A recent High Court decision has helped define what is meant by ‘any other harm’ in assessing impacts on Green Belt.
Paragraph 88 of the National planning Policy Framework states:
‘When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations’
The High Court decision provides some clarity on what the effect of the phrase ‘any other harm’ should be. It is clear from the decision that the term should not be construed as meaning that all individual considerations should be considered together as part of a cumulative consideration of harm, particularly if individually the evaluation of harm is set at a lower level than prescribed for refusal in the NPPF. The approach set out by the claimant and accepted in the judgement was that ‘Any other harm’ can only mean harm to the Green Belt. The correct approach is to go through the harm which is caused when a development is inappropriate in the Green Belt and add to that actual harm to the Green Belt. Against that have to be placed the positive factors in favour of the development before reaching a conclusion as to whether very special circumstances have been demonstrated to clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt. Consideration of whether other impacts such as noise or impacts on cultural heritage assets are sufficient to warrant refusal should then follow and be guided by the thresholds in the NPPF.
This is a helpful judgement in its own right in terms of interpretation of the paragraph 88 of the NPPF. Additionally, this judgement indicates that the NPPF differs from previous guidance in setting clearer pass/fail assessment for each potential issue facing a proposal and these must be applied individually and not cumulatively. In essence, decision makers should not aggregate a series of ‘just passed’ into some sort of cumulative fail which is both logical and helpful.