Paintballing breached planning control

Posted: 26th November 2012

A paintballing operation had the potential to cause harm to the rural character and visual amenities of the open countryside, a judge has ruled in upholding enforcement notices which banned the activity from a site in the Dorset green belt.

CountrysideEast Dorset District Council took enforcement action to prevent paintballing on Bedborough Farm, new Wimborne, on the basis that the activity represented an unauthorised change of use within a Special Area of Conservation. The council also directed removal of various barriers, obstacles and other structures used in the activity and banned use of the land for the purposes of a horse livery.

In challenging the enforcement notices, the operators of the paintball business argued, inter alia, that a government planning inspector who upheld them after a public inquiry had misinterpreted green belt policy in holding that that the use of land for outdoor recreation and the provision of essential facilities for such uses had to preserve openness in order to be appropriate development. It was submitted that the inspector’s misinterpretation of Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 (PPG2) tainted her decision that the visual impact of the activity was unacceptable.

Dismissing the appeal, the High Court rejected arguments that, on a correct interpretation of PPG2, outdoor sport, recreation activities and cemeteries should be deemed to preserve openness. The construction contended for would have the effect of restricting the ability of planning authorities to carry out assessments of whether such activities in fact preserve openness on a case-by-case basis. There was, the court ruled, nothing irrational in the inspector’s conclusion that the paintballing was unlawful by reason of its harmful impact on the appearance and rural character of the area.