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Agenda item

20/00381/FUL - Part Parcel 3359, Bushcombe Lane, Woodmancote

PROPOSAL: Erection of a single detached dwelling (revised design).




40.32        The application was for the erection of a single detached dwelling (revised design).

40.33        The Planning Officer advised that the site related to a parcel of land at Yew Tree Farm which was located along Bushcombe Lane, Woodmancote. There were dwellings to the east of the site and Yew Tree Farm was to the south west. The site was a paddock but it now had the appearance of mowed grass with substantial planting around it. In addition, the site lay within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and within 50 metres of listed buildings; Yew Tree Barn and Stable and Brook Cottage. Sites along Bushcombe Lane had been considered by Planning Inspectors to be within the built up area of the village and, given there was existing and permitted development around it, the site was considered as infilling within the built up area of the village. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) clarified that planning policies for housing would be judged out of date where the local planning authority could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing and NPPF Paragraph 11 stated that, where policies were out of date, permission should be granted unless policies within the framework that protected assets of particular importance provided a clear reason for refusing the development and any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole. As the site lay within the Cotswold AONB a judgement must be made as to whether the proposal would protect the AONB and whether any impacts provided a clear justification for refusing permission. The site was screened from development on three sides and there were public footpaths to the north and east. Whilst the site would be visible in part from those public rights of way and Butts Lane the proposal would be viewed against the background of existing development. Members were shown a site visit video which showed views from those vantage points. The views to the Cotswold escarpment to the north were no longer visible from Bushcombe Lane due to substantial planting and an unauthorised high boundary fence. The view from Butts Lane was of open fields to the north and a ribbon form of development along Bushcombe Lane. The properties in Bushcombe Lane were set in mature gardens with occasional glimpses of the open countryside beyond. The visual impact of the development from distant views would not be considered prominent or substantial due to its relationship with existing and approved development. The existing boundary treatment on Bushcombe Lane was not considered appropriate to the character of the area and a landscaping condition was recommended for appropriate landscaping and boundary treatment to be agreed. The design of the dwelling was considered acceptable in terms of size, scale, design and character of the area. The Conservation Officer considered the amended design was more in keeping with the Cotswold vernacular and had no objection in terms of design subject to conditions for details of windows and doors and samples of materials. The proposal was not considered to have undue impacts in terms of neighbour amenity. It was considered the development would not have a negative impact on the setting of the listed buildings but there was evidence of Mesolithic, Roman and Medieval activity in close proximity to the site. Therefore, the applicant had agreed to a pre-commencement condition of a programme of archaeological works. The site was in flood zone 1 and a drainage statement had been submitted showing that surface water would be disposed of via a sustainable drainage system and foul drainage to the main sewer. The site had an existing access onto Bushcombe Lane and there was no objection from the Highways Authority in terms of highway safety. Conditions were recommended for access visibility splays, sitting of gates, cycle storage and electric charging points. The amended site plan indicated within the visibility splay the boundary treatment would be reduced below 0.6 metres and canopies of existing trees would be maintained at a minimum height of 2 metres. The consideration of the material planning issues on the application were finely balanced however, it was considered there would be limited harm to the AONB that would not, in this instance, provide a clear reason for refusal, therefore, the tilted balance was engaged. The benefits were a single market dwelling in a sustainable location with a modest contribution to the economy. Harm to the Cotswold AONB would be limited due to the setting of the nearby development and the design of the proposed development responded to the site’s constraints and the context. Given the Council’s current land supply shortfall, and in light of the above, it was considered that there would not be any adverse impacts that would significantly or demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the scheme. The proposal was considered to represent sustainable development and the application was therefore recommended for permit.

