All posts in agriculture

The last two months have been interesting ones for Prism and their equestrian clients with two interesting cases coming to a head in very different cases but both being horse related.

In the first case, clients had received an enforcement notice requiring them to remove their two horses and stables from their garden. The LPA had decided that ‘Elvis’ and ‘Sparkplug’, two lovely moorland cobs, represented unauthorised development by changing the use of the original garden. In fact the horses occupied less than half the garden and only then over the winter period. During the summer they grazed fields away from the home. The Council argued they caused smells, flies, attracted vermin and caused a loss of privacy to the neighbours, some of whom objected to the horses looking over the boundary fence. Comparisons were made by the LPA to the famous shark emerging from the roof of the house in Oxford, as well as the man who erected a model of a Spitfire in his back garden. We contended that neither of these bizarre examples were remotely comparable with our situation.

Thankfully the inspector agreed and granted permission for the horse to stay, as well as their stable block, leaving two very happy horses owners. The case highlights how matters can escalate when LPA’s get complaints about unauthorised development and show why it is important that good, knowledgeable advice is obtained at the earliest possible opportunity.

The second case, also horse related was equally bizarre but for very different reasons. Our client and his wife are running a successful and well established livery yard, despite being in their 80’s and with one of them being registered disabled! They have decided that at their time of life they want to ease up a little and employ a manager to do the heavy and antisocial work, including chasing after escaped horses at 3am! A planning application was lodged for replacement managers accommodation, something we have done on several occasions for clients. The case was supported by specialist Equine Vets and the BHS.

Many weeks after the statutory determination date and with several promised deadlines from the Council missed, in frustration we appealed against non-determination and asked for a hearing. At the same time we also re-submitted the same planning application back to the LPA to allow them to try to reach a decision on it with more time. This resulted in a speedy approval – something which the LPA cold and should have done first time around. However the LPA imposed a whole series of conditions on their decision, preventing all possible future expansion or improvement to the property. Accordingly the appeal is still progressing albeit now just relating to what conditions should, or should not be imposed in these type of situations.

This second case has also given rise to a claim for costs – clearly the LPA could and should have approved the initial application in a timely manner, as they proved by supporting the second application when the appeal focused their minds!

Sadly, as cuts to services in local government planning departments continue to ‘bite’, we are all probably going to have to get used to poorer levels of service and situations like this might become all too common. It remains to be seen whether LPA’s will find new ways to work in such climates or continue to cling to established and out of date practices.

Anyone with an equine related problem will appreciate from the above examples that we know a thing or two about horses and the planning system – and an initial chat about how we might be able to help is free, wherever you are in the country.
Approval was recently granted at planning committee in Hartlepool for a former workers dwelling to have its agricultural occupancy condition removed. This was the last stage of a careful application process which Prism Planning has great experience of.

The property had been marketed to prove there were no suitable occupiers in the area. We had carried out the minimum period required for marketing and written a strong application thoroughly demonstrating the condition was not required. We worked with a surveyor ensuring that the property was marketed correctly, including setting out a price agreed by the LPA. We also scrutinised offers coming forward from interested parties to ensure they were from lawful applicants who would meet the condition.

After submission we discussed the application with the Case Officer and ensured everything was on track. We used our expertise in agricultural conditions and searching appeal precedents to clarify to the LPA the definition of agriculture. Prism Planning attended Planning Committee and spoke in favour of the application advocating for removal of condition to be approved. Care was taken to point out material facts of the case and demonstrate the collaborative nature with the LPA.

The results were that Hartlepool Planning Committee unanimously agreed with the officer recommendation and the application was approved. We worked closely with the Client ensuring the case put forward was an accurate representation of the local history. If you are looking at a removing a condition and seeking expert guidance please feel free to contact us, Prism Planning prides itself on its successes, consequently we only progress cases we believe have a strong chance of success so we will be open and honest about your chances.
Prism Planning are celebrating two important new wins at appeal, following an Inspector’s ruling that converting two separate outbuildings, one a garage and one a barn to provide two new dwellings is sustainable development. The buildings in question were a former barn and a new garage associated with a large farmhouse in Cowpen Bewley. The scheme required full planning permission rather than prior notification, in part because the main house on the site is listed. Despite being refused, both sites were within the limits to development. Although the Council were in housing shortfall, they had previously refused consent for the two conversions because they decided the village was not a sustainable location for new housing. At an informal hearing in June, Prism, assisted by David Hardy of Squire Patton Boggs, had argued before an Inspector that the Council’s approach to sustainability was too narrow and failed to look at the range of services and employment opportunities around the village, both in Billingham and the nearby Industrial Estate. The Inspector agreed, finding both schemes to be of good design, sympathetic to the character of the area and in sustainable locations. The Inspector accepted that people in such locations were likely to have a degree of reliance upon private cars but clearly felt that sustainability was a wider concept than just about how people get their weekly shopping back from the supermarket! It’s a very good win for the applicant and Prism Planning and a vindication of our approach and hard work. Our satisfaction at the positive outcome is however tinged with a note of regret that we had to have the matter considered at appeal in the first place when the case for approval was so overwhelmingly positive, as the Inspector recognised.

