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Agenda item

21/01544/FUL - Dumbleton Cricket Club, Dairy Lane, Dumbleton

PROPOSAL: Provision of cricket pitch for ancillary use as part of Dumbleton Cricket Club.




72.62        This application was for provision of a cricket pitch for ancillary use as part of Dumbleton Cricket Club. 

72.63        The Planning Officer advised that a Committee determination was required due to an objection from the Parish Council.  He explained that the proposal involved an area of mown grass to facilitate the cricket pitch and the erection of a temporary wire fence that would be maintained during the season (March-October) to keep sheep off the play area, as well as a portable scoreboard that would be removed and stored in the clubhouse between games. As set out at Paragraph 1.2 of the Committee report, the application site lay within the grounds of Dumbleton Hall, a Grade II* listed building.  There were a number of Grade I and II listed buildings surrounding the site which was located within the Dumbleton Conservation Area and the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Officers felt there were considerable benefits to the additional pitch in that it would promote a healthy lifestyle which was supported within the National Planning Policy Framework; there would be minimal landscape or visual harms as a result of the proposal and no detrimental impacts on residential amenity and parking.  The Conservation Officer considered there would be a low degree of harm to the setting of the listed building and Conservation Area but that would be outweighed by public benefit.  The Officer recommendation had been changed from permit to delegated permit pending comments on the ecological assessment to enable any conditions to be added as necessary, as set out in the Additional Representations Sheet, attached at Appendix 1.

72.64        The Chair invited the representative from Dumbleton Parish Council to address the Committee.  The Parish Council representative explained that the Parish Council believed the application was incomplete; set a precedent for development in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Conservation Area; was unwanted by residents with 85% of consultation comments being objections; and failed to meet seven policy requirements – the Borough Council’s planning validation, Joint Core Strategy, Tewkesbury Borough Local Plan, National Planning Policy Framework, Dumbleton Conservation Area Character Statement, Natural England’s National Character Profile for the Cotswolds and the Cotswold Conservation Board Land Strategy and Guidelines.  The Parish Council considered these failings showed there were grounds for an application for a judicial review.  Under the policies, the Parish Council believed seven assessments should have been included: biodiversity survey – as the site was a red zone for the Great Crested Newt; tree survey – required by the Joint Core Strategy and Town and Country Planning Act as the site was within a Conservation Area bounded by mature trees; historic environment statement – as the site was in historic parkland over ancient ridge and furrow with identified archaeological features beneath and was within the grounds of a Grade II* listed building; landscape and visual assessment – this should have been carried out by a suitably qualified person as the site was within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Conservation Area; open space assessment – required where there was an impact on publicly accessible open space with evidence of community engagement and, in this case, land would be lost from community use and there had been no engagement; social and community infrastructure justification – there had been no community engagement and no proof there was a benefit that clearly outweighed the loss of open space; and, transport assessment – there was already significant traffic as over 82% of members and visiting teams travelled to the village and assessment of the much-increased traffic that twice as many visitors would bring should have been required, furthermore, the lease allowed for parking 30 vehicles in historic parkland and the application was incomplete as no details for this had been included so no judgement could be made against policies.  The Parish Council representative indicated that the club was an important part of the community and could thrive but not at the expense of what made Dumbleton unique and against residents’ wishes.  The Parish Council believed the application was materially defective and the seven policy failures exposed the decision to judicial review.  The application should be refused and the Parish Council encouraged Members to do so.

72.65        The Chair invited a local resident speaking in objection to the application to address the Committee.  The local resident indicated that he represented the Dumbleton Conservation Society, a group of villagers that wished to see Dumbleton thrive and to protect the area from harmful development.  They felt that the planning application must be considered in light of its location within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Dumbleton Conservation Area and the setting of the Grade II* listed building.  The application failed to meet the policy requirements as set out in the Joint Core Strategy, Tewkesbury Borough Local Plan, National Planning Policy Framework, Dumbleton Conservation Area Statement and the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which was, of course, a protected landscape.  The development would cause material harm to biodiversity as a cricket club mowing regime would damage the habitat of invertebrates which were food sources for amphibians, birds and bats.  Policies required a net gain for biodiversity, not a reduction.  There was also a newt protection area but no proper ecological survey had been carried out so neither Members or Officers would have sufficient information regarding the harm that would be done.  The development would also cause material harm to the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the setting of the listed building and the Conservation Area as the site was on a mature parkland designed by the son of the famous Humphrey Repton and that, in turn, sat on an ancient ridge and furrow landscape. A manicured cricket pitch would stand out in this area of unimproved grassland, as would the proposed parking.  The pitch would not be temporary and the plans to change the sub-soil for the management of the grassland would impact the drainage, flora and fauna and would be visible for centuries, just as stone age agricultural areas remained visible today.  There would also be a material loss of recreation space for the village.  The parkland was widely used by visitors and residents for recreation and this proposal took up over 40% of that area for more than half of the year.  As stated by the cricket club at a Parish Council meeting, only 25 playing members lived in Dumbleton – the recreational opportunity for the majority would be removed in favour of just 25 residents.  This also meant that most of those visiting and playing would come by car from outside the village leading to parking and sustainability issues that were clearly contrary to local and national policy.  When asked three times at the Parish Council Planning meetings what the benefits for Dumbleton referenced in the application would be, the club admitted there were none – the focus for the club was on increased footfall through the club bar and the resultant revenue.  Taking all of this into account, the local resident urged Members to see the real motive of the proposal and the harm that would be done and refuse the application. 

