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Agenda item

Agenda item

22/00609/FUL - Starvealls Cottage, Postlip, Winchcombe

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




56.36         This application was for 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.

56.37         The Senior Planning Officer advised that this was a full application seeking the erection of a replacement dwelling in addition to the enlargement of the existing residential curtilage, the purpose of which was to allow the inclusion of a historic byre, parking area and drainage features within that land.  The Committee report explained the detailed planning history of the site which was particularly relevant to the application.  Firstly, it was noteworthy that the application was a revised iteration of a previous similar application which also sought the erection of a replacement dwelling.  The previous application had been considered by the Planning Committee in July 2021 when it had been recommended for permission; however, due to concerns raised by Members during the debate, the scheme was refused on landscape and heritage grounds.  In response, the current revised application was accompanied by additional information to address and overcome Members’ concerns.  This had included a landscape and visual appraisal and a biodiversity metric; the landscape and visual appraisal summarised that the new dwelling would result in no material change to the landscape due to surrounding topography and intervening mature trees and vegetation between the viewer and public viewpoints from footpaths and roads.  The additional landscaping measures would reduce the impact even further by introducing new trees, hedgerows and native planting within the site.  The Council’s Landscape Adviser concurred with the applicant that there would be an acceptable impact to the landscape.  In terms of the biodiversity enhancements, the proposal included a biodiversity net gain of 104% which would comprise the provision of enhanced habitats; specifically, this would involve the creation of improved wildflower grassland, ponds, hedgerows and trees.  The second important part of the planning history was a permitted development scheme; this fallback scheme demonstrated there was a reasonable possibility that substantial extensions and alterations could be carried out to the existing dwelling as permitted development.  The Council had no conditional control over these significant extensions which could be built out at any time.  The third and final important part of the planning history was the access track which was permitted in 2013 and provided the dwelling with an existing lawful access which had also been implemented.  Within the current application, Officers had identified a single harm i.e. the loss of a non-designated heritage asset; however, when weighed against the many benefits, the scheme as presented was considered to be, on balance, acceptable.  As set out in the Committee report, the benefits of the scheme included the significant biodiversity net gains, the retention and restoration of the historic byre, landscaping enhancements, economic and employment benefits and betterment and conditional security in contrast to the permitted development fallback scheme.  Although Officers were satisfied with the previous application and that the existing proposal met the relevant tests, it was considered the applicant had taken clear steps to address and overcome Members’ previous concerns.  Although ordinarily the Officer recommendation would have been to permit, given that the applicant had submitted an appeal against non-determination, the recommendation before Members today was minded to permit subject to conditions which included a condition on the Additional Representations Sheet, attached at Appendix 1, requested by the Conservation Officer to secure the archaeological recording of the building prior to its demolition.  Officers had received an email from the applicant’s agent last night, which was not included on the Additional Representations Sheet due to the time it was received, and Members were informed this raised no new information and did not impact the application or the Officer recommendation.

