Class Q success near Cheltenham...
Wreyland went toe-to-toe with the LPA recently for a Class Q, finally emerging bloody yet victorious...
Round 1 - The LPA thought the nearby highway would be too noisy despite it being a relatively minor road some 200m away.
Wreyland came back swinging with a supportive acoustic survey...
Round 2 - The LPA hit low suggesting that, notwithstanding its concrete floor, steel portal frame and the fact that the building was only just over ten years old, the building wasn't structurally sound...
Wreyland and the applicant grabbed a shovel one sunny Thursday evening, dug down to the foundations and came back with a structural survey...
Round 3 - The LPA get back in the fight with a haymaker.... The building isn't agricultural, bee-keeping isn't an agricultural business, the use of the building is for food-processing and isn't part of an 'established agricultural unit.'...
Wreyland decides to finish things and comes back with 4,000 words on agriculture and planning.
The LPA concedes...
The best Planning Consultant... In the world....
Clarkson’s at it again! Diddly Squat Farm Shop has had a planning contravention notice served on it as allegedly products sold in the shop didn’t come from the farm. Now the 2020 lambing shed is to become a 60 seater restaurant… Cue spittle flecked objections - “Thin end of the wedge!” “Planning by the back door!” “Stealth planning!” “I moved next to a farm for peace and quiet yet all I can smell is shit and I can see people wondering about covered in it too! What is this, 1886 Casterbridge? - it’s outrageous!”
I have total sympathy with Clarkson and what he’s doing. Clarkson told Jeremy Vine “There is more traffic yes, but there is more business – the village shop is doing better, the café is doing better, the pub in the village – they are all doing better.”
I grew up in a small yet achingly pretty village on Dartmoor. Middle of nowhere – closer to an MOD firing range than it is a latte, yet it has a village shop with post office in which you can get all the ingredients for a top-notch curry, a damn good pub, a mechanic’s premises who will lend you a car when yours is being repaired, a really interesting gallery and a tea-room which’ll knock you up a quality wedding cake.
The point is that the village is absolutely buzzing – all the time. People who work from home and need to pop up to the shop for a pint of milk have to factor in at least 45 minutes chatting-time to all the people they bump into while in the village. The community is thriving, local people are able to make a living and enjoy living in a cohesive community and it’s all because the enterprises in that village both satisfy a need and provide a reason for people to be there.
The first paragraph of the forward to the 2008 Taylor Review is absolutely on the money when it says “The English Countryside is a wonderful place to live and work – if you can afford a home, if you can find a reasonably paid job.”
This is why I am so exceptionally pleased this week to have received permission for a project in Worcestershire just west of Tewkesbury. Wreyland Rural Planning have secured permission for the reorganisation of uses together with operational development of a dilapidating rural petrol station which had ceased operations in 2017 and has been hanging around since awaiting an entrepreneurial type to show it some love.
The applicants – a local company with a strong track record of returning dilapidated buildings to commercial uses and whom provide employment for over 40 people in the immediate area, will re-commence fuel sales from the site, however the principal focus will be on the shop, which moves from a standard petrol station kiosk to providing a full village shop for the residents of Bushley and Forthampton and which will also provide for a post-office. Products sold by the shop will be principally sourced from established relationships with multiple local producers – the furthest being from Bristol.
This development will also provide 5 additional FTE jobs to the area.
The application required a bit of grey matter, involving the demolition and re-building of the site’s structures, a reorganisation of the site’s layout its buildings and its parking areas, ecological works, and culminated with S247 negotiations with Highways.
I am really looking forward to seeing the applicant’s take this one further.
Living in sin...
Success this week for the mighty Wreyland Rural Planning, this time in East Devon under S191 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 with confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that a breach of condition could no longer be subject to enforcement proceedings.
Mr and Mrs X purchased their dwelling in 1996 subject to an Agricultural Occupancy Condition, which required that the occupiers work wholly or mainly in agriculture within the locality. Neither Mr or Mrs X had ever worked in farming, despite having occupied the property continuously for over 25 years.
Under S191 of the T&CPA '90 where a planning condition has been breached for a period of greater than 10 years, that breach becomes unenforceable. This position can be confirmed through the acquisition of a Certificate of Lawfulness from the Local Authority.
