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Agenda item

20/00553/FUL - Starvealls Cottage, Corndean Lane, Winchcombe

PROPOSAL: Construction of replacement dwelling and associated works following demolition of existing dwelling and change of use of additional areas of land to residential garden.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Permit.

Minutes:

13.2          This application was for the construction of a replacement dwelling and associated works following demolition of existing dwelling and change of use of additional areas of land to residential garden.  The application was deferred at the Planning Committee meeting on 22 June 2021 for a Planning Committee Site Visit to assess the impact of the proposal upon the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

13.3          The Development Manager explained that, due to logistical issues associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it had not been possible to arrange a Planning Committee Site Visit in time for this meeting; however, he intended to run through a series of photographs which he hoped would give Members enough information about how the building sat within the landscape.  He reminded Members that the proposal was for a replacement dwelling and the site would be accessed by a new driveway that connected from Corndean Lane to the south; that access had been allowed at appeal a number of years ago and was an extant permission.  There was also a proposed change of use of agricultural land to allow additional landscaping, drainage works and a new pool/pool house. Of great significance was the fact that the existing dwelling benefited from a certificate of lawfulness for large extensions off the east elevation.  The Development Manager explained that the plans showed it was originally a pair of cottages, simple in terms of planning form, and he ran through a number of slides showing the site location, existing elevations/floorplans, proposed site plan, proposed elevations, proposed floor plans, proposed byre conversion, landscape plan, comparison plans and a number of photographs.  He explained that the existing building was considered to be a non-designated heritage asset and a public footpath ran across the south of the site from which glimpses of the existing building could be seen through the trees.  The building could be seen clearly from lots of vantages and, whilst the proposed building would be more obvious from some, the permitted development rights scheme would be more obvious from others.  Members were advised that, essentially, it was a choice between the proposals on Pages No. 50 and 51 of the Committee report and the fallback position on Page No. 56 of the Committee report.  The Courts had determined that, for a fallback position to be a real prospect, it did not have to be probable or likely, just a possibility.  As such, if planning permission was refused, it was possible the applicant would implement the fallback position and, on that basis, whilst there would be harm to the landscape arising from the proposals and it would result in the loss of a non-designated heritage asset, on balance it was considered that the application should be permitted.

13.4           The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent reiterated that the application had been deferred at the previous Planning Committee meeting to allow a Planning Committee Site Visit to take place and, as heard, the Committee had not visited the site due to the logistics of multiple vehicles accessing the site in COVID-19 times; however, the Officer presentation had included several photographs from a number of different viewpoints and individual Members who felt they would benefit from a site visit may of course have taken the opportunity to do so themselves.  The applicant’s agent assured Members that the site’s sensitive location in this part of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty had been recognised from the beginning of the scheme’s evolution and the applicant had purposefully commissioned well-respected architect and landscape architect practices, both of which were extremely experienced in dealing with Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty projects.  The architects had explained their design rationale in a thorough Design and Access Statement and a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment also accompanied the application.  Due to its elevated position, as the Development Manager had mentioned, the existing cottage was visible from quite a few vantage points along the many public rights of way in the area, especially in winter, so the landscape report considered 15 viewpoints.  It found the proposed changes would result in some harm to views in the short term but that any harmful effects on landscape character would be outweighed by the proposed mitigation and enhancement proposals.  It concluded that any adverse effects would be significantly less than those resulting from the fallback scheme, particularly bearing in mind the enhancements the current scheme proposed.  With respect to the fallback scheme, the applicant’s agent referenced an email she had sent to the Planning Committee the previous month which explained the fallback position, the weight it should be attributed and why granting planning permission would not set a precedent as referenced by the Town Council.  The application was also supported by a comprehensive Heritage Assessment that concluded that Starvealls Cottage was not of sufficient significance to warrant retention and the proposals would cause no harm to the significance of other designated heritage assets in the vicinity of the site.  The Officer report set out the balancing exercise that needed to be undertaken in the decision-making process and the applicant’s agent welcomed the Officers’ conclusion that the application should be permitted, subject to a number of conditions, and hoped that Members would be able to support it.

13.5          The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to permit the application and he sought a motion from the floor.  It was proposed and seconded that the application be refused on the basis that the proposed design would have an overbearing impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the demolition of the existing building would result in the loss of a non-designated heritage asset.  The proposer of the motion expressed his disappointment that a Planning Committee Site Visit had not been possible but he felt that the points he wished Members to consider had been adequately demonstrated by the photographs that had been shown.  In his opinion, this was a lovely part of the Cotswold escarpment within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and he drew attention to Pages No. 36-37, Paragraphs 7.9-7.16 of the Committee report, setting out the Conservation Officer’s view which he felt summarised the situation completely.  The seconder of the motion indicated that the two cottages on the site could be seen from the road between Cleeve Hill and Winchcombe and he shared the view that this proposal would be far too visible within the Area of Outstanding Beauty. 

13.6          The Chair indicated that he did not often take a view which was contrary to that of the Planning Officers; however, in this instance he knew the site well and felt the proposal would be completely unsuitable for the setting.  He did not consider this to be an appropriate site for a large country house – it was previously a pair of beautiful cottages, simple in block and form, constructed from rusticated stone and he found it bizarre that planning permission had previously been granted to extend them and the first thing the applicant wanted to do was knock them down.  As the Conservation Officer had stated, the building was a non-designated heritage asset and he agreed that its total loss would cause substantial harm.  The proposal before Members had a bulk and mass and was of a scale and design that was totally unacceptable in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, therefore, he would be supporting the proposal to refuse the application.  A Member drew attention to Pages No. 38-40, Paragraphs 7.24-7.39 of the Committee report, which he considered to be the Officer’s mitigation of the factors referenced by the Chair.  In response, the Development Manager advised that it was a matter of judgement and, whilst the Officers’ view was clearly set out, Members were at liberty to take a different view.  A Member expressed the view that the proposal to refuse the application was based on the fact that it was within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and he raised concern that a stronger reasoning would be required should the applicant decide to appeal against a refusal.  The Chair reiterated that it was a balanced decision and some Officers were not entirely in favour of the proposal – he was not confident that the Council would win an appeal but equally he was not confident that it would lose either. 

13.7           The Development Manager felt there were two issues which had been identified as reasons for refusal during the debate, the first being that the bulk, mass and design of the proposed building was unsuitable for the prominent location and would have an unacceptable impact on the special qualities of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, secondly, that the proposal to demolish the existing building would lead to the total loss of a non-designated heritage asset which would be contrary to the advice within the National Planning Policy Framework.  The proposer and seconder of the motion indicated they were happy with these refusal reasons and, upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be REFUSED on the basis that the bulk, mass and design of the building was unsuitable for the prominent location which would have an unacceptable impact on the special qualities of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the demolition of the existing building would result in the loss of a non-designated heritage asset which was contrary to the advice within the National Planning Policy Framework.

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