56.38         The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent indicated that they were understandably disappointed when a similar scheme had been refused a couple of years ago but they had taken stock and looked carefully at how to address Members’ concerns with a fresh application.  As the Senior Planning Officer had advised, additional landscaping work had been undertaken to explain further the approach and significantly enhance the outcome. Biodiversity net gain was not required when the original application had been submitted and, whilst it was not yet a legal requirement, they had embraced it and achieved over 100% improvement to habitats and hedgerows.  In addition, a greater understanding of the economic benefits of the scheme had been provided and ecology surveys and reports had been updated along with a flood risk assessment to ensure there would be no risk from the occasional existing surface water flow. The applicant’s agent also noted that the Conservation Officer had referred to the incorrect test from the National Planning Policy Framework for assessing this type of asset – this had set the bar higher than it should have been and meant assessment of the application had come from the wrong starting point and could have affected the outcome.  This had been carefully checked and clarified as part of the fresh application, explaining why, when assessed against the correct part of the National Planning Policy Framework, the proposal did not cause the harm the Conservation Officer felt it did.  The applicant’s agent pointed out that the Conservation Officer response made the same mistake again quoting the wrong part and thus the wrong test – this was clarified at Paragraph 8.29 of the Committee report.  Paragraph 8.77 of the Committee report was clear in stating that the many benefits of the proposed development would clearly outweigh the harm.  The Town Council objected to the proposal solely because of the precedent it was feared would be set but, as Members knew, each case was assessed on its own merits and the unusual circumstances here, with the very large extensions as a legitimate fallback, could not be repeated because the government had changed the regulations – the circumstances could not be repeated elsewhere but remained materially significant.  The application had been submitted in May last year and the applicant’s agent stressed they had tried hard to get feedback; they were acutely aware of the challenges the Planning team had faced but, with no response for almost six months, and not knowing if or when they might get one, the applicant had made the difficult decision to appeal.  The applicant’s agent stressed this was not the desired approach and, following the decision today, he had been instructed to explore with Officers ways of averting the appeal if possible.  Based on his statement, and the clarity and strength of the Officer report, he asked Members to support the Officer recommendation.

56.39         The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was minded to permit the application and he sought a motion from the floor.  It was proposed and seconded that the Committee be minded to refuse the application on the basis that the proposed development, by reason of its bulk, mass and design would be an unsuitable addition in this prominent location and consequently would have an unacceptable impact on the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, furthermore, demolition of the existing building would result in a total loss of a non-designated heritage asset and there were no public benefits which would outweigh the substantial harm caused as a result of the loss of this asset.  The proposer of the motion drew attention to the refusal reasons for the previous application, set out at Pages No.150-151, Paragraph 3.2 of the report, and indicated that he did not feel anything had changed.   With regard to the point about the public benefits,  the Legal Adviser clarified that the National Planning Policy Framework test applied to the heritage asset was incorrect – the correct test in relation to a non-designated heritage asset did not refer to public benefit therefore it would be appropriate to remove that reference from the refusal reasons and instead state that the harm would not be outweighed by ‘the benefits’, as opposed to ‘public benefits’.  The proposer and seconder of the motion confirmed they were happy to amend the motion on that basis.

56.40         Another Member indicated that, if this was being considered as a fresh application and the existing properties were not there, it would be an isolated development and applications would only be looked upon favourably for properties of exceptional design.  As such, she asked whether Officers considered this to be an exceptional design which met that criterion.  In response, the Senior Planning Officer advised that Policy RES9 was applicable to replacement dwellings and did not require properties to be assessed against the exceptional test, therefore, that assessment had not been undertaken at this stage.  In response to a query as to why a decision had not been reached on the current application within the statutory timeframe, the Development Management Manager advised that this was due to resource issues within the team, as had been referenced by the applicant’s agent.  It had been a particular focus for the last few months and there had been positive momentum to bring the application before Members today.  A Member noted that the cinema room on the top floor had no windows but she was under the impression that all habitable rooms must have windows.  The Legal Adviser explained that a cinema would not be classed as a habitable room.  A Member sought clarification regarding the fallback position and was informed that it had already been lawfully implemented – the planning history showed that a lawful development certificate had been submitted for all applications which had been allowed on appeal.  It was therefore a reasonable prospect that it could be built and there was case law which required that to be taken into consideration. 

56.41         A Member indicated that he took a different view from the motion on the table and, should that fall, he would be happy to propose minded to permit in accordance with the Officer recommendation.  Another Member shared this opinion as this was a replacement dwelling so the principle of development had already been established and a lot of effort had been put in by the applicant to address biodiversity etc.  Upon being put to the vote, the motion that the Committee be minded to refuse the application was lost.  It was subsequently proposed and seconded that the Committee be minded to permit the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation and, upon being taken to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the Committee be MINDED TO PERMIT the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation.

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