A significant appeal decision has been issued relating to the provision of both EV charging facilities and visitor accommodation in the South Downs National Park.
The proposal was for an integrated development comprising a large-scale off-grid EV charging station (127 bays); 60 visitor accommodation lodges; and over 1300 square metres of commercial space on a site adjacent to the A3 Trunk road. It has been designed by Bill Dunster OBE, the architect most famous for the pioneering BedZed sustainable community in south-west London.
The appellant is ReCharge One: a company established specifically to develop and operate integrated facilities of which this is to be the pioneering model. hgh Consulting were the planning consultants, and Asserson the lawyers. The appellant’s advocates were Charles Banner KC and Robert Williams of Cornerstone Chambers.
The decision is interesting in several respects:
- There is an acknowledged need for more EV charging facilities (described by the inspector as “much-needed”); it is not realistic to expect existing petrol filling stations to meet that need; there has to be a “cultural shift”; and that applies just as much in National Parks as elsewhere
- Whilst conserving the landscape is the top priority in a National Park, the inspector drew an important distinction between development being visible and it representing harm
- Encouraging people to visit for recreation and learning is consistent with the purposes of a National Park, as is generating economic activity that will help support local communities
- It demonstrates that National Parks are not “no-go” areas for substantial development
- Development in National Parks does not need to replicate traditional buildings. The inspector commended the adoption of modern design and materials as being appropriate in this case
- Despite the scale of the proposal, it did not represent “major development”.
Roger Hepher, Executive Director of hgh Consulting said:
“This is a significant decision in two respects. First because of the weight attached by the inspector to the provision of electric vehicle charging facilities; second because it challenges some of the assumptions that are often made about what might or might not be acceptable in National Parks.”