Haskins garden centre is set to expand despite fears over Green Belt land

Plans to refurbish a Haskins garden centre have been given the go-ahead despite fears over the effect on green belt land.

An application was made for the Haskins Snowhill Plant and Garden Centre in Copthorne to demolish existing buildings, erect new buildings and enlarge the car park.

An additional 100 car parking spaces are proposed in place of the existing dwelling at Oakleigh House to the north while plans for new access to the site from Newchapel Road were also submitted.

A spokesman for Haskins said the plans for the new centre will offer customers a “significantly improved shopping and dining experience”.

“The new centre will offer customers a significantly improved shopping and dining experience with all products and facilities contained within one building.

“In addition to wider aisles and improved circulation within the centre, the new product ranges will be better displayed due to better lighting and an extended ceiling.

“The proposed development will provide more covered space for our customers and a larger restaurant. The plant department will be re-orientated to the South which will be better for our plants and customers.

“Not only will it secure the current level of employment it will provide additional jobs for 80 people.”

A planning committee meeting held on September 7 concluded the proposals, which concern a Green Belt site, should be permitted as long as a number of special conditions are met

The decision has now been passed on to the Secretary of State for approval, according to Tandridge District Council.

Tandridge District Council planners, in a statement submitted with the application, said: “The site is located in the Metropolitan Green Belt, where inappropriate development, which is by definition harmful, is unacceptable unless it is justified by very special circumstances.

“Policy DP13 allows for the replacement of buildings within the Green Belt provided that they would be in the same use of the building it is replacing, is not be materially larger than the building it is replacing, and is sited on or in close proximity of the position of the building it is replacing (except where an alternative siting within the curtilage demonstrably improves the openness of the Green Belt).”

The planning committee concluded that while the development constitutes an “inappropriate development”, very special circumstances exist which outweigh the harm.

“Whilst the scheme would constitute inappropriate development as it would be materially larger than the existing buildings and the extension of the car park would result in encroachment into the countryside, nevertheless it is judged that very special circumstances exist to outweigh this harm,” the statement added.

“The proposal would not result in significant harm to the amenities of neighbouring properties and would respect the character and appearance of the area.

“No objection is raised in relation to highway safety and the scheme is otherwise considered to comply with the requirements of the policies contained within the Local Plan and Core Strategy.

“It is therefore recommended that permission be granted subject to conditions.”

Conditions specified in the document include , amongst other things, adhering to the submitted planning application and the provision of a pedestrian and cycle link.

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