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NPA seeks to standardise appeal arguments after Copythorne mansion defeat

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THE national park authority’s appeals system is set for an overhaul after its refusal to allow an extension to a Copythorne mansion was thrown out by a government inspector.

The move came after the owners of Willow House on Copythorne Common won the right to enlarge the property beyond the permitted 30% because it was already a “substantially large” dwelling.

The application by Mr and Mrs Parker for a 12sqm extension was turned down by the NPA, which has a policy to limit extensions to keep down house prices.

New Forest National Park Authority offices at Lymington town hall
New Forest National Park Authority offices at Lymington town hall

However, government inspector Hollie Nicholls ruled the proposed “modest addition” would not “meaningfully contribute to meeting the objectives of the policy” – despite technically breaking the 30% rule.

The NPA was so outraged by the appeal decision that head of planning Steve Avery announced the authority would take legal advice with a view to challenging it in the High Court. He also asked for a meeting with the Planning Inspectorate at Bristol to discuss the scheme and other issues.

However, following legal advice the NPA has now decided against this and will instead focus on standardising appeal arguments and better documenting the way the 30% rule is applied.

Speaking at a recent NPA planning committee meeting in Brockenhurst, Mr Avery said: “All the other authorities in Hampshire seem to get mixed appeal decisions which are quite inconsistent, and this is something we are taking up with the inspectorate.”

He added that because appeals within the national park often dealt with “the smaller end of things” such as domestic extensions and outbuildings, they were allocated to the most junior planning inspectors.

Mr Avery said: “This is irrespective of the fact we are in one of the most heavily designated areas in the country where there are differences in how we look at things.”

NPA member Richard Taylor said: “I don’t see how you can possibly say that Willow House didn’t disagree with the national park plan as a whole.

“It’s sticking a glazed extension on a big house in an area which is incredibly dark; it’s causing damage to the environment and it’s going against policy. It is absolutely ridiculous.”

Suggesting the application should also have been refused on the grounds of light pollution and damage to the environment, Mr Taylor urged NPA officers to take a “belt and braces” approach to future schemes which contradict policy.

“What can we learn from this? One of the things that strikes me is we need to be doing a better job writing up our reasons for refusal,” he said.

Mr Avery revealed the authority was now looking at introducing more standardised templates for applications proposing extensions beyond the 30% allowed. He added: “We’ve already revised the reasons for refusal on 30% –we brought that in around six months ago.”

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