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Agenda item

21/00178/FUL – Windy Farm, Bentham

PROPOSAL: Change of use to single dwelling of existing vacant/redundant outbuildings with link extensions; associated landscaping including green roofs and parking (revised scheme).

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Refuse.

Minutes:

7.55           This application was for change of use to a single dwelling of existing vacant/redundant outbuildings with link extensions; associated landscaping, including green roofs, and car parking (revised scheme).  The Planning Committee had visited the application site on Friday 18 June 2021.

7.56           The Development Management Team Leader (South) advised that the application site was located within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Green Belt and the proposal would convert the existing buildings into a single five bedroomed dwelling.  The three existing buildings would be joined by two timber framed glazed pergola link extensions situated around a central courtyard garden.  In terms of background, planning permission had been granted in December 2020 for change of use of the buildings to a dwelling.  The approval was subject to revisions which limited the number of extensions to the existing building to a minimum in order to make the proposal compliant with the Council’s rural buildings conversion policies as well as Green Belt policies.  As the principle of change of use to residential had therefore been established, the main considerations relevant to this application were whether the current proposal remained compliant with the Council’s rural buildings conversion policies and whether it was acceptable in terms of Green Belt policy.  Rural housing policies in the Tewkesbury Borough Local Plan required buildings to be of a permanent and substantial construction and for the essential scale, form and character of the original building - and as much as possible of the original structure and essential features - to be retained.  Members were informed that the previously approved scheme limited extensions to a very small link between the two buildings proposed to be used as main living accommodation; however, the current application was for a much larger extension linking all three buildings which would be used for primary accommodation.  This would require substantial changes to the design in order for the converted buildings to function as a single dwelling which included changes to the external elevations, windows and roof; as such, the proposal conflicted with the rural buildings conversion policies.  The National Planning Policy Framework set out that inappropriate development was, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.  Paragraph 146 stated that the re-use of buildings – provided that they were of permanent and substantial construction – would not be inappropriate development, subject to the provision that the development should preserve the openness of the Green Belt and not conflict with the purposes of including land within it.  The two large link extensions would have a significant impact in visual and spatial terms which conflicted with Green Belt policy, therefore, the proposal constituted inappropriate development in the Green Belt and very special circumstances were required to justify the development.  It was noted that the development was considered acceptable in terms of neighbour amenity, drainage, highway safety and biodiversity subject to recommended mitigation measures which could be dealt with by condition.  Notwithstanding this, on balance, the harm caused to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness was not clearly outweighed by the other considerations and the proposal conflicted with the rural building conversion policies, therefore, the Officer recommendation was to refuse the application.

7.57           The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent explained that this application was for a permanent extension for the conversion of the buildings to a single dwelling.  This would be achieved via a linked pergola and the openings and windows and doors would remain the same, although green roofs had been added.  The principle of development was acceptable and he drew attention to Paragraphs 7.10, 12.3 and 12.4 of the Committee report which stated that the extensions would be ‘significant’ and ‘substantial’; however, there were no measurements or calculations to support this.  The applicant’s agent had provided the Officer with clear and detailed information to show that the structure would not be significant or substantial and he advised that the links would add 35 square metres to the total area which was less than 10% and not disproportionate to the original building – Tewkesbury Borough Council had allowed an extension in the Green Belt which was up to 50% of the original floor area.  Nowhere did the Officer report refer to floor area calculation but, regardless of the way it had been calculated, he did not feel it was disproportionate and was not contrary to policy.  As the extension would not be substantial, he did not feel that very special circumstances needed to be demonstrated – if they did, the applicant and agent had not been asked to.  He pointed out that there would be considerable benefits in terms of the green roofs and other landscaping measures and he was completely baffled by the recommendation to refuse the application and why a Committee determination was required.  The local community and Parish Council fully supported the proposal and no objections had been made by any consultees.  The principle of the change of use had been established when planning permission had been granted under delegated authority in December and openness was a matter of judgement so he felt that the proposal before the Committee was perfectly acceptable.  This was a high quality scheme which would not result in harm and would be a great enhancement to the area, raising standards locally.  He hoped that Members would agree and grant planning permission.

7.58           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 on the basis that the proposal would not result in substantial alteration and extension and the harm, if any, to the Green Belt by reason of its inappropriateness would be clearly outweighed by the benefits of the proposal in terms of landscaping and visual impact.  The proposer of the motion found it strange that the application had been recommended for refusal.  Planning permission had been granted for the residential conversion of the existing buildings under delegated powers and, at that point, the proposal was considered to be quite acceptable and not inappropriate in the Green Belt; however, the applicant had now decided to include a link which would add just 35 square metres to the proposal and that was considered by the Planning Officers to be a step too far.  As he understood it, the correct approach to determining the application was to assess the impact of the harm that would be brought about by the change and he could not see that this would make any difference to the openness of the Green Belt.  He went on to refer to the fact that the application for the erection of 47 dwellings on Land North of Perrybrook, which was also in the Green Belt, had been recommended for permission earlier in the meeting – this was in addition to the 1,500 houses which were being provided as part of the wider strategic allocation which had been allowed on appeal despite being in the Green Belt.  He could not understand why the Planning Inspector had considered that to be acceptable but Planning Officers felt this link extension would be a step too far.  The majority of the proposal had been granted planning permission in December and this application was effectively just for a small link corridor to join the buildings to the third one.  Any harm as a result of this extension would have a minor impact on the wider landscape and would therefore be acceptable in his view.

7.59           A Member indicated that he would be happy to second the proposal as the green roofs and materials being used would replace the concrete and there would be soft landscaping in addition to the mature trees which already screened the buildings and meant they could not be viewed from the road.  In his opinion the scheme would improve the visual impact on the Green Belt.  The seconder of the motion questioned whether a condition could be included to ensure the removal of the tarmac as he understood that around 50% of the tarmac was to be replaced with grass lawn.  In response, the Development Management Team Leader (South) advised that, should Members be minded to permit the application, he would recommend conditions requiring compliance with a list of approved plans; details of all external materials, including samples; joinery details for the windows and glazed pergola; details of hard and soft landscaping including vegetation and removal of the hardstanding; provision of cycle storage and Electric Vehicle charging points in line with the recommendation made by County Highways; ecological mitigation and enhancement; details of any lighting as a sensitive scheme would be required; and removal of permitted development rights for all alterations to the building and any outbuildings. 

7.60           Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be PERMITTED on the basis that the proposal would not result in substantial alteration and extension and the harm, if any, to the Green Belt by reason of its inappropriateness would be clearly outweighed by the benefits of the proposal in terms of landscaping and visual impact, subject to conditions requiring compliance with a list of approved plans; details of all external materials, including samples; joinery details for the windows and glazed pergola; details of hard and soft landscaping including vegetation and removal of the hardstanding; provision of cycle storage and Electric Vehicle charging points in line with the recommendation made by County Highways; ecological mitigation and enhancement; details of any lighting as a sensitive scheme would be required; and removal of permitted development rights for all alterations to the building and any outbuildings.

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