All posts by Steve

Public Consultation on a major new biomass plant got under way this week with members of the public having the chance to attend consultation events at The Forum in Billingham and Port Clarences Community Centre. The new power station will be fuelled by waste wood and will be located on land adjacent to Koppers, opposite the Riverside Stadium on the North Bank of the Tees. 

The planning application for the plant will be submitted to Stockton Council early in the New Year and the consultation exercise will run until 3rd January. Anyone wanting to view the exhibition on line can go to; http://www.resultscommunications.co.uk/consultations/01%20Teesside%20Renewable%20Energy%20Plant_031213.pdf.

Prism Planning are coordinating a multidisciplinary team of development professionals to ensure that the planning application is both comprehensive and easily understood.

Watch this space for more exiting news of this £160 million project.
Prism have just won permission at appeal for a farmhouse to help a well established farming family continue their business through into the third generation. The case involved a mixed use arable and sheep farm with a growing line in breeding heavy horse hunters at Town Farm, Stillington. With around 500 sheep already on the farm and a developing equine business we were confident that there was a robust case to pursue. However the Council weren’t so sure and employed a national firm of experts to help them assess the case. The Council’s advisors seemingly hadn’t read too much of the National Planning Policy Framework and wrongly advised the Council on a range of key matters. At the ensuing appeal, the Inspector found that both the Council and their experts had wrongly applied national tests in their assessment, being unduly pessimistic as to the labour needs of the holding and critically, had tried to disaggregate the various parts of the farming business. This was a fundamentally wrong approach and Prism’s approach was found to have been correct. The case marks our third appeal win in a row for our specialist agricultural work and has established us as one of the regions leading expert practitioners in this field. Coincidentally it was also our third win in a row for equine related work and shows that it’s not always a good idea to take advice from some of the national firms whose specialist knowledge is not quite so robust when it really matters.
A Planning Inspector has agreed with Prism and allowed a log cabin to remain on a Durham Pick Your Own Farm whilst a transition takes place between generations of the family farming the land. Our client had sited a log cabin on his farm, having initially been advised (incorrectly) that he didn’t need planning permission. The cabin was used by our client and his partner whilst they farmed the 13ha of land, growing strawberries, asparagus and other high value crops. The existing bungalow on site was occupied by our clients parents who, in their 80’s and in poor health were no longer able to work on the farm. The Council had issued an enforcement notice within a few days of the cabin being erected on the site and seemingly weren’t prepared to consider the personal circumstances of the family or the needs of the farm. At the ensuing appeal hearing, the Inspector took a different line and accepted that; “Because of these personal family circumstances, the siting of the chalet in the short term, as a transition between the farming generations, is acceptable for a temporary period as an exceptional case.” And he went on to quash the Councils enforcement notice. The case is an interesting one from a number of perspectives. Firstly, despite the demise of Annex A to PPS7 in the bonfire of national planning guidance that accompanied the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework, all parties have freely applied the guidance as if it remained in force. Secondly the case confirms the application of the principles established in Keen, that is a retired farmer and their dependants can remain on their farm as long as they wish, without the fear of having to leave to make way for the next generation of farmers. It is pleasing to see a planning inspector looking outside of the policy framework to the real life challenges that farmers face in running their holdings and making a sensitive and compassionate decision that has allowed our client to concentrate on running his business. Perhaps the most important lesson from this case is to be beware the snake oil salesmen who tell you that planning permission isn’t required for one of their log cabins. Before placing an order for one, or if you’re in doubt, contact a reputable planning consultant to have your position properly checked out.
Nifco Phase 2, Durham Lane, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees In February 2011 we obtained planning permission for Nifco UK Ltd to relocate from their out-moded premises at Yarm Lane to a purpose 117,945sq.ft. (10,957m²) built ultra modern building at Durham Lane, Eaglescliffe providing production and assembly, storage and office accommodation. Just a year of so of the new factory opening, Nifco’s order book is full and they urgently need more manufacturing capacity. Nifco specialise in the manufacture and supply of parts to the automotive industries as well as offering an injection moulding service. They have a truly international presence, supplying products to Japanese electronics companies and eight automobile manufacturers, including Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Ford. The company relocated to the Durham Lane premises in phases during late 2011 and the new building was officially opened by HRH the Duke of York in February 2012. The move helped secure 228 existing jobs and subsequently led to the recruitment of an additional 107 staff. Such was the success of the relocation that Nifco very quickly found themselves needing to either extend their existing building or build a second building adjacent to the first. Nifco opted for a second building and we submitted a planning application in late January 2013 for another ultra modern building behind (to the east of) the first providing a further 69,007sq.ft (6,411m²) production and assembly, storage and office accommodation. Following successful negotiations with Stockton Borough Council we obtained planning permission for Nifco in late April 2013. The new building will bring with it new job opportunities and will employ another 168 staff with the potential for additional jobs in the future.

