Agenda item

21/00249/FUL - Land North of Droitwich Road, Droitwich Road, Feckenham, Worcestershire


The application was being reported to the Planning Committee because:


  • an objection had been received from the Parish Council. As such the application had resulted in a formal objection being received from a statutory consultee, which had not been resolved through Officer negotiation.
  • The application was a major development because it exceeded 2 hectares in area. As such the application fell outside the scheme of delegation to Officers.


Officers presented their report and in doing so drew Members attention to pages 23 to 43 of the Site Plans and Presentations Pack.


The application was for the Land North of Droitwich Road, Feckenham and sought the change of use from agriculture to a mixed use of agriculture and the keeping of horses, erection of two stables, a hay store and retention of the vehicular access and parking area


Officers detailed to Members the history of the application in that


  • The application was a part retrospective application and some of the development in the application had been completed.
  • The site was subject to a previous retrospective application (20/00194/FUL) which was refused planning permission on 19.05.2020, the applicant had then been subject to enforcement action in the form of an enforcement notice.
  • During the course of an appeal against the enforcement notice the Planning Inspectorate was unhappy with the wording of the notice and therefore gave Officers the opportunity, without prejudice to withdraw the notice, which they subsequently did.
  • In the immediate period after the original enforcement action was withdrawn and before a revised one was drafted and issued, a second planning application was submitted by the applicant.
  • Officers decided to validate and process the application because it was materially different from the first and to ascertain the views of statutory consultees


Officers highlighted the site location within the greenbelt and its proximity to a non-designated heritage asset (Feckenham medieval manorial site), as detailed on page 25 of the Site Plans and Presentations Pack.


There was an error noted in the Site Plans and Presentations Pack in that pages 42 and 43 were identical, Members were therefore shown the correct slides during the Committee which detailed the proposed site plans correctly.


Officers outlined the vehicular access changes to the site, detailing that the southern entrance would no longer be used and that the northern entrance would be retained. Additionally, some of the hedgerow at the northern entrance would be removed to allow for larger visibility splays, as detailed on page 34 of the Site Plans and Presentations Pack.


Officers highlighted that the ridges and furrows on site had been damaged by previous development.  However, there would be very little further impact. It was noted that to try and reverse the work could risk causing further damage when removing the previously added material.


Finally, Officers detailed to Members that in approving the application it would allow Officers to monitor the development via Conditions and a management plan, whereas if Members were minded to refuse the application, and then an enforcement notice was served this Could not deliver long term management of the asset.


At the invitation of the Chair Councillor Hugo Hammersley (of Feckenham Parish Council), Councillor Alan Smith (of Feckenham Parish Council) and Mr Andrew Fisher (resident) addressed the Committee in objection to the application. Mrs Charlotte El Hakiem (agent for the applicant) addressed the Committee in support of the application.


Officers clarified the following points during questions from Members:


  • That although the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) stated that only one retrospective application could be submitted for an application, that figure was for guideline purposes only and that in this instance the applications were considered materially different and that it was deemed acceptable to consider the application on its own merit.
  • That there were no objectors from technical consultees which could cause difficulties with the Council being able to defend its position at appeal if Members were inclined to refuse the application.
  • That intensive agriculture practices could cause damage to the ridge and furrows; this would not be a change of land use.
  • That Condition 6 addressed the drainage issue. The details required by this Condition would have to be submitted to and approved by the Local Planning Authority within a prescribed timescale.
  • That the application did not seek to increase the hardstanding on site but sought retrospective permission to retain the track and carparking area.
  • That regarding the comments from Historic England, as detailed on page 42 of the Public Reports Pack, the Council did not seek to justify the harm that resulted from the works but weighed it up against the public benefits of the proposal, in that approval allowed them a solution for a long term management of the site using Conditions.


Members then discussed the application which Officers had recommended be granted.


Councillor Hartnett proposed an Alternative Recommendation that the application be rejected as it was detrimental to the greenbelt, the Alternative Recommendation was seconded by Councillor Akbar.


Members were displeased that the application was retrospective in nature and expressed the opinion that the development should not have happened and that ignorance to what was permitted was not an excuse.


Members were mindful that should they refuse the application and enforcement action was taken then the Council would have less powers to control the future management of the non-designated heritage asset, special wildlife site and surface water drainage.


Members commented that they appreciated that damage was caused during the development, however, if the application was refused and the land was then sold, the new owner would be able to use intensive farming practices under the current land designation and that further damage could be sustained to the ridge and furrow system.


During the debate, Members sought clarification and further details on the following matters:


  • Whether further loss of the ridge and furrows would be caused by the development.
  • Updated surface water drainage plan.
  • The impact of the development on surface water runoff.
  • The impact of the development upon the pond on site
  • Ground levels, direction of slope across the site
  • Officers’ response to the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust (WWT) representation.
  • Whether Officers were satisfied that the harm to the ridge and furrow was justified as per the representation submitted by Historic England - “The Council must be satisfied that there is justification for that harm, and weigh it against any public benefits of the proposals”
  • Explanation of what a ‘watching brief’ referred to in proposed condition 2 entailed


Further to the preamble above, Councillor Marshall proposed a Second Alternative Recommendation that the application be deferred in order for Officers to investigate and report on the aforementioned areas of concern, the Second Alternative Recommendation was seconded by Councillor Baker-Price.


The Legal Officer advised Members that they should vote on the Second Alternative Recommendation first and if that was not carried then they would return to the initial Alternative Recommendation.


In summing up the Second Alternative Recommendation, Councillor Marshall thanked all attendees for their patience during the debate but expressed the opinion that although it was a big decision, there were still a number of questions to be answered so she believed that a deferral was the most appropriate solution.


On being put to the vote it was


Resolved that


having had regard to the development plan and to all other material considerations, the application be deferred pending further information to be supplied by the applicant and Case Officer to answer the questions raised by the Committee, as detailed in the preamble above.


At this stage in the meeting the Chair announced an adjournment.


Accordingly, the meeting stood adjourned from 21:00 hours to 21:08 hours.


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