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Agenda item

22/01011/FUL - Ashstump House, Calcotts Green, Minsterworth

PROPOSAL: Removal of agricultural occupancy condition h) of application reference TG4488/C.




43.31        This application was for removal of agricultural occupancy condition h) of application reference TG4488/C.  The Planning Committee had visited the application site on Friday 13 January 2023.

43.32        The Planning Officer advised that Ashstump House was a two storey detached dwelling situated approximately 100 metres to the west of the defined settlement boundary of Minsterworth which was identified as a Service Village in the Tewkesbury Borough Plan.  The application was recommended for refusal as set out in the Committee report.

43.33        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent explained that the agricultural occupancy condition dated back some 35 years when the dwelling was originally consented for the applicant, who still lived there, at a time when they were employed by Elms Farm in Minsterworth.  Elms Farm was a short distance away from the property and had been in operation as an intensive commercial dairy farm but that use had ceased in 2007 and the applicant had last been employed by the farm in 2012.  The applicant’s agent indicated that, through their submissions, they had demonstrated there was no longer any need for an agriculturally tied dwelling to serve Elms Farm and that had been the case for at least 10 years.  Elms Farm would be unlikely to require a tied dwelling in future as it was no longer suitable, in terms of scale and range of facilities, to support any intensive modern farming practices.  Members would also be aware there was a live planning application for the residential development of Elms Farm in its entirety to provide 40 dwellings which further outlined the future intentions for the farm.  Several local farm owners around Minsterworth had written to support the application, outlining that they had no requirements for agriculturally tied dwellings in the locality and the proposals were supported by the Parish Council and Local Ward Members.  Notwithstanding this, the value of the property, even when marketed at an agricultural discount, would be well beyond the affordability of the average agricultural or forestry worker and there were hundreds more affordable and unrestricted properties of all sizes available and currently on the market locally and within close commuting distance.  In the 35 years since the dwelling had originally been approved, Minsterworth had expanded considerably and was now considered to be a sustainable Service Village where residential development should be directed in accordance with the development plan.  Ashstump House was far from being isolated from services and facilities and was centrally located within a sustainable village location.  The main concern raised by Officers related to the availability of marketing evidence for the property and it was the applicant’s position that the aforementioned reasoning would clearly outweigh the need to formally market the dwelling for the 18 months as requested.  Notwithstanding this, the applicant had recently placed the dwelling on the market to further highlight the lack of need for a tie on the property and the initial marketing report had been circulated to Officers and Members last week highlighting that, although there had been a small number of enquiries – due largely to the discounted price - none would meet the requirements of the agricultural tie.  In conclusion, the applicant’s agent indicated that they no longer considered that the agricultural occupancy condition was necessary, relevant or reasonable and therefore would not meet the tests for imposing conditions, as outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework.  As a result, the applicant was now seeking the Planning Committee’s support for its removal.

43.34         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 sufficient evidence had been submitted to demonstrate there was no need for an agriculturally tied dwelling.  The seconder of the motion noted that the agricultural occupancy condition had been added over 30 years ago when there was a need for the agricultural worker to have a dwelling close to their workplace to raise their family; however, the applicant was no longer in agricultural employment and was not able to sell the property so it seemed to him that refusing the application would be imposing something impossible.

43.35         A Member asked whether the agricultural tie could be removed for this particular applicant whilst he remained in the property and the Planning Officer provided assurance that the current condition allowed for someone who had worked in agriculture previously to remain in the property so the applicant would not be required to leave the property.  The Development Management Team Leader added that the applicant could also apply for a Certificate of Lawful Use which was specifically for that purpose.  Officers did not have any information about what the applicant intended to do at this stage. 

43.36         A Member expressed the view that there was no great demand for site specific agricultural ties in this day and age.  Another Member supported that view but indicated that Members must be guided by policy and he questioned what grounds there would be to go against policy and overturn the application.  In response, the Development Management Team Leader felt it should be borne in mind that Policy AGR4 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan required that properties be marketed for a period of 18 months to establish whether there was a need for the dwelling; Officers did not have the full suite of information to make a judgement against that policy which was why the application was recommended for refusal.  A Member felt that the applicant had made an effort to find out if there was anyone willing to buy the property and knew there was no market for that type of property.  Another Member recognised that the local farmers in the area had been contacted to ascertain there was no local need and it had been advertised for 8-12 weeks on the open market so it seemed unreasonable to put the applicant’s life on hold whilst it was advertised for the required 18 months.  The Head of Development Services explained that the Tewkesbury Borough Plan had been adopted in June 2022 and Policy AGR4 was one of the adopted policies within the plan.  That policy clearly set out the timeframes for any applicants wishing to remove an agricultural tie and that formed part of the Council’s adopted development plan.  If Members were inclined to disregard that, it could set a precedent for future applications considered by the Committee.  Whilst the applicant had contacted local farmers and advertised for 8-9 weeks, that was not in accordance with the policy, hence the recommendation for refusal.  A Member understood that, if the Committee was minded to overturn an application, it was necessary to consider how much weight should be attached to each aspect of the Officer recommendation so, should Members decide to give less weight to the policy in the planning balance, it was possible to make a valid decision and permit the application.  The Legal Adviser explained that Members should give their policy full weight and she could see no reason why they would choose not to do so given that the Tewkesbury Borough Plan was only adopted in June 2022.  If Members were minded to go against the development plan policy they could do so if there were particular circumstances where it was considered that there were material considerations to make a decision other than in accordance with that policy.  Some Members had suggested there was satisfactory evidence, but others may say that 8-9 weeks marketing was not enough to test the market effectively and the policy was for 18 months.

43.37         Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be PERMITTED as sufficient evidence had been submitted to demonstrate there was no need for an agriculturally tied dwelling.

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