New home and car park next to historic Rother church dismissed at appeal

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A planning inspector has refused an appeal connected to plans to build a new car park for a Grade II* listed church. 

In a decision notice published last Friday (February 11), a planning inspector dismissed an appeal surrounding a development connected to St Mary Magdalen Church in Whatlington.

The proposal was for a new car park to built off of Whatlington Road to serve the church, which would have been funded through the construction of a residential property on the same site. 

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The original application had been refused by a Rother District Council planning committee in June 2020, on the grounds it would have a negative impact on both the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the listed church. 

St Mary Magdalene Church in WhatlingtonSt Mary Magdalene Church in Whatlington
St Mary Magdalene Church in Whatlington

The applicant disagreed with this assessment, however, lodging an appeal for a second opinion. The committee’s decision also saw criticism from a number of supporters and church parishioners, who argued the benefits of the proposal would outweigh its drawbacks. 

However, the planning inspector took the same view as councillors, concluding that the proposals would have an unacceptable impact on the AONB and listed church. 

In their decision notice, the inspector wrote: “This [development] would introduce highly urbanising features into what is currently not previously developed land. 

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“The appearance of the agricultural field would change in two ways: firstly from being open and un-developed to potentially having a four plus bedroom dwelling with associated domestic paraphernalia, and secondly the creation of an area of hardstanding in order to form 30 car parking spaces and associated turning or manoeuvring areas.

“I note that the visibility of the appeal site and the development proposed from the nearby footpaths would ‘generally be screened from view from a short distance’ and long-term views interrupted by intervening vegetation.

“However, the proposal would nonetheless introduce built development would represent a new encroachment of built form into the countryside. 

“This would be at odds with the intrinsic character and beauty of the field to the rural character of the area.” 

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The inspector also noted the views of supporters, but said they did not provide justification for the proposed development. 

For further details see application reference RR/2019/2758/P on the Rother District Council website.

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