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Agenda item

21/01387/FUL - South Park Farm, Chargrove Lane

PROPOSAL: Restoration of existing farmhouse and conversion of existing barns to provide three new dwellings and associated landscaping and infrastructure.




72.44        This application was for restoration of existing farmhouse and conversion of existing barns to provide three new dwellings and associated landscaping and infrastructure.  The Planning Committee had visited the application site on Thursday 14 April 2022.

72.45        The Planning Officer advised that further information had been submitted since the publication of the Committee report which had resolved outstanding issues as detailed in the Additional Representations Sheet, attached at Appendix 1, and the Officer recommendation had therefore been changed to permit.  The proposal would convert existing agricultural buildings to dwellings, add a replacement extension to the existing farmhouse and remove some redundant buildings.  The main considerations relevant to the application were whether the current proposal remained compliant with the Council’s re-use and adaptation of rural buildings policies and acceptable in terms of Green Belt policy.  Residential development of rural buildings outside of settlement boundaries was acceptable in principle where buildings were capable of conversion and structurally sound.  Concerns had been raised by objectors regarding the structural integrity of the buildings; however, structural surveys had been submitted by a qualified engineer and, although remediation works were required, the buildings were capable of conversion.  It was considered that the proposed works would enhance the immediate setting and respect the scale, form and character of the original buildings.  In terms of impact on the Green Belt, Paragraph 150 of the National Planning Policy Framework stated that the reuse of buildings would not be inappropriate development provided that they were of permanent and substantial construction and that the development should preserve its openness and not conflict with the purposes of including land within it.  Some of the existing buildings on the site and large areas of hardstanding would be removed and, to reduce the impact on openness and safeguard the countryside from encroachment from residential use, the size of the residential curtilage had been reduced and permitted development rights would be removed by condition.  In addition, the proposed extension to the farmhouse would not be inappropriate development as it would not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original dwelling.  The farmhouse and historic brick outbuildings were considered to be non-designated heritage assets but the conversion of the more modern buildings would not harm their special interest and the interventions and materials proposed would preserve the agricultural character of the farmstead.  Concerns had been raised with regard to the impact on Chargrove Lane; however, County Highways considered the proposal acceptable in terms of highways safety and impact on the road network.  The Council could not demonstrate a five year supply of housing and, in this case, the tilted balance was engaged.  This proposal would provide three additional houses and would reuse heritage assets, there would be limited harm to the  openness of the Green Belt from domestic paraphernalia and the proposal was neutral in terms of highway safety, congestion, drainage, impact on neighbour amenity and ecology.  It was considered that the identified harm would not significantly or demonstrably outweigh the benefits in the overall planning balance therefore the Officer recommendation was to permit.

72.46        The Chair invited a local resident speaking in objection to the proposal to address the Committee.  The local resident indicated that the application had generated a considerable amount of local interest, virtually all against it; despite this, the Officer recommendation was to permit. Given the limited time available, he intended to speak on two points which he did not think had been fully covered by the Committee report.  Firstly, access was via a private drive about 130 yards long which was not owned by the applicants who simply had a right of access over it.  The Manual for Roads prepared by Gloucestershire County Council made it clear that private drives could serve a maximum of six dwellings; anything above this would be considered for adoption by the County Council but there was a requirement that the drive be of a higher specification.  The drive currently served five dwellings, four of which were accounted for by South Park and its related tenancies with the fifth being the existing farmhouse owned by the applicants.  As such, it followed that the applicants could refurbish the farmhouse and convert one other building before breaching the rules set out in the Manual.  Furthermore, they could not upgrade the drive without the permission of the owner.  Gloucestershire County Council’s comments were limited to access to the drive, the adequacy of the drive itself was not considered.  His second point was in relation to building 3 which Members would have been able to see from both inside and outside the farmyard; however, neither the Planning Officer nor the structural engineer engaged by the applicant had done this.  It was right on the boundary with South Park and projected into a corner so that South Park built form was on the north, east and south faces.  The objector considered it would be physically intrusive to insert a residential property in such a location, furthermore, the structure proposed would have a very limited outlook and suffer from poor natural light from the north so would not be an attractive dwelling for a rural location.  In addition, the high proportion of party wall that was present would give rise to considerable access issues, both in the construction phase and afterwards, which he felt would be unfair to present and future owners of South Park.  He did not consider the southern and eastern wall of the larger, lower part could be successfully incorporated into a converted dwelling due to both its mixed construction and its inadequate foundations, as partly evidenced by the substantial settlement crack; however, without these walls, there was no building left to convert as it was structurally open to the north – it would end up as a complete rebuild which breached Policy RES7.  Finally, the wall on this part of the boundary belonged to South Park and not the applicants which placed even further doubt on whether it could be used as part of a conversion.  He hoped the Committee would at least defer any decision on the application whilst these matters were investigated by the Planning Officer.

