Erect 4 No. dwellings (demolish agricultural buildings).
The Committee considered planning application 2/2019/0686/FUL for the proposed construction of two pairs of conventionally styled, domestic dwellings in Sandpits Lane, Madjeston, Gillingham, in place of the current, modern agricultural barn situated close to a farm complex. The four dwellings would be brick built alongside each other, with slate roofs and timber fenestration, and located behind an aged stone wall, which currently supported one side of the barn, with shared access and rear gardens and parking.
In view that permission had been granted for the conversion of the barn to four dwellings - under Class Q application - the principle had already been established for the delivery of housing at this location. However, this permission did not provide for the demolition of the barn, rather the conversion of it. Permission was now being sought to develop the site as now proposed.
For context, the Committee were provided with a visual presentation and officers described the main proposals and planning issues in detail, covering the key elements of the development. Plans and photographs provided an illustration of the location and design of the development, how it would look and showing its dimensions - form, mass and size - and the materials to be used. Members were provided with views from various directions and the presentation also confirmed what the access arrangements being proposed would be; its relationship with the highway network and explained the context of the development in relation to the characteristics of the surrounding countryside and its setting within it.
As part of the formal consultation process, Gillingham Town Council had objected to the application, claiming it would be out of character as well as being dominant, over-bearing and harmful to the landscape. Eight residents had also made their objection known on the grounds that the development would attract additional traffic; that the site would be unsuitable for families and would set a precedent for developing homes in the open countryside.
However officers considered that this would not be the case on the basis that each application was considered on its own merit and would not therefore set a local precedent for more isolated houses, as there was already a prior approval for four dwellings on the site.
Martin Carpenter, EnPlan, spoke on behalf of the owners of the neighbouring Madjeston Farm, considering the application to be unacceptable on the grounds that it did not comply with Policy 20 of the North Dorset Local Plan (2016) in that
paragraph 8.172 stated that “new dwellings should be located where they will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities and new isolated homes in the countryside should be avoided unless there are special circumstances”. It was the view of his clients that this was not the case here and should be rejected.
Robyn Harper, for the applicant, Symonds and Sampson, considered the application should be granted permission in that the principle for domestic dwellings had already been established by Class Q, whereas the existing dwelling would require conversion. The proposal benefitted from an environmental enhancement, in being built to modern, energy efficient standards and of what the local vernacular was, being a less obtrusive amenity with no adverse highway impact.
The Committee were then provided with the opportunity to ask questions of the officer’s presentation and officer’s provided clarification in respect of the points raised including an explanation of how Class Q applications were considered and what these entailed in practice.
One of the local Gillingham Ward councillors, Belinda Ridout, said what was being proposed was acceptable given that, in her view, the current barn was obtrusive and of little aesthetic value and the replacement cottages would be considerably more attractive and were similar to those nearby on the same lane, being brick built in the local, vernacular, materials.
However other Councillors expressed a different view in that they were concerned that approval of the application would indeed set a precedent, with advantage being taken of agricultural permitted development rights – Class Q - for similar applications to be made in open countryside where houses were not generally allowed, unless tied to an agricultural business.
Other Committee members agreed with the Ward member though, considering that four new countryside homes built in the local style would enhance the look of the area, compared to a large industrial-style barn and benefitted not only the characteristics of the rural scene, but provided much needed and valued housing stock for the rural community. They agreed with officers that this was a good example of a sustainable use of redundant buildings to meet housing needs.
Having had an opportunity to discuss the merits of the application, having
understood what was being proposed and having taken into account the officer’s report, what they had heard at the meeting from the case officer, legal advisor and invited speakers, on that basis - and on being put to the vote – the Committee considered that the planning application should be approved and planning permission granted, subject to the conditions set out in the officer’s report .
That planning permission be granted in respect of planning application 2/2019/0686/FUL, subject to the conditions set out in the officer’s report.
Reason for Decision
The proposal would lead to an environmental enhancement over and above that which would be achieved were the existing building to be converted into four dwellings.