To determine the application
Alison Hoffman presented the report to members.
Members received a presentation, in accordance with the public participation procedure, from Chris Walford, the agent.
Mr Walford stated that this application is for a log cabin serving two key purposes, the first as a show home for the existing business, Barretts Leisure, and the second for an on-site residence for the applicant and owner of the business, Mr Hardiment. He acknowledged that officers are bound by Local Plan policy and this application does not fit the mould for a typical functional dwelling in an elsewhere location, which he feels is why this is a decision that should be made by the committee.
Mr Walford made the point that the application has Parish Council support, is in Flood Zone 1 and has no other consultee issues. He stated that the log cabin was originally permitted in 2005 as a show home only so the placement of the log cabin in this location is not an issue, with the added use to allow the owner to live on site to help him with the efficiency of the business, both financially and operationally.
Mr Walford referred to the concerns raised by officers regarding the dual use of a show home and a cabin at the same time, but this is a scenario that the applicant is accustomed to within his industry in leisure and is planning to keep the dwelling clean and tidy ready for the start of each working day when he might have a potential customer, but most would be by appointment only. He stated that they are happy for this to be secured by condition that it will be for the owner of the business only.
Mr Walford asked members to consider this low impact proposal for use of a building which has already been permitted on site in a way of improving and helping financially the operation of a small business in the local area.
Members asked questions of Mr Walford as follows:
· Councillor Cornwell asked how many show homes are lived in and why there is a need to live in the demonstration house? Mr Walford responded that there is a liveable cabin on site that is being used for the purpose of showing customers what is on offer and the applicant for his own reasons would like to move on site to free up his current residence and pump this money into his business. He made the point that the applicant is happy to live on site in his workplace and asked what is the harm and extra impact of him living on site in his own business accommodation? Councillor Cornwell stated that he has viewed the site and the cabin is very impressive, but just wondered why he had to live on site and asked if there is anyone living on site now? Mr Walford stated he would have to check, but does not believe so.
· Councillor Mrs Davis stated that they have gone some way to mitigate that this is a show house, which are normally void of residents, and why someone should live here, but have failed to mention if it is to protect the site, with the Crime Officer saying it is a low crime area and asked if there have been incidents at the site? Mr Walford responded that he is not aware of a record of incidents, but the Crime Officers comments are on what has happened today but this does not mean it might not happen tomorrow. He expressed the view that it is a remote and open area, there are reports of crime, and business owners are paranoid and he does not feel it should be a reason not for the applicant to live on site just because there has not been a problem.
· Councillor Mrs Davis referred to the house close by and asked if this is owned by the applicant? Mr Walford responded that he did not know.
· Councillor Benney referred to his visit of the site and saw the log cabin, but also saw sheds. He stated that it is being queried the use of show home and living accommodation and asked if there are items stored in the sheds as the use of the sheds is not being queried. Mr Walford responded that he did not know. Councillor Benney stated that if they are being used for storage that is their purpose and this would be the purpose for having a dwelling here. Mr Walford stated that the log cabin will sit there and be a show home and he would imagine that the sheds would be for storage.
· Councillor Miscandlon stated that Councillor Mrs Davis had asked the question he was going to ask about the house within the blue curtilage of the site. Mr Walford responded that a colleague has updated him that the house is not in the applicant’s ownership and was accidentally included within the blue line.
Members asked officers the following questions:
· Councillor Sutton asked, if an area has been included in the blue or red line, would the application still be valid? David Rowen stated that he is not certain and it is the first time he has heard of land being included in the blue line accidentally. He feels given that it is the blue line boundary he would suspect this does not invalidate the application. The Legal Officer confirmed it did not invalidate the application. David Rowen stated that if land is included within the red line boundary that is not within the applicant’s ownership they would have to serve a notice and certificate of ownership, which could complicate and invalidate an application.
· Councillor Miscandlon asked if the officers were aware regarding the land being included in the blue line and not being in the applicant’s ownership as this has obviously been on record for some time before it came to committee so why was it not picked up beforehand? Alison Hoffman responded that this would be a question for the agent, as the report is in the public domain. However, she made the point that even if there is not a house within the blue line it still needs to be considered if there is a functional or essential need for a dwelling to serve a leisure use within the site. Alison Hoffman stated that the agent has failed to explain that the house is not in the ownership, but this is only one part of the consideration that members need to make in evaluation of this application. Councillor Miscandlon expressed the opinion that a mistake has been made that was not picked up by the agent or officers, which needs to be clarified going forward.