72.66        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent explained that the application concerned a cricket pitch for ancillary use as part of Dumbleton Cricket Club and would be used during the cricket season from March to October, primarily to give the women and junior teams an opportunity to play at Dumbleton as they currently had to travel to other rented pitches in the county.  Since its inception in 1885, Dumbleton Cricket Club had a rich history and had always been a focal point of the local community.  In recent years there had been a considerable increase in the amount of cricket played in Dumbleton and, with an ever-increasing programme, it was no longer possible for the existing single pitch at Dairy Lane to accommodate the level of home matches it was arranged to host each season.  The increased need had previously resulted in the hiring of Stanway and Broadway cricket grounds for a number of home matches and, whilst that had been just about manageable as a short-term solution, it was expensive, entailed extra travel for players and supporters and limited the club’s ability to fulfil the potential of the younger section’s players.  Additionally, it deprived teams of the opportunity to play at “home” in Dumbleton.  There were very limited physical works involved in the application as the whole outfield covered only 11% of the park and grounds and would remain as the current grassland with no digging, levelling or any structures.  A temporary electric wire fence was proposed around the field of play which would be removed during the off-season.  A moveable scoreboard would also be used and stored off-site in between games.  As there were no permanent structures proposed, there would be no adverse impact on the landscape character of the area or the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The pitch would be located within the grounds of the Grade II* listed Dumbleton Hall and there was a strong tradition in England of cricket being played within the grounds of stately homes, with notable local examples including Ragley Hall, Blenheim Palace and Stoneleigh Abbey.  The Conservation Officer had confirmed that the potential harm of the proposals to the heritage asset and setting of the Conservation Area was minimal and far outweighed by its public benefit.  The associated listed building consent application had been withdrawn at the Officer’s request as it was not deemed necessary and other statutory consultees on technical matters including ecology, archaeology and highways were satisfied with the proposals.  An ecological assessment had been submitted for consideration and conditions would be imposed to ensure the protection of habitats on site.  The Committee report provided a detailed justification for granting planning permission and several conditions had been put forward for inclusion on the decision notice which the applicant would happily accept.  The applicant’s agent hoped it would be a straightforward decision for Members to permit the scheme in accordance with the Officer recommendation.

72.67        The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to delegate authority to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to the receipt of comments in relation to the ecological assessment and the inclusion of appropriate conditions, and he sought a motion from the floor.   A Member questioned if the land was owned by Dumbleton Hall and was advised it was private land owned by a local landowner.  It was proposed and seconded that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation.  The seconder of the motion indicated that no permanent structures were being built as part of the proposal – there would be an electric fence to keep livestock in and a removable scoreboard for use when games were played.  In his view, a cricket pitch was a lovely thing to have in the setting of a listed building and a village cricket team was very much part of rural country life.  Dumbleton was a very successful village team and he was pleased to hear that cricket was being taken up by ladies as well.  He did not see how the proposal would cause any harm and he felt people should be encouraged to take up sports and leisure activities for their health benefits in light of increased levels of obesity and heart disease etc.  He drew attention to Page No. 258, Paragraphs 7.41-7.42 of the Committee report, which stated that the use was permitted under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended) if the land was being used for less than 28 days in a calendar year.  Despite this fallback position, he was pleased that a full application had come forward showing the applicant was keen to do things the right way and he was very happy to second the proposal on that basis.

72.68        A Member raised concern about the electric fence which would be used 24/7 in the summer and she asked if that was strictly necessary – the site was historic parkland and animals should be allowed to graze on it so she did not see the need for the fence.  She also felt that car parking was insufficient and she was aware that people parked on the land itself when events were being held.  She understood and sympathised with the concerns raised by the Parish Council and local residents and did not feel she was in a position to either support or go against the proposal. 

72.69        The Chair indicated that he was a local Ward Member for the application and had received a huge amount of telephone calls in relation to the proposal.  He was conflicted on the application as he felt he should be supportive of the wishes of the locals but also needed to take into account policy and only refuse the application if there was a good reason to do so.  He did not feel the concerns raised in relation to ecology and archaeology stood up as refusal reasons and, given the fallback position, he felt the application should be permitted.

72.70        Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED           That authority be DELEGATED to the Development Manager to PERMIT the application, subject to the receipt of comments in relation to the ecological assessment and the inclusion of appropriate conditions.

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