Archive for October, 2012

Even in these difficult times when town and district centres are seeing their trade contracting and an increased number of shop premises stand empty securing planning permission to bring an empty property back into commercial use is not always straight forward.

This was the challenge facing a client who had taken a lease on a vacant ground floor premises on Yarm High Street and converted it to an ice cream parlour, under the ‘Archers’ franchise, producing and selling delicious artisan ice cream.  Our client had been unaware that planning permission would be required to use a former gents’ tailors shop as an ice cream parlour and had opened for business having spent a considerable sum of money in fitting out the ground floor premises and installing ice cream manufacturing equipment.  He was shocked and concerned when informed by a planning officer that planning permission was required but was unlikely to be granted due to local planning policies seeking to retain shop premises and discouraging conversion to other uses, including an ice cream parlour.

Prism Planning were engaged to try and rescue the situation.  It was noted that the premises had been vacant for a considerable period of times; that the ice cream parlour was operating as an ancillary use to the main retail business of Yarm High Street; that within a matter of months of opening the ice cream parlour had built up a loyal customer following; and that there was no other ice cream parlour with the High Street.  Prism Planning suggested to the client that he should start a petition, asking customers for their support in calling on the Council to grant planning permission.  The planning application was subsequently accompanied by a 910 name petition supporting the application.  Support was also sought from Yarm Chamber of Trade, who subsequently wrote to the Council advising of their backing for the ice cream parlour.

Following submission of the planning application and following further discussions with the planners, Prism Planning were able to convince the Council that there were good grounds for granting planning permission notwithstanding the prevailing local planning policies that frowned upon the change of use of the former shop to an ice cream parlour.  Our client is understandably delighted that planning permission has now been granted and that he can continue developing his business, which is showing every sign of going from strength to strength.

Its not very often that a client comes to us in receipt of a listed building enforcement notice requiring him to take down a flue to a log burning stove -but this is just what happened to one of our clients recently.  Thanks to Prism efforts, a Planning Inspector has just decided that he can keep the stove and the LPA have been found to be heavy handed in their actions.

Living in a converted barn, our client had installed a very efficient log burning stove. Following the best practice guidance of English Heritage (EH), he had installed a modern flue that ran  up inside the barn and which just ‘peeped’ out of the gable below the ridge. As recommended by EH he had gone to the additional trouble and cost of having the flue coloured matt black to minimise its visual impact. The LPA thought this was wrong and took the unusual step of issuing a listed building enforcement notice requiring the removal of the flue.

The success rate of appeals against these types of actions isn’t high, with the benefit of the doubt often going to the Council. Prism recommended an informal hearing to try to get across to the Inspector the full facts of the case and to more effectively challenge the arguments of the Council. Normally the Inspectorate take 6-8 weeks to make their findings known but in this case just a week after the hearing the Inspector found for our client and allowed the flue to remain. 

The Inspectorate fully supported the use of logs as a renewable fuel and accepted  that our clients proposals hadn’t had the damaging impact upon the building that the Council claimed. He also noted that the neighbours, who had complained about the flue, had an even bigger and more obtrusive flue on their own property!

Its very unusual for Listed Building Enforcement Notices to be served and still more unusual for the Councils actions to be overturned at appeal. Prism are delighted to have been able to win the case for the client.
Well perhaps not just yet but we have certainly taken a major step towards this position this week with a key decision being made by Hambleton Council to grant planning permission for what we think is the first farm based anaerobic digestion facility at Bonnie Hill Farm, Great Broughton.

For those who aren’t quite sure what this involves, farmyard manure along with grass silage and other organic matters is placed in a sealed vessel and allowed to ferment away under controlled conditions. This produces methane which can be used to fuel a generator producing electricity and hot water. After supplying the farms energy needs any spare electricity can be exported back to the Grid and earn the farmer an income. The heat from the generator can usually be used to good advantage –in this case helping to reduce costs in the on-site milk bottling plant. Other uses include warming stock buildings or heating glasshouses to produce cash crops. Once fermented the resultant product, known as ‘digestate’ can be spread upon the land. Its more useful for plant growth and a lot safer than ordinary slurry and has hardly any smell! AD isn’t a new concept and has been used on the continent for many years and the technology is proven. What is different about this project is that it is based upon the farm and uses manure and other crops produced on the farm. This means that there are no transport costs or off site implications for the local road network. From many peoples perspectives it is a lot more attractive than more wind turbines going up in the countryside.

We are delighted to have provided the planning support to such a great idea proposal. The new NPPF places a great deal of emphasis upon such sustainable forms of renewable energy generation.

Because the country isn’t yet very familiar with AD as a general concept, there is a steep learning curve with the detailed issues involved. Our clients, newly established , JFS based at Stokesley have however provided all of the answers and look set to make their mark upon the future of farming. Already there are two other similar projects at the pipeline that JFS have worked upon and farm based AD looks to have major potential for farmers who have livestock units. If it brings and end to the distinctive smells of slurry spreading, it will also get widespread support from the general public as well! If you’re interested in the potential of AD or want to know more about the issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.