This has obvious advantages to the occupier. Most notably that dwellings which are subject to an agricultural tie generally command lower market values which can be depressed by circa 30%. Furthermore banks can be dis-inclined to offer mortgages on such properties. Acquisition of a Certificate also removes the risk of the Local Authority finding out about the unlawful occupancy and subsequently commencing enforcement proceedings.
WRP investigated the nature of the condition together with the facts of the applicant's occupation of the property and compiled a comprehensive argument based upon establish legal precedent, statutory declarations, council tax records which showed a continuous occupation and financial accounts which demonstrated the occupier's continuous non-agricultural employment. As a result, the Local Authority accepted Wreyland's application without further question and granted the certificate.
There are significant risks associated with applying for a Certificate of Lawfulness. Fundamentally it involves an admission to the Local Authority that one has been occupying their property unlawfully. Should the application fail, the consequences can be serious. As a result, such applications require a clear understanding of the breach and a forensic approach to the compilation of a very comprehensive body of evidence and robust argument to demonstrate that on the balance of probabilities that breach is now unenforceable. They are not applications to be entered into lightly. Wreyland's approach to these sorts of applications is to ensure that an application is not submitted until its chances of success are virtually guaranteed. An approach which has again been vindicated here.
We are very pleased with another successful result.
It's been quiet on here... Too quiet...
But, ironically, that's because I've been rather busy over the last few months...
Largely because, after three previous attempts due to Covid, we finally managed to squeeze in a Wedding!
Luckily however our anticipated Honeymoon to the sunny shores of Montenegro was cut-short the day before we were due to leave by its inclusion on the Red-List, so a week on the character-building South Devon coast took its place where the new Mrs Barker was delighted to be given the opportunity to tour a couple of up and coming development sites on the outskirts of that well known Honeymoon destination, Newton Abbot... (If you think that's bad, I once persuaded her to join me on a six-month tour of New Zealand dairy farms...)
As life has slowly returned to normal, Autumn has been busy here at Wreyland. Currently working their respective ways through the planning system we are working on:
As we move to a close of our first year in independent practice, sixty-one clients have very kindly instructed Wreyland to assist them with their planning applications.
Not a bad first year...
Overturning a Planning Officer's recommendation for refusal at Tewkesbury Planning Committee
Wreyland Rural Planning submitted a householder application for an extension to an existing dwelling which sat within both the Greenbelt and AONB. The application was recommended for refusal by the Planning Officer on the basis that the proposal represented 'inappropriate development in the Greenbelt' as it would result in disproportionate extensions to the 'original dwelling' according to TBC's Planning Officer.
Policy precludes inappropriate development in the Green Belt with some exceptions, one of these being proportionate residential extensions, which, as a rule of thumb should not generally be greater in size than 40% - 50% of the 'original dwelling.'
The original dwelling is considered under policy to be the dwelling as it was on 1st July 1949.
Despite a dwelling having been on this particular site for 400 years, the Planning Officer considered the original dwelling here to date from 1965 - the year the LPA's records on the property began. The Planning Officer considered the proposed extension to be 129% greater than the dwelling at that time and therefore 'inappropriate.'
Research undertaken by Wreyland Rural Planning revealed evidence from 1947 which showed a much larger dwelling at the relevant date, upon which the proposed extension represented an increase of just 17.5% - far smaller than that considered by the Planning Officer and well within the parameters of what is considered 'proportionate' under policy
Reporting the findings to the Planning Committee, we are pleased to say that Councillors took a pragmatic view of the evidence before them, and found overwhelmingly in our favour.
Another successful day here at the coalface of rural planning and another happy client...
NFU Mutual reports 'surge in farm diversification...'
A recent survey undertaken by NFU Mutual and published in Farmers Weekly reported a surge in the proportion of farmers making an income from a diversified business. (https://www.fwi.co.uk/business/diversification/survey-shows-surge-in-farm-diversification).
37% of farm businesses reported diversified interests - up from 31% last year. In 2018, this figure was 28%.
Income from non-farming enterprises as a percentage of total business turnover also increased to 16%.
The most popular types of diversified enterprise were reported as; Renewable energy, residential letting, holiday accommodation, equestrian, farm shops and caravan / camping sites.
In England alone, 43% of farms have diversified interests...
Drivers behind this change are reported to be changes to BPS, the risk of cheaper food imports, the Covid pandemic and the resulting demand for 'staycations.' Brexit was not mentioned... Jokes - of course it was, and it will be reported as the driver for everything forever more...
