Archive for March, 2015

An application was submitted for a change of use from A1 to A5, changing a Hair  Salon to a Fish and Chip shop in a local shopping centre on Norton Road Stockton-on-Tees. The applicant, who had submitted the application himself, ran into problems with the planners who raised concern that the fish and chip shop might adversely affect the character, vitality and viability. In addition local residents submitted objections (mostly related to competition) resulting in the application being referred to Planning Committee for decision.

Prism Planning became involved, preparing a Planning statement that addressed the planning issues, provided a detailed walk through of how the proposals complied with Stockton’s planning policy and set out the case why the application should be approved. The robustness of our arguments led to the case officer preparing a committee report that recommended planning permission be granted.

On the day of Planning Committee Prism Planning presented the client’s case. We pointing out a range of considerations; that a previous fish and chip shop had been lost, it brought a vacant building back into beneficial use and that canvassing of local residents had shown that most wanted a traditional takeaway. The client also put forward strong arguments for their case. Members of the Planning Committee were satisfied with our case and voted unanimously to grant planning permission.

Our client was delighted with the outcome and as for Prism Planning, it’s always pleasing to turn around a difficult situation for a client and obtain the planning permission they had applied for.  If you have a planning problem you think we could help you with we’re only a phone call away.
Prism Planning were engaged to co-ordinate the preparation and submission of a planning application to Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council for the conversion of a vacant pub, The Layfield Arms in Yarm, to a Co-op convenience shop. Planning permission is not required for the change of use of a pub to a shop and so the application only referred to minor cosmetic changes to the exterior of the building and to alterations to the access road and the car park. Nonetheless, the application proved to be quite controversial, generating 110 letters of objection together with a petition, an objection from Yarm Town Council and a Parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming general election! Thankfully, the Council’s planning officers recommended that planning permission be granted. However, knowing that officer recommendations can be over-turned, our Director, Rod Hepplewhite, attended the Committee meeting and spoke in support of the application and the officer recommendation. This proved to be the correct approach since an objector spoke against the proposal and made a number of points that were then picked up by Councillors. Whilst some were answered by the planning officer, Rod was asked to answer others more pertinent to our client’s future intentions. With carefully chosen words, he was able to assuage Councillors’ concerns and they went on to vote in favour of the officer recommendation and planning permission was granted. Another success for Prism Planning and suffice to say our clients were delighted with the outcome. Would the application have been approved if we had not spoken at the Committee meeting? We’ll never know but it’s better safe than sorry.
Pre-commencement conditions are routinely attached to planning permissions by local planning authorities. Such conditions prohibit work starting on the development until such a time as agreement has been reached between the developer and the local planning authority on certain matters, such as use of external materials. Typical wording, usually at the beginning of a condition, would include: “no development shall commence until”; “no development shall take place until”; “prior to the commencement of development”; or, “prior to the commencement of construction.” There have been concerns that local planning authorities have been over-zealous in their use of pre-commencement conditions and that this has caused delays in construction work starting. In many cases, rather than prohibiting work from starting, a condition could be worded to prevent occupation of a development or it being brought into use until certain matters were addressed. This would not delay works commencing and such conditions could be dealt with during the construction period. The Government has announced that it intends to amend secondary legislation so it can introduce an additional requirement for local authorities to justify the use of pre-commencement planning conditions, in the hope that local planning authorities will reduce their use of pre-commencement conditions. Unfortunately, no date has been given when these changes will be acted upon although it is likely that it will not be until after the general election.
The Government have just issued new guidance on the conversion of redundant agricultural buildings that have made the process of getting consent a whole lot easier. In theory the conversion of barns has been something that the government has been supporting, having introduced new permitted development rights to allow it in April 2014. Although the rules appear to be straightforward, practical experience of their implementation has been mixed with a number of Councils trying to evade implementing the rules as the government has intended. A number of cases have also fallen at appeal with Inspectors taking an extreme interpretation of the rules and refusing to allow conversions for isolated buildings. The problems have been highlighted recently by the Country Landowners Association who drew the government’s attention to the way that the rules have been blatantly misinterpreted by resistant Councils. Today the government have responded issuing a swathe of guidance that should make exercising the new rules an easier and more straightforward task. Cynics may view it as blatant electioneering. This may well be the case but if it makes the task of getting barns converted, then we at Prism will welcome the changes. We have managed to obtain permission to convert a number of barns to dwellings and not all of the buildings have been old historic structures. It is an area of planning law we know quite well so if you have a potential project why not get in touch?
Durham Planning Committee agreed to grant permission for another Anaerobic Digestion plant at the site of a dairy farm outside Sedgefield. The scheme will deliver 500kw of electricity into the national grid, processing the waste manure from the 600+ dairy herd on the site. The scheme was supported by officers who, at our instigation, had visited other AD schemes promoted by Prism already in operation. These visits had proved that the feared noise and odour, cited by residents as reasons to refuse the scheme, was simply not in evidence. Interestingly, during the debate in the Council Chamber, reference was made to the AD scheme at High Hedley, also submitted to the Council by Prism some years before and initially opposed by the Council. The Council’s decision was overturned at appeal and Prism got a full award of costs against the Council. The member who led the opposition to that scheme had recently passed by the site and advised the committee that it was a good scheme and he was wrong to have initially opposed it! This scheme is the 12thAD scheme that Prism have successfully obtained planning permission for, establishing ourselves as the market leaders in promoting this type of specialist renewable energy. We have several applications running with various local authorities across the country and hope to continue our success record of partnering with JFS and Associates to deliver green electricity and gas.
Ryedale District Council have granted planning permission for extensions and alterations to outbuildings at the former walled garden of Wiganthorpe Hall, to allow the original gardener’s cottage to be brought back into use. The extensions will allow a local resident to occupy the building as part of the current owner’s long term restoration plans for this historic complex. The original gardener’s cottage was a very modest affair and believed to have been built sometime in the late 17th/early 18th century during the heyday of the original stately home. Unfortunately no copy of the planning permission currently exists! This caused problems in terms of the Council’s desire to impose local occupancy conditions on the property. Working together, Prism and Peter Rayment, of Peter Rayment Design, successfully proved that the cottage had originally been designed and built as a dwelling and its use had not been deliberately and willfully abandoned. Fortunately, with our expert knowledge on this subject, we were able to convince the Planning Authority on all of these points, enabling them to grant an unrestricted permission to allow the cottage to be extended and improved and brought up to modern day standards, allowing a local disabled resident to occupy the property. The owners of Wiganthorpe Hall have embarked upon a long-term strategy to restore as much of the historic fabric as presently remains on site and have already gone to considerable lengths to preserve the fabric of the cottage and the original garden walls. We look forward to assisting them with any future works that they carry out at this most interesting historic asset and wish them every success with their continued sensitive restoration.