Since the new General Permitted Development Order was published in April 2015 there has been a number of areas that have been open to interpretation by councils, leading to appeals and new guidance published by the Planning Guidance Suite as clarification. Such occurrences increase costs and timeframes for clients.

One such issue is the matter of repairs and internal alterations made to a barn and if they would be considered to be new structural elements of the building. The barn in question had a recent new internal wall (part of room used for lambing) which would become external once existing parts of the barn were demolished. We expertly navigated this complex issue gaining permission for our Client for the conversion of a barn to a dwelling.

We argued that this wall should not fall outside of permitted development as the works had already been carried out under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act as part of maintenance, improvement or other alteration. Our argument was successful resulting in an early approval ahead of the usual 56 day window.

Prism Planning has considerable experience with Prior Notifications with a strong success rate under the Class Q conversions. If you are planning a barn conversion and think that you might have an issue or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact use for an initial informal discussion on the subject.

Horse owning clients of Prism will be celebrating today after a local planning authority granted permission for a private ménage area on farmland adjacent to their house in North Yorkshire. The Council imposed conditions preventing any commercial use and unusually required an archaeological evaluation of the site before works commenced. This is not a normal requirement of most developments and was imposed because of the possibility of finding remains on the site from a historic settlement long since abandoned. It’s very pleasing to have got the development through without any delay or prolonged debate about the need for the development and confirms Prism’s specialism in successfully undertaking equestrian related projects. Previous projects have involved riding stables, commercial ménage as well as private ménage, domestic stabling and specialist worker’s accommodation.
A special meeting of Ryedale Planning Committee last night approved a planning application Prism Planning submitted to improve the efficiency of the Anaerobic Digestion plant under construction at Sand Hutton to enable it to inject additional biogas into the local network. There was strong local interest in the application, following the recent successful appeal submitted by Prism and this resulted in a special meeting being convened, solely to consider this proposal. Following the initial appeal, technical work carried out with the network operator established a greater capacity in the local gas network than previously established. The approved plant would be able to bridge the gap with only a modest increase in the feedstock going in. By a majority vote, the committee accepted the officer’s recommendation to support the scheme, despite concerns being expressed by some local residents. The application we presented clearly put forward the argument that our client was entitled to grow the extra crop on the farm and that there would be no increase in smell or noises as a result of the proposal. The crop would not need to go onto the local highway network so there were no traffic implications. It’s slightly bizarre that some local residents remained implacably opposed to the idea of generating renewable energy on their doorstep and some very misleading allegations about the possible impacts of the development were put forward in an effort to try to mislead the planning committee. Fortunately, the submission we had put forward clearly highlighted the proper planning considerations and the planning committee, after due deliberation, gave consent for the amendment.
A farmer is celebrating success by working with Prism following a successful application for converting a barn which had a strange twist at the end. Earlier this year the government introduced new rights to convert barns to dwellings without needing planning permission, subject to certain constraints and limitations. One of these concerned the need to formally undertake a consultation process with the LPA. In theory this allowed the Authority to say no in very exceptional circumstances, but only if they did so within a prescribed time limit. These rights have not been welcomed by many planning authorities, causing the Government to have to issue new guidance encouraging authorities to stop blocking acceptable proposals so frequently. In our client’s case, the LPA tried to block the proposals simply because they considered the proposed garden area too large but failed to issue their notice within the prescribed period. Following further representations by Prism the LPA concerned now accept their ‘refusal’ was ill founded and more importantly was issued out of time in any event, meaning the farmer is able to proceed with his scheme as he wished. The name of the unfortunate Planning Authority will not be published to save embarrassed faces! Anyone considering the conversion of an agricultural building should consider the benefit of specialist advice from companies such as Prism who have a clear track record of success in this specialist area.
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.