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How to get an open market dwelling in the countryside

Planners working in rural areas will be aware that there is a desperate need for more farm dwellings (in the case where a new farmhouse is proposed) and no demand at all for them (in the case where an application is made to lift an agricultural occupancy condition from an existing farmhouse).

One effective strategy for gaining the removal of an agricultural occupancy condition from a farmhouse seems to be to build it in the wrong place thereby nullifying the condition after four years, as the following successful LDC cases illustrate:

County                          Distance off approved siting    Date                DCS Number

Worcestershire           8m                                                 28/7/15            400-008-370

East Yorkshire             24m                                              13/4/15             400-007-090

Carmarthenshire       6-7m                                              3/12/14             400-005-890

North Yorkshire         6-7m                                              7/9/12               100-078-702

Somerset                      Just overlapping                         24/7/12             100-078-270

Cash-strapped planning authorities who are worried that they ought to be doing a bit more by way of monitoring the implementation of planning permissions can now …. worry more.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 9.413

Granny annexes – a matter of fact and degree?

A couple of recent appeals illustrate the difficulty faced by local planning authorities in determining whether or not residential annexes comprise ancillary accommodation.

In the first case (DCS Number 200-003-920) a granny annexe in a west Wales village was accepted as being ancillary to the main house. Here, the house and the annexe would be attached by means of a short glazed link. The council was concerned that the annexe, comprising a living room, kitchen, utility room, conservatory, bedroom with en suite facilities, and space in the roof, could be used as a separate residential unit. The inspector decided, however, that a number of factors which included the proximity of the annexe to the house, and shared garden and parking, pointed to the unit being used as ancillary accommodation. Therefore, it would not conflict with the council’s local needs policy.

On the other hand…

Ancillary accommodation proposed at a house in rural Warwickshire was turned down at appeal, in part due to its distance from the main house (DCS Number 400-008-419). The annexe would comprise a large living, dining and kitchen area together with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The inspector was concerned that the annexe would be sited 20m from the house, and the appellants were vague as to who would occupy it. A condition limiting occupation of the annexe to ancillary accommodation would be inappropriate, he decided, as it would be next to impossible to detect a breach.

So, both of these proposed annexes would be relatively large but one was allowed, the other dismissed. The greatest difference between them would seem to be the distance from the host dwelling. So all we have to decide is how close is close enough and how far is too far. Simples.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 10.2

The potential of rooftop schemes for solar gain and renewable energy generation

A scheme for a solar farm on high quality agricultural land in Devon (DCS Number 200-003-894) failed the sequential test, the inspector not being satisfied that brownfield opportunities including rooftop schemes had been properly looked at. She recognised that the NPPF and PPG on solar farms did not expressly refer to the need to undertake a sequential test but reasoned that it was self-evident that in requiring an assessment as to whether land of lower quality was available a review of the quality of the land which was available needed to be undertaken. Given the ministerial statement of March 2015 which set out a need for developers to provide a compelling justification for schemes involving high quality land she decided that she had no alternative but to dismiss the appeal.

The second case concerned the orientation of roof-mounted solar panels on 20 houses in Nottinghamshire (DCS Number 400-008-261). The Carbon Trust advises that ideally solar panels should be orientated so that they face within 45˚ of south. The council was concerned that whilst five of the houses would adhere to this advice the remaining 15 would be orientated east-west. The inspector pointed out that if all the houses were orientated within 45˚ of south it would not be possible to get so many houses on the site. Anyway, the panels on west-facing roof slopes would generate electricity in the late afternoon and early evening, when most needed. He decided that the layout and orientation of the houses would provide very good levels of renewable energy generation whilst optimising the development potential of the site.

The first case does seem to set the bar very high. Pity the developer who must ask anyone with a roof in the area if there is any chance of putting solar panels on it.

DCP section 26.536 refers.

Here’s a bit of fun

An inspector has allowed the placing of life-sized sculptures of a cow, a bull and a calf on a roundabout on the A39 (DCS Number 400-008-305). The sculptures were designed to draw attention to the land-based studies courses available at the local college but the highway authority was concerned that they would prove a distraction to motorists. The inspector decided, however, that the bovine family would not be out of context in its rural setting and would not prejudice road safety.

Those of a certain age will be delighted to hear that Ermintrude will be returning to The Magic Roundabout very soon.

And here is planning doing its bit to save the planet:

A one metre high fence was allowed around part of a field used as an apiary in the southeast London green belt (DCS Number 400-008-325). The land had previously been used as an orchard but this had been grubbed up and the land divided into 700 plots which were offered for sale. The council had removed permitted development rights on the land through an Article 4 Direction and was worried that the fence might prove a precedent for the erection of other structures on the land. The inspector reasoned that bee-keeping was an agricultural activity and that the siting of hives and a shed would not amount to operational development anyway. He concluded that the fence would not have any significant impact on the openness of the green belt or harm the character and appearance of the area.

Kent, the bee-friendly Garden of England.

Three cut-out-and-keep cases this time. Put these in a safe place – they will definitely come in useful one day.

  1.       Minor material amendments

In a mixed use development in southeast London an inspector sanctioned a raft of changes to a building which had already been constructed as minor material amendments (DCS Number 400-008-304). A number of changes to the building had been carried out during construction ostensibly due to the gradient in the road. These included the re-siting of the access, alteration of the parking layout, architectural alterations, and an increase in floorspace of 66 square metres. The inspector disagreed with the council’s claim that the cumulative effect of the changes was substantial. An interesting point to note is that the inspector compared the scale of the changes against the overall scale of the scheme, noting that the increase in floorspace would be only four per cent of the total.

DCP section 5.1352 refers.

  1.       Residential annexe

An inspector issued a lawful development certificate for the conversion of garaging at a property near York to a residential annexe, notwithstanding that it would have two bedrooms each with en suite facilities, a large living, dining and kitchen area and a cloakroom (DCS Number 400-008-282). He acknowledged that the unit would be substantial and would contain all the facilities necessary for day-to-day living. Nevertheless, he found a number of points in its favour, including that only about half the existing building would be converted to residential use. Again, scale counts.

DCP section 10.2 refers.

  1.       Barn conversion

A barn conversion in Shropshire was ruled not to be permitted development in the absence of a bat survey (DCS Number 400-008-314). The appellant pointed to a decision in December 2014 (DCS Number 400-006-116) in which the inspector had decided that the council was not authorised to ask for ecological information under the GPDO. The inspector in the more recent decision acknowledged the need for consistency …. but nevertheless held that without survey information she could not be satisfied that the requirements of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 would be met. Pick whichever suits.

DCP sections 10.1 and 4.3423 refer.

Turbine fails community engagement test

An inspector has taken a firm line and declined to determine an appeal relating to a single wind turbine in Cornwall (DCS Number: 400-008-067). The appellants claimed that they had met the requirements for pre-application consultation set out in The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015, since the turbine would be of the same height as one proposed in an earlier scheme. The inspector would have none of it, however, invalidating the appeal and ruling that fresh consultation must be carried out.

DCP sections 26.5 and 6.3 refer.