B802 – A(PL) – 11A Proposed Site Finishes Plan


Planning consent has been granted for the demolition of the former King Oswy Public House and its replacement with a new foodstore. The decision was made by members of Hartlepool Planning Committee on 3rd April.

The current public house has been closed for some time and despite attempts to market the site as a going concern, no buyer wanting to operate the pub came forward.

Seneca Developments propose to demolish the existing structure and build a new single storey food and convenience store on the site providing around 4,700ft of new retail floorspace.

Prism Planning provided the planning support for the project, carrying out the public consultation on the project as well as preparing and submitting the application. This included a sequential search to justify the site selection.  The scheme was designed by Andy Riley, a well respected local architect.

We wish Neil and the Seneca team all the very best in tackling this project which will provide a welcome boost to services in the area.

A housing scheme for 77 dwellings on the outskirts of Middlesbrough has just cleared its final hurdle, getting reserved matters approval following a meeting of Middlesbrough Councils Planning meeting on 5th April.

Outline consent for the mixed scheme of 3, 4 and 5 bedroomed family homes was originally granted in November 2012 after a prolonged debate with the Highways Agency over the means of access to the site.  Middlesbrough Council consistently took a positive attitude towards the development of the site, noting that they had an absence of a deliverable 5 year land supply and accepting that this overrode the Greenfield status of the site.

The granting of the final reserved matters will enable Miller Homes to start construction on the site later in 2013. Prism Planning have advised throughout the scheme, successfully obtaining both the original outline and the reserved matter consents.

Almost 170 additional jobs could be created with a new production building at the site of NiFCO on Durham Lane, Stockton on Tees. The company built their first factory on site in 2012 and Prism was proud to be the planning consultants that got their permission through the system. Together with the architects Lister Associates and the contractors, Tolent, the building was operational within a record timescale. Just a short time on from starting on Durham Lane, the company order book is full, ahead of its most optimistic expectations and Prism have once again been requested to help get permission for a new building to extend capacity at the site. Crucially for the local economy almost 170 new jobs will hopefully be created on the back of the expansion plans –welcome news in a still depressed economy. The application rests with Stockton Borough Council and a decision is expected shortly into the plans. Its been great to team up again with the same professionals who worked together last time around and we hope that we will be able to surprise everyone with the speed of this scheme being operational as well.
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.
Looking through my latest ‘Planning’ magazine, after checking the jobs out, I went through the appeal section, anxious to see whats got permission and who has had costs awarded against them. I’ve yet to come across a planner who doesn’t read it in this way! I was struck by two decisions showing diametrically opposed interpretations of the new NPPF and the old guidance that it replaced. In one case, an inspector dealing with a proposal for an agricultural workers dwelling had referred to the now superseded Annex A to PPS7. He had decided that it was still a material document and the advice it contained was capable of being a material consideration. By way of contrast, and at the same time, another inspector, dealing with a proposed quad bike track in the Green Belt has noted that whilst it would have been permissible pre NPPF, it was no longer permissible because the detailed wording contained in the old PPG 2 has not been rolled forward into the NPPF. This is perhaps not surprising considering that the NPPF is a considerably slimmed down volume of material. In the absence of the NPPF repeating the wording of the old PPG, it previous advice was no longer applicable and the scheme had to be refused opined the Inspector. We expect our planning inspectors to be consistent in their application of policy and material considerations. Faith and confidence in them starts to be eroded when they appear to operate on individual whims. This all the more worrying when they have been highlighted as having a new role as an alternate planning authority for those situations where the LPA simply can’t get decisions made within the required timescales. This prospect, whilst a somewhat draconian step, will appeal to many developers as a fastrack route to approval. It does seem as if the PI need to undertake some in house staff training in the interim!! I am sure Mr Pickles will have this firmly in hand.