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Agenda item

21/00311/FUL– Chestnut Barn, Barrow, Boddington

PROPOSAL: Erection of a single storey rear extension (re-submission).

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Refuse.

Minutes:

7.42          This application was for erection of a single storey rear extension (re-submission).  The Planning Committee had visited the application site on Friday 18 June 2021.

7.43          The Planning Officer advised that Chestnut Barn was a detached property that had been converted for residential use and the site fell within the Green Belt.  The local Ward Member had requested that the application be determined by the Committee in order to assess whether or not the proposal amounted to a proportionate addition in the Green Belt.  In terms of the Green Belt, when added to the previous extensions, the proposed rear extension would result in a 54% increase over and above the floor area of the original dwelling.  The volumetric increase when combined with the previous extensions would be even greater at 70%.  It should be noted that the property did not benefit from permitted development rights so there was no fallback position.  Overall, it was considered that the proposal would amount to inappropriate development in the Green Belt, resulting in disproportionate additions to the original dwelling, and there were no very special circumstances that outweighed the harm that would be caused.  As such, the Officer recommendation was to refuse the application.

7.44          The Chair invited the representative from Boddington Parish Council to address the Committee.  The representative from the Parish Council explained that neither he, nor his fellow Parish Councillors, could understand the logic and reasoning for having to debate this application. In contrast to this proposal, approval had been granted a couple of years ago for some 500 homes to be built within Boddington Parish at Hayden as part of the West Cheltenham development within the Joint Core Strategy.  The Parish Council had wholeheartedly supported that application despite the fact it would treble the number of houses in the Parish – this, combined with the recently confirmed changes to Junction 10 of the M5, and the supporting infrastructure, would cut swathes through the Parish.  As for this comparatively small scale application, it was the Parish Council’s view that the extension would not be a harmful or disproportionate addition to the Green Belt, particularly when considering the size of other extensions that had been permitted.  The Parish Council representative went on to make reference to the personal circumstances of the applicants.  The Parish Council representative then indicated that the application site was in a fairly isolated position on the Barrow “loop” where only the side of the proposed development could be seen from a very short stretch of the road which was some 50 metres distant.  In terms of the increase in overall footprint, that would be insignificant compared with the development he had referenced earlier which was huge.  The Parish Council fully supported the application and he hoped the Committee could do the same.

7.45          The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent explained that the Planning Officer had visited the application site last year and advised the landowner that he could further extend his property to the rear as he had not yet reached his Green Belt allowance in terms of floor space.  It was that conversation which had led to the application before the Committee.  In his 20 year experience of Green Belt applications in the borough, Tewkesbury Borough Council had used floor space as the predominant method of calculating such additions.  The application had been recommended for approval by the Planning Officer based on a floor space calculation of around 54%; however, that had changed when the application was progressed.  At that time, for the first time, the applicant had been informed that Officers no longer wanted to use a floor space calculation, opting instead for a volumetric calculation which naturally provided a larger percentage, around 70%.  The applicant’s agent had been told that volume had been used on many occasions; however, prior to today’s Committee he had not seen it happen once at Tewkesbury Borough Council.  This was not the only change to normal practice as the original floor space of the building was also being calculated differently – on the three previous applications on this site, Officers had referred to the floor space being 177 square metres but Page No. 223, Paragraph 8.5 of the Committee report, implied that a different method was now being used for calculating original floorspace.  The applicant’s agent recognised that policy changed from time to time and the build environment could also change; however, the one thing that surely could not change was the original floorspace of a building – if the original floorspace on the three previous applications was said to be 177 square metres, surely it must still be that for the purposes of assessing applications.  This highlighted the absurdity of using an arbitrary metric calculation to assess Green Belt impact when the method of calculation could change depending on what was trying to be achieved.  In his view, the best way to consider whether the extension was proportionate and respected openness was to base this on an ‘on-site’ assessment.  He understood that Members had visited the application site on Friday and therefore would have a good idea of whether they considered the proposal to be harmful to the Green Belt, and they would have established whether the coalescence of Cheltenham and Gloucester was really at risk if the extension went ahead, or, whether they shared the local view that it actually caused no Green Belt harm whatsoever.  He referred to the fact that the Parish Council supported the application, there were no objections from the Conservation Officer and there had been eight letters of strong support from the local community; clearly the people of Boddington did not believe this application would cause harm to openness at all.  In a Parish where other residents had been able to extend their properties to 80%, 90% and even 100% in ‘floor space’, surely this small extension could not be a problem either.

7.46          In response to some of the points raised by the applicant’s agent, the Development Manager explained that, unfortunately, there were rare occasions when the advice given at the pre-application stage could change once Officers had the opportunity to discuss things further and he apologised if that was the case here.  With regard to the original floor space, this had been calculated incorrectly in the previous applications and the reasons for this were set out within the Committee report.  He drew attention to the floor plan at Page No. 227 of the Committee report which showed the first floor as identical to the ground floor; however, looking at the elevation and where the eaves levels were in connection to the windows, and therefore where the first floor level must be, it could not be that the first floor was the full extent of the ground floor.  Photographs had been shared with the applicant’s agent which showed that to be the case and the applicant’s agent had been invited to respond but had chosen not to.  In relation to the volumetric approach, this was used where appropriate and he reminded Members that each application should be assessed on its own merits.  In this case, because it was very much a single storey building, it was felt the volumetric approach would be appropriate, nevertheless, that was a matter of judgement, as was whether the proposed extension was proportionate.  The Officer report set out why it was considered to be disproportionate and it was for Members to take a view on that having regard to the Planning Committee Site Visit. 

7.47           The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to refuse the application and he sought a motion from the floor.  It was proposed and seconded that the application be permitted as it would not be a disproportionate addition to the Green Belt.  The seconder of the motion expressed the view that the percentage volume increase was relative to the size of the original building and, in this case, the only place the extension would be seen from was Barrow lakes so he agreed with the Parish Council that the impact of the proposal would be minimal.  It was a very nice barn with a very nice first extension and, in his opinion, this would top it all off nicely.  A Member pointed out that he had spent many years on the Planning Committee arguing about disproportionality – a 10% increase could be a disproportionate addition in one case whereas a 100% increase could be perfectly acceptable in another.  Whether or not something was a disproportionate addition was in the eye of the beholder and could not be determined by a percentage, rather it should be determined by the Planning Committee as the decision-makers.  Another Member indicated that he was happy to support the proposal - he had attended the Planning Committee Site Visit and had actually driven past the site initially.  There were a number of other extensions in the area which were all significantly bigger than what was proposed here so he felt it was acceptable. 

7.48          The Planning Officer advised that, should Members be minded to permit the application, conditions should be included to require work to commence within five years of planning permission being granted; for the development to be carried out in accordance with the approved plans; and for details of the roofing material and wall cladding to be submitted to, and approved in writing by, the local planning authority.  The proposer and seconder of the motion indicated they were happy with the conditions and, upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be PERMITTED as it would not be a disproportionate addition to the Green Belt, subject to conditions to require work to commence within five years of planning permission being granted; for the development to be carried out in accordance with the approved plans; and for details of the roofing material and wall cladding to be submitted to, and approved in writing by, the local planning authority.

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