Planning Case Study – Heavily designated site gets consent for dwelling via ‘Flexi-Approach

Samuel & Son successfully obtained planning consent for a new dwelling on a heavily designated rural site.

Heavily designated site gets consent for dwelling via ‘Flexi-Approach’

A client approached us having privately acquired a smallholding abutting a family member’s residential property, and with a natural interest in protecting their principal asset and potentially adding value, enquired whether there were any development opportunities to the site. The smallholding comprised a predominately wooded site of approximately 8 acres, with a yard area that had initially served as a base for a forestry business but had rather developed into a hoarder’s yard.  The yard was littered with an array of ramshackle structures (old mobile homes, static caravans, Nissen huts, lorry bodies, etc.,), piles of hardcore, old tyres and plant machinery in varying states of disrepair.   It was an eyesore to say the least and there were certainly environmental considerations given the extent and type of detritus around adjacent to an ancient woodland site.   The only fixed feature on site was a 45’ x 20’ relatively modern agricultural tin barn.

The property was heavily designated: sandwiched between Semi Natural Ancient Woodland to the north and south; within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and situated within the 15km zone of influence for The Ashdown Forest’s Special Protection Area (SPA) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Further to various discussions with the client, it was determined that the next objective from acquiring the site was to establish planning consent for a dwelling.  For this task he engaged Samuel & Son’s Head of Rural Planning, Dan Page.  In consideration of the sensitive location, Dan knew that it would be an insightful and challenging test of the Local Planning Authority’s (LPA) ‘Flexible Approach’ to new dwellings in the countryside.   Although there was an existing agricultural barn on site, the property could not benefit from Class Q Permitted Development Rights because of being situated within the AONB.  Nevertheless, Dan considered there to be sufficient positive planning policy and guidance to warrant the submission of such an application under the ‘Flexi-Approach’.

Dan therefore organised a Pre-Application advice surgery with the LPA and submitted the initial proposal to knock down the existing tin barn, clear all the rubbish from the site and erect a family dwelling.

Given that the existing barn on site offered floor space of 130sq m and the initial pre-app proposed a 4 bed dwelling that would have offered some 340sq m of accommodation, it was not a great surprise that the LPA were not supportive of this particular scheme due to the size of the proposed dwelling being quite significantly larger than the existing structure on the site.  However, they did not entirely dismiss the proposition of a dwelling per se and indicated that a smaller dwelling could perhaps be considered, provided there was a greater focus on ecological and visual enhancement of the property as part of any scheme.

On this basis, Dan prepared a full planning application for a reduced sized 3 bedroom dwelling of about 285sq m submitting an overwhelmingly detailed and comprehensive statement supported by various third party surveys and reports concentrating on the ecological advantages that the development would effect on the property.

The application was supported locally and received Parish support.  Quite clearly the proposal in the application offered an improvement for the wider community.

Pleasingly, the content of the application was compelling and credible to the LPA and the application was passed, three days early by the case officer independently without the need to acquire Committee approval.

Presently, Dan continues to submit Condition discharge applications in relation to this project, with the hope of construction commencing in early Spring 2017.

Our client was delighted with the result commenting: “Dan’s intimate knowledge of local and national planning policies combined with his tactical savvy meant that the development proposal had a clear strategy from day one.  A strategy that turned each of the sites numerous developmental liabilities into developmental assets.   The results speak for themselves.”