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Agenda item

22/00283/FUL - The Glass Houses, Whitelands Lane, Little Shurdington

PROPOSAL: Construction of an agricultural building.




43.48        This application was for construction of an agricultural building.  The Planning Committee had visited the application site on Friday 13 January 2023.

43.49        The Planning Assistant advised that the application site fell within the Green Belt and the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the application required a Committee determination following a substantive planning issue raised by Badgeworth Parish Council concerning the impact of the proposal on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The building was located in the north-western corner of the site and would be partially screened by the existing dense hedgerow which ran parallel with the northern boundary across Whitelands Lane.  The proposed building would be used for the existing horticultural business which existed on site and the applicant suggested that the building would enable the business to better plan its operations and enable more climate sensitive plants to be grown, thus widening the range of plants available for sale to customers and allowing for the diversification of operations.  It was considered that the proposal would comply with Policy AGR1 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan, as set out within the Committee report, as it was reasonably necessary and designed for the purpose of agriculture.  The proposed height of the building had been reduced following Officer concerns and so, subject to compliance with conditions in respect of materials and external lighting, the building would not appear as an intrusive feature on the landscape and would integrate well with the existing built development.  Several representations had been received concerning potential harm to residential amenity and Environmental Health had recommended conditions to prevent undue harm to the residential amenity of nearby occupants, as set out in the Committee report.  County Highways had raised no objection to the proposal and, following a revised ecological assessment, the County Ecologist had raised no objections subject to a number of conditions to minimise the impact on local ecology.  It was therefore recommended that the application be permitted.

43.50         The Chair invited the applicant to address the Committee.  The applicant advised that the application before Members would help a local employer and established business to consolidate its existing operations and provide a platform for future sustainable long-term growth and recruitment which would include apprentices.  The site had been purchased for the purpose of growing specialist plants for the wholesale market, targeting landscape companies as there was felt to be a specific need in the local area, along with opportunities for British grown plants provided by the more difficult importing conditions following Brexit.  The business had been successful to date and had utilised the existing greenhouse - which had been inherited in a dilapidated state - outdoor growing areas and yard space to good effect.  As the greenhouse was unsafe and unusable, and the wider site unkempt, it had required significant expenditure to bring it up to a workable standard.  The proposed new building would supplement the existing operations and was needed to provide the infrastructure to enable them to handle plants, equipment and sundries in line with Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) legislation and guidance.  For plant health reasons post-Brexit, DEFRA and its inspectors required all imported plant material to arrive at a registered point of destination which must have facilities to unload and inspect plants in well-lit and dry areas.  Plants would be delivered periodically in articulated vehicles and the building had been designed to comply with that requirement.  The building also provided appropriate welfare facilities and offices for 15 staff, improving their on-site working conditions.  The applicant acknowledged the site’s location in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Green Belt and they had been mindful of this in the design of the proposed scheme which strived to strike an appropriate balance between specifying a building of sufficient scale and size to meet operational and legislative needs whilst also respecting the sensitive nature of the site and surrounding area.  They supported the Officer’s findings that the proposal conserved the landscape and scenic beauty of the area as they too felt it was important to protect the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The applicant provided assurance they would continue to care for the site and had invested in and planted 500 mostly native trees along the site boundaries, securing the nearby public footpath and designing the development so it delivered a biodiversity net gain.  They were committed to working in a sensitive manner to minimise impacts on neighbours and the door was open to ensure there was an avenue for dialogue with the local community.  The applicant was pleased that Officers found the proposal to accord with the relevant policies of the development plan and the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework and respectfully requested that Members grant permission for the scheme.

43.51         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 noted that County Highways had raised no objection to the proposal and he asked if a site visit had been undertaken as, when Members had visited the site, the entrance seemed to be more acute than 90 degrees.  It had given way twice over the years and had to be re-done so he raised concern that it would be used by articulated lorries.  The County Highways representative advised that a site visit had not been carried out as it was an established site and it was not perceived that any additional trips arising from the proposal would be severe, hence the recommendation.  A Member expressed the view that a desk-based approach was no good and, whilst he had no issue with the proposal, the entrance did need changing as articulated vehicles would find it difficult to turn into the gateway and he pointed out that the bus driver had struggled on the Planning Committee Site Visit.  He felt that the entrance needed to be reconsidered and improved to make it work safely.  The County Highways representative reiterated that there was no evidence to suggest that the entrance would not operate safely.  A Member shared the fears about the highway and the entrance to the site – he was not anti-business and felt it could be a good proposal; however, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) going up and down the lane and into the access gave him a lot of concern.  He suggested it may be beneficial to defer the application in order to look into this further given that it was a narrow lane which was used by cyclists and parents and children and there was deterioration of the substance of the road.  The Chair queried whether a delegated permit would be appropriate so Officers could negotiate an improved entrance as it seemed Members would not have a problem if the gate was moved 10 yards further back.  In response, the Development Management Team Leader indicated that, regardless of the improvement which may be possible, the access would still come off the lane and Members were required to determine what was before them today. 

43.52         A Member asked whether articulated lorries delivered to the site at present under current operations and the Chair indicated that he was led to believe that was the case.  On that basis, the Member felt that, provided there had been no major accidents or incidents, that would suggest that the access was acceptable as it was.  Another Member reiterated that the lane had given way twice over the years and the Legal Adviser explained that a delegated permission would probably be considered unreasonable based on the expert advice from County Highways, and given that there were already articulated lorries accessing the site, but delegated permission or deferral were options available if Members continued to have concerns; however, if Members were unhappy with the access, the cleanest option may be to refuse.  A Member indicated that, assuming the lane was a public highway, it would be under the control of County Highways and, if the road was failing, it would be down to County Highways to repair it so, if there was a problem, it would be addressed.  Having listened to the debate, another Member expressed the view that, although the access was difficult, the experts had found it to be acceptable and it was already being used so it would be unreasonable to ask the applicant to change what was already there.  He did not think there was any milage in a delegation to Officers but he sought clarification from the Legal Adviser as to whether it would be unreasonable.  In response, the Legal Adviser explained that would depend if another highway safety expert agreed it was an unnecessary amendment particularly as the County Highways experts had confirmed they were happy with the accesst.

43.53         Upon being put to the vote, it was

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

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