An appeal against planning refusal for an aviation museum to be built on Green Belt land near Gatwick Airport has been dismissed.
The Independent Inspector confirmed the decision of Mole Valley District Council to turn down planning permission for the scheme at Vallance By-Ways, Lowfield Heath Road, Charlwood.
The appeal was made by Gatwick Aviation Museum Limited, who were seeking permission for two buildings to be built and used as a museum for openly displayed aircraft and seed units.
The plan also sought permission for existing site buildings at Vallance By-Ways to be demolished, open-air leisure space to be created with associated landscaping and planting, and revised access from Lowfield Heath Road.
The museum plan sought to give a home under cover to a collection of aircraft which the Inspector Paul Crysell said were of “historic interest.”
In his report he stated: “I accept the aircraft are of historic interest and recognise the benefits the development would deliver.
“It is evident that aviation groups and individuals in many parts of the country support the scheme, while the exhibits have considerable value as an educational resource.”
But the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) wrote to planners at Mole Valley District Council objecting to the scheme on a range of issues.
And Mole Valley District Council’s planners’ decision to give the scheme the thumbs-down was confirmed by Mr Crysell, echoing the strong arguments and planning measures in place to protect Green Belt land.
He noted points including that according to figures before him, the site floorspace would increase by about 45% and the volume by more than three times, under the plan, stating: “The buildings would be materially larger than those they replaced, the substantial increase in their size and mass meaning they would detract from the openness of the Green Belt, contrary to the objectives set out in the Planning Framework.
“Consequently, the proposal would result in inappropriate development in the Green Belt.”
Later in his report, Mr Crysell stated: “Permitting the development, however, would see the replacement of buildings which are not unduly conspicuous by taller ones of far greater mass.
“They would occupy parts of the site which are currently open and would be far more noticeable. Extending further into the site they would encroach into the countryside, despite the appellant’s claim to the contrary.”
He continued: “I consider this would be particularly damaging given the location of the site.
“Previous inspectors have concluded that it is in a vulnerable fringe of the Green Belt where it contributes to the setting of both Gatwick Airport and Charlwood and has a vitally important role in maintaining the vulnerable gap between the two.
“It forms part of the wider rural landscape which remains relatively unspoilt and continues, as my colleague said two decades ago, to merit protection.”
Concluding his report, the Inspector stated: “I have taken the numerous representations to the development into account.
“Those supporting the scheme include aviation groups, education institutions and individuals who identify a number of factors in favour of the proposal.
“The importance of the collection and the threat to it should the proposal fail is clearly of concern to many.
“I do not discount the extent of this support but it does not justify ignoring well- established principles to safeguard the Green Belt.”