – harm to the area of outstanding natural beauty, the inspector is uneqivocal. He states that viewpoints from nearby public rights of way are “highly sensitive” and disagrees with the appellant’s description of the views as of “medium sensitivity.” 

Mr Drew points out that the proposed planting is mostly whips, which would take many years to “even begin to ameliorate the impact of the proposed development” …. “and even then it would not be completely successful.”

The planning inspector refers to the national planning policy framework’s paragraph 115 and 116 where it states that “great weight ” should be given to protecting areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Paragraph 37 finds the inspector agreeing with residents that the buildings would “dwarf” Venn Ottery’s church.

Mr Drew does accept the economic argument made by the appellant, as he agrees that the pig farming industry is experiencing difficulties. However, Mr Drew rejects the assertion that the appeal is in the “national interest” for this reason.

He concludes that the economic case does not outweigh the harm that would be caused to the area of outstanding natural beauty. 

Turning to the issue of whether there is evidence that the appellant has made efforts to prove that he has no opportunity to build a large indoor pig unit elsewhere, in par 48 Mr Drew states that the evidence provided “does not come close” to discharging the requirement for an assessment of the cost of, and scope for, developing outside the AONB.

Mr Drew states in par 52 that the “onus is on the appellant to show exceptional circumstances and that the scheme is in the public interest …”

This was not demonstrated.

Photograph:  The stunning valley where the large unit, including slurry lagoon and attenuation tanks, was proposed.