72.47        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent thanked Officers for their timely response and proactive engagement on this application leading to the recommendation before Members.  This was a positive application as the development would significantly enhance the visual amenity of the site.  The existing dilapidated building on site would be reduced by over 30% whilst over 1,000 square metres of concrete slab would be removed.  Furthermore, following discussions with the Planning Officer, the applicant had also agreed to reduce garden sizes and return more land back to open countryside.  In heritage terms, the proposal would breathe life into and refurbish non-designated heritage assets, namely the brick barns and farmhouse, an aspect that was very much welcomed by the Conservation Officer.  It was recognised that a number of objections had been received, and those had been fully dealt with in the Committee report, yet some comments simply did not relate to the type of development being proposed.  Nevertheless, he wished to touch on some areas of concern that had been raised.  The applicant’s agent pointed out any application must be judged on its own merits against prevailing policy at the point of assessment.  In this case, it was correctly concluded that the development would be in full accordance with planning policy.  Importantly, this proposal would constitute appropriate development in the Green Belt and did not need to demonstrate very special circumstances, a point incorrectly referenced by some objectors.  Many concerns had been raised in respect of highway impact, but it should be recognised that the site was in extant agricultural use and could be used significantly more intensively than was currently the case.  Furthermore, the development only proposed to create three new dwellings, utilising existing aged buildings on site.  This was small scale and County Highways correctly recognised it would not result in any harmful impacts on the local highway network.  Some concerns had been raised in respect of barn 3 which would bound the neighbouring property but any ownership matters relating to the boundary wall were civil and should not have any bearing on determination of the application.  The impact of the development in amenity terms had been fully considered and it was correctly recognised that there would be no direct overlooking and the orientation/separation of properties was appropriate in neighbouring impact terms.  It should also be recognised that the barns’ extant use was agricultural and that was the starting point for any assessment. Whilst not currently used intensively, it could be in planning terms which would clearly have a much greater impact in amenity terms than the current proposal.  The Council’s Ecologist had asked for more information to be supplied to confirm mitigation measures and conditions had been suggested.  The applicant was in full agreement with these and further information had been provided to Officers in response to those queries.  The applicant’s agent hoped Members would agree this development was a positive opportunity to revitalise a dilapidated site.  It would provide much needed new homes through the use of existing buildings, avoiding new building in undeveloped open countryside.  With that in mind, he hoped the Committee would be able to support the application in line with the Officer recommendation.

72.48        The Chair asked for clarification as to the position regarding the point raised about the six houses at the end of the driveway and the Development Manager stated that the means of accessing the site was a non-planning issue that was not material to the decision and was not a matter for Members.  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 permitted in accordance with the Officer recommendation.  A Member expressed the view that the Planning Officer had got this absolutely right; Tewkesbury Borough was a rural area with a lot of farm buildings which were fit for purpose 100 years ago but were not now.  In his view it would be better to have a development of nice dwellings than redundant buildings, particularly given the shortage of housing in the area.  Another Member indicated that, over the years, the Committee had been taken into Green Belt areas and shown dilapidated buildings and it seemed to her that some owners let the buildings fall into disrepair as this led to people suggesting it would be preferable to replace them with something else and that set a dangerous precedent.  This site was in a very rural area, in a beautiful part of the Green Belt and what was being proposed bore no real resemblance to farm buildings, therefore, she could not possibly support the application.  A Member queried whether the issues with the party wall would be a civil matter and the Development Manager confirmed that was the case.  With regard to the point made by the previous Member, the Member indicated that the buildings were being refreshed, not demolished.  He questioned who would monitor the development to ensure that was what happened and the Development Manager explained this would not normally be done unless a complaint was received but it was something which could be explored.

72.49        Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be PERMITTED in accordance with the Officer recommendation.

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