Members asked questions, made comments and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Benney believes there have been similar scenarios to this, such as at Manea where a farmer was looking to live on site for rural security and, in his opinion, the applicant’s business is there and there is no better security than someone living on site. Whilst he recognises that you can put alarms in and cameras outside businesses to make them safe, in his view, the Police do not want to know, with the best you get is a crime number, and as much as there is not a high crime rate in the area, having been burgled many times at his shop, if he could have stopped one burglary that would have been worth it whatever he had to do to stop it happening as it is not a nice experience or to lose financially, and he would have thought that most people who have had a business have had something stolen. Councillor Benney stated that this business is in a rural location and he has his stock and money tied up in it, and, in his opinion, when you live on site a person will never know when you are going to walk out that door and this is best deterrent to have and means of security. In his view, the person who knows that business best is the business owner, with businesses struggling at the moment due to Covid and the recovery, and if the applicant wants to move out of his house and live here to fund his business, members should be doing everything to support him that is how businesses grow. Councillor Benney expressed the view that the proposal will not be of harm to anyone else, it will prevent crime and he does not think the Police statistics on crime are right, making the point how many people do not report the small things that get stolen. In his opinion, the applicant should be allowed to invest his money into his business, the cabin is already there and as to whether it is being used for living in or display it will be kept pristine and will serve a dual purpose making use of an asset that the applicant has got and for this reason he would support the application.
· Councillor Connor agreed with a lot of the comments made by Councillor Benney as he had a scrap metal yard, the Police said it was a low crime area, he suffered from numerous break-ins. He stated that he would have liked someone to live on site and for this reason he will be going against officer’s recommendation as, in his view, you cannot beat a presence on the site. Councillor Connor stated that although he got broken into on a regular basis, he only reported one crime, and if he had reported everything it would have been a high crime area.
· Councillor Mrs Davis asked, if members are minded to go against officer’s recommendation, could it be a condition that the log cabin is only to be used for the residence of the business owner and only for the duration that the business is there? David Rowen suggested that if members are minded to grant the application then some form of personal restriction is necessary. Councillor Mrs Davis expressed the view that to ensure this is not a back door application for someone to live in this location that it should be tied purely to the business so that the log cabin can only be occupied by someone who is connected to the business and only whilst the business is in existence.
· Councillor Cornwell made the point that this company has been here for many, many years and for that reason it deserves a level of support, but he does agree with Councillor Mrs Davis that if it could be dealt with like an agricultural tenancy or permission, if it could be made personal to the applicant and/or anyone else who is directly involved with the business he would feel happier as that way it gives local support to a local long-standing business.
· Councillor Miscandlon stated that you can tie a residence to a business as this happened behind where he lives as this property could only be occupied by someone associated with the business.
· Councillor Topgood agreed with Councillor Benney as the property is there, it is not changing the shape or form of the settlement and, in his view, it is perfectly reasonable for someone who owns a business to try and secure that business on site.
· Councillor Sutton asked if the 2005 permission for a show home was ever implemented? Alison Hoffman responded that the consent granted in 2005 was for a smaller unit and it was never implemented on the site. She drew members attention to the history, where it identified that there was a permission for a permanent dwelling further round the site and this was not implemented.
· Alison Hoffman referred to the issue of linking the log cabin to the use of the business and stated that members will note the red line of the application boundary is tightly drawn around the log cabin, its curtilage and the access, and in normal practice if a condition of that nature was being imposed it would rely on the business within the blue line, but given that it is questionable as to what is in the ownership or control of the applicant she would caution against this. She stated there is also the scenario that you could associate the permission with the business name, but the business name or the land associated with that business could change so there may be a mechanism to do it, but on the basis of what is before them more work would be required to make sure any condition was robust, reasonable and enforceable.
· Councillor Sutton asked for clarification that the red line needs to be drawn around the business area before this condition could be placed on any permission, ie a change of application? Alison Hoffman responded that would be the ideal scenario as she is not too sure if it can be conditioned to the blue land as it would have to be accurate or they could use a different colour, such as a green line around the application site and it could be referred to that land. She made the point that officers would need to be satisfied that the condition was “belt and braces” so it did not leave ourselves exposed with other log cabins not associated with the business, in the open countryside, out of character with the area and not essentially located there. Councillor Sutton made the point that given this advice, if members are still sure they want that use tied to that business, it cannot be approved as it would not be enforceable so the only option members have is to refuse. David Rowen stated there is potentially another scenario in that if members are minded to grant the application they delegate authority to officers to resolve this issue so that the blue line boundary is clarified or the red line boundary is changed to make this condition enforceable.
· Councillor Miscandlon expressed concern about the number of inaccurate and incomplete reports that are coming before members, with wrong information and misinformation, which is making the officers job harder. David Rowen agreed, but there is an onus on agents to ensure applications when submitted are accurate and contain all the information. He stated that officers take applications at face value trusting the information is accurate and base their consideration of that application on this information, so it is disappointing that when it gets to Planning Committee to be told the plan is wrong and the consideration of the application has been skewed because of this. Councillor Connor stated that agents should listen and think about what Councillor Miscandlon and David Rowen have said and put this into practice.
Proposed by Councillor Benney, seconded by Councillor Skoulding and agreed that the application be APPROVED against officer’s recommendation, with conditions to be delegated to officers to include that the use be tied to the business owner, the use of the business and future business owners.
Members do not support officer’s recommendation of refusal of planning permission as they feel that whilst the application is in the open countryside the need overrides this, the site is not in a settlement as such as there are only a few buildings around the site and the applicant’s business is already there, with the application serving a purpose to support that business.
(Councillor Mrs Bligh declared that she is the Ward Councillor for this application)