Restoration and alteration of a farmstead, comprising of five small buildings, including the addition of a small bedroom extension.
Cllr Simon Christopher left the room during consideration of this application and the Vice-Chairman was in the Chair.
The Senior Planning Officer introduced the application for the restoration and alteration of a farmstead, comprising of 5 small buildings and including the addition of a small bedroom extension.
The Committee was shown a site location and curtilage plan; aerial view of Powerstock showing public bridleways; a site constraints plan and existing site plan of the farmhouse cottage, studios, cart shed / office, stables, kennels / tractor shed; a proposed site plan and floor areas for the existing and proposed site plans and a proposed demolition plan. The farmhouse and barn were grade 2 listed along with a number of curtilage listed outbuildings.
For each element of the application slides were shown of the floor plans and elevations alongside photographs and visual representations of each element of the application including:-
· Sort Farmhouse
· Sort Farm Studios
· Sort Farm Stables (grade 2 listed and previously used as accommodation)
· Cart Shed
The floorplan of Sort Farmhouse included the new build bedroom extension and slides were shown of the various elevations of the dwelling and extension and their relationship.
The Conservation Officer had raised an objection based on the heritage implications, however, the Committee was advised that the harm to the buildings through their alteration needed to be balanced against the material benefits of bringing the buildings back into use. The heritage Implications and public benefits of the scheme were outlined and are listed below:-
• Statutory duty to have special regard to the desirability of preserving a listed building and/or its setting
• Reflected by the adopted Local Plan Policy ENV4 and NPPF 2019 Section 16
• Conservation Officer provided advice to Case Officer and Committee as Decision Maker
• The Case Officer and the CO agreed that the proposals represent less than substantial harm to the listed buildings’ fabric and character and their setting
• This harm has considerable importance and weight and creates a presumption against planning permission
• That presumption can be outweighed by other material considerations/public benefits if powerful enough
• In this case the significant public benefits were:
– Preservation of the buildings from their ruinous state and securing a viable use
– Re-instatement of the use of historic buildings as residential living accommodation
– The proposals are modern additions that stand apart from the historic structures assisting in preserving the identity of the listed buildings
– The proposals will make a positive contribution being transformed from ruin to beneficial use – which can be experienced by walkers/riders using the public bridleway/footpath that run through the site
– The historic bridges on site will be repaired
• These significant public benefits are considered to outweigh the less than Significant Harm to the listed buildings
In conclusion, the Senior Planning Officer stated that the existing buildings were poorly constructed and had not been maintained for decades. The applicant sought to preserve the buildings and keep them weather tight and had employed an architect who appreciated the site. The modern additions to the existing structures would offer continuity and reflect the evolution of the site and how it went forward in the future. The potential public benefits had been expressed in 10 letters of support from neighbours which were outlined in the report. Although it was necessary to give some weight to the harm to the heritage asset, he considered this to be less than significant, with the public benefits outweighing any harm that would be caused through renovation of the buildings.
Andrew Whittle, a designer and craftsman who lived in Nettlecombe, addressed the Committee and said that he had been sad to witness the deterioration of the site and delighted that it had been bought by a local family who intended to restore the buildings. The proposals maintained the surviving fabric of the buildings with sensitive additions. In the past, these were practical buildings that had been reconfigured according to need. This had led to a mixture of styles and the plans were in keeping with this.
Martin Leay, an environmental planning advisor, spoke on behalf of 2 objectors to the application due to the inappropriate style of the new buildings that did not maintain the character of the site. The proposals represented significant growth in the residential curtilage due to extension of the listed building and failed to respect the historic building. The report did not set out the reasons why the comments made by the Conservation Officer had been ignored. He concluded that the application was contrary to policy, set a precedent to ignore the advice of the Conservation Officers and did not fulfil policy requirements and that a more sympathetic scheme should be encouraged.
Mr Bob Edwards, Director of a heritage consultancy, was commissioned to prepare a heritage statement in respect of this proposal. He stated that this was an example of a rare farmstead type group of buildings. All of the internal fixtures and fittings of the late 18th century farmhouse had been lost and he did not consider that the bedroom extension impinged on the heritage value of the site. He stated that the Listed Building Consent was about managing change and referred to paragraphs 189 and 190 of the NPPF. He advised that the Conservation Officer's pre-application comments made before the heritage statement had been prepared had not altered. However, the report recommendation was based on a balanced judgement having regard to paragraph196 of the NPPF, that the public benefit outweighed the harm to the buildings.
Anthony Butler, Vice-Chairman of Powerstock Parish Council, addressed the Committee in support of the application. The proposal represented a modest, low impact approach that preserved the sense of scale of the site, combining old and new elements and using traditional materials to maintain a simple understated scheme. He welcomed the fact that this would become a sustainable family home rather than holiday cottages or a museum.
Cllr Tony Alford, Dorset Council Ward Member for Eggardon, addressed the Committee in support of the application, saying that the farmstead was original and unique in having an organic layout with no formal courtyard or garden area and there would be no question of setting a precedent in this case. It was clear that the buildings had changed style and shape and been repurposed over the years. This application represented further evolution of the site using materials in keeping with the existing buildings. No new dwellings were being created and use as a single dwelling was by way of condition. The method statement in the Listed Building Consent provided the Planning Authority with the control it needed to ensure that the correct materials were used in the restoration.
A statement in support of the application by Sophie Perkins was read aloud by the Vice-Chairman in which she described the area and aspects of the views of the objectors, referring to previous uses of the farm buildings.
Crispin Weston, addressed the Committee on behalf of the applicant, stating that the proposals had been developed in a slow and measured way. A Heritage Consultant specialising in farmsteads and an architect who worked on listed buildings had been commissioned to work on the proposals. The cottage was a late 19th century converted animal shelter as the original house had been destroyed in a fire leaving only the smaller buildings intact. The bedroom extension represented a modest 23% increase and the proposals would secure Sort's long-term future. The concerns of the Conservation Officer had been mitigated by planning conditions and the only objection had been by a neighbour who lived 1/4 mile away out of view of the buildings. The desire was to turn the buildings into a family home and restore them as soon as possible.
Members asked about the Conservation Officer's comments in relation to the bedroom extension in paragraph 13.1.3 of the report.
The Senior Planning Officer stated that the buildings were poorly constructed and had not been maintained so were difficult to use as modern living accommodation. The bedroom extension therefore enabled the development by providing an adequate level of accommodation for the Sort Cottage that would bring the building back to life, whilst retaining as much of the historic fabric as was reasonable and ensuring that reinstatement of the buildings became a worthwhile investment.
Members highlighted the evolving nature of the farmstead and noted that the existing buildings did not conform to a particular pattern as they had been altered to fit different uses in the past. They asked about the bridges on the site, one of which had collapsed, and were reassured that these would be preserved and rebuilt in a sympathetic manner by way of condition on the Listed Building Consent.
Proposed by Cllr Nick Ireland, seconded by Cllr Louie O'Leary.
Decision: That the application be granted subject to the conditions. outlined in the appendix to these minutes.