A planning inspector has been highly critical of the South Downs National Park Authority in approving plans for a controversial service station near Petersfield.
Plans by ReCharge One A3 Ltd to build an electric car charging station and eco-lodge development next to the A3 Buriton junction have been given the green light by inspector Michael Boniface.
The scheme was rejected by the SDNPA amid fears of “overdevelopment” and the impact it would have on the South Downs landscape and scenic beauty.
But its view was not shared by the inspector as the site off Greenway Lane is dominated by the A3 and does not contribute in any way to the park’s “special landscape”.
Mr Boniface believes the site is ripe for an “innovative” scheme and feels the plan for 60 eco lodges, a farm shop and electric car charging station could benefit the area.
He believes the off-grid development would serve motorists and tourists, with the shop providing an economic benefit by promoting local goods and produce.
The inspector was also unimpressed with SDNPA planners for opting to criticise the applicants’ landscape assessment survey instead of carrying out its own.
“It seems to me the development has been designed to work with the few positive characteristics the site possesses,” wrote the inspector in his 27-page ruling.
“I disagree with the authority that the site is an intact part of the national park landscape that contributes in any meaningful way. The site is dominated by the surrounding road infrastructure and is evidently an island piece of land left over after the introduction of the trunk road.”
He added: “The development would contribute to opportunities for recreation activities and learning experiences in the area.”
The SDNPA said it was disappointed with the decision, which can only by overturned by the High Court. The applicants have called the ReCharge One development an “exciting enterprise” and a “launch pad for visitors to explore the local area” with zero-carbon lodges ideal for overnight or weekly stays.