40.34        The Chair invited the representative from Woodmancote Parish Council to address the Committee. The representative explained that he felt this was a finely balanced and marginal recommendation from the Planning Officer that was influenced by the fact that neither the Local Plan nor the Neighbourhood Development Plan had been adopted and Tewkesbury Borough Council did not currently have a five-year housing supply; fortunately those constraints did not apply to the Planning Committee and he had three points to make in support of the application being refused. The first, and most important, point was that the site was outside the residential boundary of Woodmancote Village as per RES2 in the emerging Tewkesbury Borough Plan; the Council had won three appeals in Woodmancote relating to virgin AONB land in 2020 alone; one of which related to the field on the other side of Yew Tree Farm, adjacent to Woodmancote Village but not in it. Another appeal related to land at Cleeve Hill, when that Inspector had ruled that Cleeve Hill Village was located between Post Office Lane and Stockwell Lane and “infill” did not apply to agricultural gaps in sporadic ribbon development along roads near that village. This proposal was no different and therefore conflicted with the adopted Joint Core Strategy (JCS). Secondly, the applicant had a long history of applications, appeals and enforcement notices. The last application for a single dwelling on the site went to appeal in 2000 and the Inspector had described very accurately the harm to the AONB which was attached in full to the speaker’s speech. In essence, the Inspector had recognised that a house on this plot would continue the pattern of development but it would severely erode an important agricultural “gap” that separated the village from the countryside and that delineation would be lost. The leylandii, illegal fence and close mowed paddock were attempts to present a more residential curtilage which should have also required planning permission. The JCS and Paragraph 172 of the NPPF required application and great weight to be given to the strategic guidelines set out by the Cotswold AONB Management Plan. There were two key points which the speaker wished to bring to the attention of the Committee; it was essential to maintain the open, dramatic and sparsely settled character of the escarpment; and it was necessary to avoid development that would intrude negatively into the landscape and could not be successfully mitigated, for example, extensions to settlements onto the escarpment. The speaker indicated that his final point was of a technical nature; Paragraph 11d of the NPPF which the Planning Officer referred to as there being a presumption in favour of development, did not apply in respect of AONB land provided harm could be demonstrated as the Inspector had found in 2000. Finally, if after all due consideration, Members really thought the AONB gap should be sacrificed, then the speaker urged the Committee not to grant permission for this design as it made the minimum effort to satisfy the Cotswold Vernacular, it did not conserve and enhance the Cotswolds AONB and it did not reduce flood risk or increase biodiversity. In short, he felt the application was weak on every front.

40.35        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to make his submission. He explained that the site fell on the edge of the village of Woodmancote, which was one of 12 designated ‘Service Villages’ in the JCS. The Service Villages formed the focal point for meeting the housing needs of the Borough over the plan period. Service Villages were those that benefited from a number of primary and secondary facilities, as was the case with Woodmancote, which had access to schools, shops and a range of other community facilities in close proximity. All of those villages would be required to do their bit in meeting the housing needs of the Borough. The Officer report correctly explained that the site fell within a linear swathe of housing along Bushcombe Lane and could reasonably be considered to fall within the village. New housing had been permitted directly opposite and further up Bushcombe Lane, where Appeal Inspectors had confirmed that the location was within the village. The JCS supported infilling within the confines of villages and there could be no doubt that this site met that definition. The applicant had worked with Officers to provide a design that was appropriate to its AONB setting and, as Members would be aware, the AONB did not pose a fundamental barrier to small-scale development like this. On the advice of the Conservation Officer a scheme of traditional Cotswold Vernacular design had been designed which would fit in seamlessly with its surroundings. The Conservation Officer was completely satisfied that the character of the area would be respected. It was noted that there were no objections from technical consultees, including the County Highways and the Council’s Urban Design and Environmental Health Officers. The access arrangement ensured that highway visibility splay standards were met and it was also felt material to note that the Council had a shortfall in its five-year housing supply requirement, which triggered the ‘tilted balance’ in favour of development. It was the tilted balance that had seen significant developments of 40+ dwellings in non-service villages such as Ashleworth which had been granted permission recently. Without an adopted Tewkesbury Borough Plan, and with any aspiration of a Neighbourhood Development Plan for Woodmancote very much at any early stage, a single infill dwelling here must surely be supportable in this context. Members would be aware that Woodmancote Parish Council had objected to the application, as they consistently had with all housing applications in the area, and it was clear that the Parish was opposed to new housing in principle, and its fundamental concern here was of setting a precedent. Whilst the Parish’s position was noted, the Committee could not get away from the fact that Woodmancote was a designated Service Village and it must therefore do its bit to share the burden of meeting the housing supply requirement of the Borough. It could not be that this burden continuously fell on the other Service Villages. Woodmancote was the only Service Village still to make a meaningful contribution to the JCS housing requirement. Surely, if the local prerogative was to retain some control and limit housing in this village, the most credible way of doing that was to allow some small-scale developments such as this, which had Officer support and which fitted in so Woodmancote could be seen to be playing its part. In conclusion the speaker hoped that the Committee would feel able to support this proposal.

40.36        In proposing that this application be permitted, a Member indicated that he would not be in support of the application if it was not for the fact that the Council had lost an appeal in Stockwell Lane on land that was directly opposite this site; Hillview Stables. There had been a site visit in respect of that site and the view had been that it was in the open countryside and therefore the Committee had refused the application, but it had been won on appeal. The proposal was seconded but before being put to the vote, a Member questioned whether a condition could be applied to take down the leylandii to be replaced by natural British trees. The Planning Officer indicated that there was a landscaping condition proposed in relation to hard and soft landscaping, whilst it did not include the taking down of the leylandii she indicated that the condition could be reworded for it to be taken down and replaced by appropriate landscaping. Accordingly, the proposer and seconder of the motion agreed to amend it to include the amendment of the landscaping condition seeking the removal of the leylandii and, upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be PERMITTED in accordance with the Officer recommendation subject to the landscaping condition being amended to require the removal of the leylandii and suitable replacement provided.



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