Monthly Archives: March 2016

Another note on record-keeping

A north Wales resident’s challenge to the local council’s decision that an environmental assessment was not required for two wind turbines failed, a High Court judge deciding that the planning officer was able to provide an accurate account of the information that had been taken into consideration in its decision (Jedwell v Denbighshire County Council [10/3/2016]).

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One for Pseuds Corner

Private Eye would love this – permission has been denied at appeal for a ‘non-existent’ extension to a listed farmhouse in Oxfordshire (DCS Number 400-011-045).  

The extension would be a low slung single storey flat roof structure and would infill a gap between the farmhouse and the existing structures of a barn, granary and dairy. The structure would measure some 17m long and would have a modern design utilising glass, corten steel and ashlar stone. The inspector noted ‘the design principles and aim of creating an ‘ephemeral’ and non-existent building’. However, he decided that the construction of the structure in the middle of the open space would have an adverse effect on the coherence as a whole of the historic farmstead and would not enhance the current plan form and context of the farm.

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Does that make sense?

Readers might recall mention in this blog (Joined-up government?) of a case in which costs were awarded against a Devon council after it refused a prior approval application for a barn on the grounds that it would not be located in an agricultural unit (DCS Number 400-010-510). The council believed that the primary use of the land was equestrian. Such a decision was not an option for the council under the GPDO, the inspector ruled.

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Standard conditions for wind turbines

It can sometimes be difficult for the non-techie amongst us to draft or suggest conditions suitable for dealing with techie matters.

In (DCS Number 400-010-475) it was the potential impact of a wind turbine on broadband reception that was at issue. The proposal concerned a farm turbine in Carmarthenshire. Grants had been provided by the Welsh Government and the council to support the take-up of a broadband service provided by a private company.  The company raised concerns that the proposal would impact on their ability to deliver the service and could impact on communications links that provide a community Wi-Fi service in the area. In the absence of conclusive evidence on the matter the inspector decided that the best answer would be to attach a condition to the permission, reasoning that broadband speed tests are widely available and concerned individual customers should be able to demonstrate that problems had arisen as a result of the construction of the turbine. Accordingly, the following condition was imposed, modelled on a condition used in Norfolk.

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Evette the farm horse earns her pension

The owners of a barn in south Devon have their retired farm horse to thank for prior approval for its conversion to residential use (DCS Number 400-010-860).

The council argued that on the relevant date, 20 March 2013, the barn was used to house a horse and therefore the site was not used solely for an agricultural use. Rather, it was in equine use, or at best a mixture of agricultural and equine uses. The appellants, on the other hand, explained that Evette is an Ardennes draught horse. She was used as a working horse on the farm, and she grazed the land, with any winter feed being hay which was made on the holding.  While she retired in 2010, she continues to live in that way, roaming freely on the land for her own welfare, with the choice of using shelter when she wishes. The inspector recorded that it is generally accepted that grazing horses on land in such a manner is an agricultural, not an equine, use. On that basis, he determined that the proposal accorded with the requirements of Part 3, Class Q of the 2015 GPDO, and represented permitted development.

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Joined-up government?

Part 6 of the GPDO deals with agriculture and forestry, Class A concerning agricultural development on units of 5 hectares or more which are reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture within the unit. A council in Devon was ruled to be mistaken, however, in declining to determine a prior approval notification for a barn on the grounds that it would not be located in an agricultural unit as defined within the GPDO and that the development was not considered to be in keeping with the provisions of the GPDO (DCS Number 400-010-510). Such a decision was not an option for the council under the GPDO, an inspector ruled. The council believed that the primary use of the land was equestrian. What it should have done, the inspector explained, was to determine the application before it rather than refusing to determine it. It could then have advised the appellant that it did not believe the GPDO permission could be relied upon and that the council might need to consider the expediency of taking enforcement action if the building were to be erected. Not only that, costs were awarded against the council because it had failed to deal properly with the application in accordance with established legal principles by making a purported decision which is outside the powers available to it under the GPDO.

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Equality of arms

We know that residents who wish to oppose a development in their local area can find the prospect of presenting their case at a hearing or inquiry intimidating. An inspector dealing with a proposal for a mixed use scheme in Kent (DCS Number 200-004-624) has usefully explained the extent to which an inspector is able to assist unrepresented parties as follows:

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