The plans would have seen the total number of pitches at Silver Trees Caravan and Chalet Park reduced from 140 to 117, with 12 static holiday caravans placed in an extension to the park’s current limits.
The Rugeley business also sought retrospective permission to keep five static caravans already on the site, as a previous permission restricted static numbers to 100 but there are currently 105. Permission was granted 20 years ago for up to 40 touring caravan pitches too, but these were set to be removed as part of the latest plans.
But the plans were recommended for refusal by planning officers because of the site’s location.
A report to Wednesday’s planning committee meeting said: “The site is in the West Midlands Green Belt wherein there is a presumption against inappropriate development. Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should only be allowed where very special circumstances have been demonstrated to exist.”
The applicant’s agent said the plans had previously been supported by planning officers however and they were advised in April that they were set to “proceed towards an approval, subject to submitting additional details on landscaping.”
The statement presented to the council added: “It was only at the point of a decision being issued in June of this year, that Cannock Chase planning authority have changed their stance and no longer support the proposals on the basis of the site’s green belt location, despite having clearly been aware of this land designation throughout the process.
“There have been no objections from any statutory consultees, nor from the public, on this application. In fact, the application has been unanimously supported by those who have made comments on the proposals, demonstrating how this holiday park business is supported in the local community.
“The application we have put forward fully acknowledges the green belt location and does not take lightly the restrictions on development in such areas. However, there are unique merits to this case which we believe justify the small-scale expansion of this rural business.
“In particular, there will be 40 extant touring caravan pitches relinquished from the existing park to offset the proposed increase in the number of static caravans. Overall, there will still be fewer caravan pitches on site as a result of this application being approved, than were originally permitted under the planning permission currently in place; this being a reduction from 140 caravan pitches to 117. Although over a slightly extended site area, this is a far less intense use of the land.
“It appears that the council are concerned that the approval of this planning application will set an unwanted precedent for the expansion of other caravan sites in Cannock Chase. However, we do not agree that this will be the case because of the unique circumstances behind this application.
“We would also add that any planning application needs to be considered on its own merits – a business should not be constrained from expanding on the basis that others may or may not follow suit.”
Committee members voted to refuse permission.
Councillor Andrea Muckley said: “I am minded to propose that we go with the officers’ recommendation on the basis that this is green belt. I cannot see any special circumstances for going against the National Planning Policy Framework saying we shouldn’t be building on the green belt.
“I accept what the applicant is saying – he has a great business there. But I can’t see how having 12 more static caravans rather than 40 pitches will add to the economic benefits.”
But Councillor Doug Smith said: “If you’re looking at 40 touring caravans the majority of them will be pulled by Chelsea tractors that will be thundering through the Chase.
“The emissions will be far more harmful to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty than a dozen small cars. The damage caused to the environment by these great big vehicles pulling caravans is substantial.”