THE council's decision to refuse permission for a hand car wash due to the “harm” it causes to the “openness of the green belt” has been upheld following an appeal.

The retrospective application, sent to St Helens Council in 2022, was for a change of use to a hand car wash facility to include the retention of structures at Ace of Hearts Garage on Warrington Road, Bold Heath.

Plans said the application site related to an outdoor hand car wash facility, known as RS Hand Car Wash, which was previously used in connection with a former car sales forecourt (HSK Motors Ltd) prior to the existing use.

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The site is positioned on the northern side of the highway, and forms parts of a wider site which compromises the Ace of Hearts Garage, a petrol station, barber’s and an MOT centre. The application site is located within the green belt, and Bold Forest Park.

Bold Parish Council raised an objection to the application.

What the council said

St Helens Star: Town hall planners refused the application in 2023Town hall planners refused the application in 2023 (Image: St Helens Star)

In a report published January 2023, case officer Alex Ball stated: ““I conclude that the development on this site would be inappropriate development which, by definition, is harmful to the green belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances”.

It was also said: “The car wash facility is located within a very prominent gateway into St Helens from Warrington. The car wash facility and associated structures introduce visual clutter in a highly prominent location”.

After the application was refused by the council an appeal was lodged to the Planning Inspectorate.

'Benefits do not outweigh the harm caused'

Upholding the council's decision, planning inspector C Billings said: "I have found that the car wash facility is inappropriate development in the green belt.

"The development has also led to a reduction in the openness of the green belt. The harm to the green belt, by reason of inappropriateness and the loss of openness, attracts substantial weight."

It was added: "The development also has an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the area, and this adds to the harm. I have given careful consideration to the arguments put forward.

"However, the benefits of the facility do not clearly outweigh the totality of the harm arising from inappropriateness and other harm caused."

The inspector noted that an application for a certificate of lawfulness for the parking and storage of motor vehicles at the site, which was approved, "does not relate to the use of the site as a car wash facility" but to the "longer term established existing car garage use", and was afforded "limited weight" in the decision.

It was added "whilst the adjacent car repair garage and petrol filling station are established businesses, the appeal scheme is a complementary use, rather than an expansion of the existing adjacent business operations".

The appeal was dismissed.