What is interesting about this is that the planning system was not mentioned... Back in the mid 2000's planning was regularly identified as a principal barrier to rural diversification. Since then the system has eased considerably...
As well as being a crack Planning Consultant I can also help with insomnia. If you're reading this late at night because you can't sleep - I can help. Seek out the National Planning Policy Framework... Turn to page 23 and there ye shall behold Paragraph 83 'Supporting a prosperous rural economy.' Here, the Government directs Local Planning Authorities to enable:
a) The sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business in rural areas, both through conversion of existing buildings and well-designed new buildings:
b) the development and diversification of agricultural and other land-based rural businesses.
c) sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments which respect the character of the countryside;
This policy is a material consideration. It has set the Government's direction of travel in favour of rural economic development and offers farmers and other rural business and landowners a solid base from which to really push their Local Authorities armed with a robust application which has the weight of Government policy behind it.
Whether the easing of planning policy in terms of rural development was a driver behind the growth in diversified farm incomes is an interesting question. What is certain is that the relatively benign planning landscape will have significantly helped drive the increase and continues to offer myriad opportunities for development. The current policy climate is an opportunity to be taken advantage of.
Sweating Farm Assets...
Class R of the GPDO 2015 - The change of use of agricultural buildings to flexible commercial purposes (which includes shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, business, storage or distribution, even hotels).
This month on a farm in Gloucestershire we changed the use of the ground floor of a traditional farm building to accommodate a furniture restorer who had expressed an interest in using the floorspace.
At less than 150m2 of floorspace we simply provide a pretty plan to the LPA, and demonstrate how the proposal concords with the terms of the Permitted Development. No need for floorplans or elevations, topo's, structural surveys, flood risk, or even a tussle with the Local Authority.
This is a really simple avenue from which to make use of under-utilised assets on the farm without onerous investment. The corner of an existing under-utilised building can provide additional income and provide a little bolstering against the scourge of volatility.
A satisfied customer? We should have them stuffed!
Planning success was achieved this week in conjunction with Morris Architectural Design for a property in Torbay, Devon.
The application involved a semi-detached dwelling, the owner of which sought three objectives: To replace an attached single-storey garage with a two-storey extension to increase internal living accommodation, to detach the existing garage from the neighbouring property to create an entirely detached dwelling, and to append a balcony to the rear of the property to allow the applicant to make the most of their sea view.
Working with Nathaniel Morris, we were able to counter the Local Authority's reservations - which were many, as well as vocal opposition raised by the neighbours.
Crucial to the success of the application was clear demonstration that the application was policy concordant, would not be overbearing to neighbouring properties, would not be of detriment to the wider locale in terms of overlooking or overshadowing and was appropriate to the character of the area. Further concerns were raised in terms of parking provision.
These objections required additional plans from Nathaniel over that normally required for an application and which demonstrated no detriment to the neighbour, a comprehensive assessment and interpretation of local policy to show that the Local Authority were wrong in many areas of their opposition, and the provision of Planning Appeal evidence to further bolster our arguments with relevant evidence.
We are very pleased that the applicant has achieved their goal, affording them a detached property with a significant increase in floorspace, and sea-views of the English Riviera (complete with Sydney Opera House, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and its herds of Wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains...).
Another permission in the bag today with permission under Delegated powers for the provision of annexe accommodation on a farm in the Cotswolds.
A multi-generational solution was required to allow father and son to generate a living from the same holding, while allowing them each a bit of privacy.
A number of opportunities can be available in these circumstances. Where livestock numbers can demonstrate an essential need, an application for an ag-tied dwelling can be made, however this can take some doing where a farmhouse exists already. Other opportunities are also sometimes available, and can include the conversion of an existing rural building on the farm, maybe even under Class Q.
Sometimes though, the simplest solutions are the best. Here local policy provided for annexe accommodation to the main farmhouse which met the applicant's requirements. A quick, clean and efficient application was made with a decision being received ten weeks later.
A pleasing result was obtained this week for a client within the Green Belt...
Our client, an established Bee Keeper, maintains 40 hives across the region, and manages circa 40,000,000 bees. This is approximately 2% of the UK's two-billion bees. (By comparison a farmer managing 2% of the UK's sheep flock would represent 700,000 ewes). Therefore, this client is a major contributor to supporting bee numbers in the UK.
Our client required a larger building from which to grow the business further, and to replace an existing agricultural building which has begun to show its age.
Planning was achieved within 9 weeks - not bad given recent circumstances.