Agenda item

Application - 19/01264/FUL - Rockhill Farm, Astwood Lane, Feckenham, Redditch


This application was being reported to the Planning Committee for determination because the application was deferredfrom a previous Planning Committee (July 2021). In addition, it had attracted an objection from a Statutory Consultee and therefore fell outside of the Scheme of Delegation to Officers.


Officers reported that following the submission of an additional representation received from Feckenham Parish Council (FPC) that an update had been circulated summarising the points raised by FPC, which also included the agent’s response. It was also noted that a revised presentation was circulated with the Planning Update Report pack.


Officers presented the report and in doing so, drew Members attention to the presentation slides on pages 7-19 of the Planning Update Report.


The application was for planning permission for the erection of 2 x dwellings in lieu of 1 dwelling granted as part of the site's re-development under planning application 17/00451/FUL (Retrospective).


Officers reported that the extant permission 17/00451/FUL (Retrospective) related to the redevelopment of the site forresidential purposes. This involved the conversion/extension of some of the former farm buildings and the demolition of various structures on site, including a large Dutch barn that was located close to the road frontage. A new single dwelling would have been erected in its place as shown on page 10 of the Planning Update Report.


Work commenced in 2020 during lockdown but during redevelopment it became apparent that there would be problems due to the gradient of the slope. Due to this, the design was converted into two 2-bedroom properties as shown on page 12 of the Planning Update Report.


Officers highlighted that both the footprint and position of the new structure were identical to the building outlined in the extant permission. Officers also drew Members’ attention to the change in roof design, going from a very shallow mono pitched roof to adual pitched roof with anoverall height varying from 5.3-6.2m. Officers noted that the new design matched surrounding buildings.


Officers also informed Members that this application was deferred last year at Planning Committee as comments made by the public speakers were felt to require clarification. Advice from Counsel was therefore sought. The advice was that the extant planning permission represented a fallback position.


Officers explained that the extant planning permission had a habitable volume of 478 cubic meters, where-as the new dwellings had a total volume of 776 cubic meters. Officers then drew Members’ attention to page 15 of the Planning Update Report Officers explained that with the volume of foundations required to enact the extant planning permission the overall development would have been 740 cubic meters.


Officers explained to Members that, the proposal would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt and would conflictwith Policy 8 of the Local Plan No.4.


Officers further explained that in this case, the volume of the building would be higher than the fallback position by approximately 36 cubic metres. However, in considering the spatial and visual consequences of this in the context of how the 17/00451/FUL scheme could have been implemented and the overall improvements made to openness on the site following the removal of other structures, on balance this would be considered to represent very special circumstances.


In conclusion, Officers recommended that having regard to the development plan and to all other material considerations, planning permission be granted subject to the conditions outlined on page 14/15 of the main agenda report.


At the invitation of the Chair, Councillors Hugo Hammersley and Alan Smith from Feckenham Parish Council addressed the Committee in objection to the application. Mr. Gary Phillips, architect on behalf of the applicant, addressed the Committee.


Members then asked questions of the Officers.


Members sought clarification from Officers if the original planning permission was implemented and then converted into two buildings. Officers confirmed that this aspect of the development had not been built in accordance with the overall extant planning permission, and that the site was developed as two separate dwellings.


Members asked if the foundations shown in page 15 of the Planning Update Report would have been usable space or just for the purposes of levelling out the site to enable construction on a single level.


Officers replied that it would not have been usable space. Members further enquired if they had dimensions for the foundations, Officers did not have full dimensions, however, they were aware that at its deepest point the foundation would have been 1.7m deep.


Members asked Officers if the volume of the dwelling space would have been the same.  Officers replied that the living space would have been very similar, much of the increase in volume was due to the roof space.


Members asked if the additional roof space could be converted. Officers replied that it could be converted, however, the space would be very limited and any conversions to the roof including a dormer being installed, would need a separate planning permission.


Members asked about the roof design and that if a shallow mono pitched roof was required in the extant application why was it now deemed acceptable to have a change in roof design. Officers replied that to enable the approved scheme to be on a single level it would also have been higher due to the original site gradient which was not defined under the extant permission. However, with stepping the scheme down the applicant could make use of the site gradient, Officers highlighted that there would still be an increase in the overall height of the property with the change in roof.


Members then considered the application, which Officers had recommended be approved.


Members commented that this was a difficult application, the applicant had continued working on site during the Covid-19 pandemic and has subsequently been constructed prior to determination. The extant application was debated at Committee; however, the proposed application was completely different and if this application had been presented to the Committee for approval first, there would likely have been different Conditions attached to it as compared to the extant application.


Several Members raised concerns regarding setting a precedent with applicants changing designs once approval was granted.


Members asked Officers if they were aware of the changes taking place. Officers replied that they had not been aware initially, but when discovered, their approach was to work with the applicant to explore if a solution existed, as opposed to just taking formal action.  Officers also highlighted to Members that when the application came to Committee in July 2021 that work was still in progress.


Officers advised the Committee that each application must be considered on its own merits and that the retrospective nature of a development should not influence their decision making. Also, Officers highlighted that there was an extant live permission for a building to be in that position which represents a fallback position.


Members commented that the living space was not significantly more and that during execution of the planning permission they found an issue with height. Officers clarified the fall back was not the Dutch barn, but the 2017 permission.


Members raised concerns with the fallback position stating that the extant permission was not enacted and that two properties were constructed and the application should be seen as a new build. Officers reiterated that Members had to bear in mind that there was an extant planning permission for a building to exist in that position on site, all be it on a different land level.


Members asked Officers if they would be able to clarify the Counsel advice sought after the application was deferred in July 2021. Officers stated that advice was sought on if the 2017 planning application was a valid fallback position. Guidance was given around how much of the original plan was implemented and a view was taken, as a whole, as to the extent of deviation from the approved plans. It was decided after consultation that it was a valid fallback position.


Members asked Officers what would happen if permission was refused. Officers clarified that the applicant could appeal the decision, or they could demolish the building and implement the extant permission.


Members compared the two properties and commented that in their opinion living space was a more reasonable comparison and the differences would not be major. Officers clarified that the contrasting volume (created largely by the contrasting roof volume) was an important consideration that required due assessment.


Members stated that they were unhappy with how the application had been altered and that it could have come back to Committee a while ago. The extant fallback position was for approval for a one building on the site, but two buildings had been constructed. This therefore changed the number of vehicles and residents. 1x4bed would likely be 2 Vehicles and 5 residents, 2x2bed could be 4 vehicles and 6-8 residents, which would impact on the Green Belt. Additionally, Members argued that the reason given that it would have been very difficult to build a 1.5m foundation was poor in their opinion, and that the builders chose the cheapest way to build on the site and had behaved inappropriately.


Officers advised Members to make their decision based on the application as it stands and not to consider how the scheme had been arrived at. Officers clarified that Members did have a choice in how they decided the application.


Officers stated that the sub-division could be policy compliant and referred to para 80 of the NPPF regarding sub-division of buildings. However, they appreciated that the building was not existing, but the applicant did have a fallback position.


On being put to the vote, it was




Having had regard to the development plan and to all other material considerations, that Planning permission be granted subject to the Conditions as detailed on pages 14 and 15 of the main agenda report.


With the agreement of the Chair, the meeting stood adjourned between 20:11 and 20:16

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