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At Prism Planning there has recently been success of another kind as Jonathan Helmn has been elected as a Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. The chartered status is the result of a rigorous assessment of professional competence. He has had to demonstrate a range of competencies such as an in-depth knowledge of planning, identification and analysis of issues and implementing courses of action. This ensures graduate planners achieve, and can demonstrate, a professional level of learning and competency.  

This professional recognition is a significant step in the career of a town planner, with the RTPI being UK’s lead body in planning and the largest planning institute in Europe with over 23,000 members.

Prism Planning had recognised Jonathan’s aspirations and supported his career development through training and guidance. This achievement will benefit his continuing professional development and our ability to provide quality planning advice. Whilst career development never stops it is a good reason to watch some fireworks.

Secure dog exercise area approved by Darlington Borough Council

Variety is the spice of life, or so the saying goes.  While housing and housing related projects may be the bread and butter of a planning consultant’s working life, it’s always nice to deal with other subjects.  Yes, we handle quite a few anaerobic digestion, equestrian and agricultural projects but when something entirely different comes along it makes for a pleasant change.  And so it came to pass ….

Earlier this year our Director, Rod Hepplewhite, was approached by a new client who was interested in establishing a secure dog exercise area on a field just outside one of Darlington’s villages.  Through her work with the Dog’s Trust she had become aware of a latent demand and need for a secure place where dog owners whose pets had special needs (such as being anxious when near other dogs or people or running off when let off the leash and not returning) could be exercised in a safe and secure environment.  The nearest such exercise area to Darlington is in Thirsk, which has proved to very popular such that booking a time-slot isn’t always easy.

It was clear that the demand/need for the facility was there but the question was how would the local planning authority view such an unusual proposal.  Rod advised the client that given the proposed location and the unusual nature of the proposal the submission of a pre-application inquiry to the Council would be a good idea.  This proved to be the case as we were able to engage in positive discussions with the case officer, including a very useful site visit, at an early stage.  We addressed issues raised, including providing a new entrance to the field from the country road, and answered all questions and were given a good steer on the preparation of the planning application.  The same planning officer dealt with the planning application such that it proceeded to approval in a smooth manner, helped along by us providing an in-depth explanation of the background to the proposed dog exercise area, what it would entail and how it would be operated.

A combination of tactics and being open and honest helped win the day.  The planning application submission included information above and beyond planning requirements but going that extra mile secured the planning permission for our client that she sought.  That is what Prism Planning is all about, going that extra mile for our clients.

 

 

Prism have just been successful in getting planning permission, at appeal, for a new livery worker’s dwelling at an established livery yard in Maltby, Stockton on Tees.

The appeal followed what was initially a case of non-determination, in which the Council had ‘dithered’ for many weeks over the application deadline.  In exasperation, Prism eventually appealed after the Council had taken more than twice as long to formulate its view.  After the appeal was lodged, the Council then made up its mind and decided it should have supported the case.

However, although the Council approved the revised application submitted by Prism, they imposed so many conditions that were unnecessary that Prism advised the clients that the Council’s conduct was unreasonable. The appeal therefore continued.  The Planning Inspector stated that not only should the council have approved the original application, they should have given a simple approval with minimal conditions when they did eventually do the right thing. That they didn’t was patently unreasonable. The Inspector then went on to take the unusual step of awarding our clients all of their costs back from pursuing the original appeal.

Without lodging the appeal, it is doubtful whether the Council would ever have reached the right decision and the ruling confirmed that Prism’s original assessment of the situation was absolutely correct. It was the 4th such similar decision in this particular Council area and one of many similar wins that Prism has had for this type of case across the north of England.
 
When you need advice on equine planning matters, Prism have the demonstrable experience and proven track record to give sound advice with positive results.
A family with three generations have been granted a Certificate of Lawfulness for Proposed Development to allow them to stay together on the same site and support each other, thanks to the work of Prism Planning.

The project has been a long running one, taking over a year to resolve, from start to finish but the wait was more than justified by the result, according to the family.

The case involved a complicated series of interwoven projects with the starting point being to establish the extent of the family garden by means of a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Development, legally defining the historic garden limits. This can be an important point for people living in rural locations where the differences between paddocks and gardens can be crucial.

Having carefully established the garden extent, Prism Planning then sought to convince the LPA of the legal ability to put up a log cabin in the garden which could provide accommodation for the 1st generation of the family whilst the 2nd and third generations lived in the main house. In this way, all the family are together on the same site, providing help and support for each other but with the necessary degree of independence and privacy. It’s a care model that looks increasingly attractive to many, recognising the difficulties of getting onto the housing ladder, the rising cost of residential care as well as the benefits of being able to care for your loved ones in a practical manner.

The project wasn’t straightforward, with the LPA doubting the legality of the approach. Prism had to work hard, citing relevant precedents and legal positions to convince the LPA that the position was one they could eventually support.

We expect this approach to be increasingly popular with families in the coming years but it isn’t to be entered into lightly. It requires a sensitive and careful approach. A badly made application might well be unrecoverable – so talk to us before embarking upon a project of this nature if you want to maximise your chances of success.
A County Durham couple are celebrating success with Prism Planning having just won permission at appeal for an extension to their house.

The couple had bought an established terraced property in one of Durham’s many conservation areas. They wanted to extend and improve the property with a single story rear extension that allowed the house to be completely remodelled and brought up to 21c standards, with a new kitchen and dining area.

The scheme was refused by the Council because of concerns over the impact on the neighbours. As the extension was on the north side of the building, its impacts were much more limited, in Prism’s view, than the Council’s concerns warranted. We took the unusual step of commissioning a full assessment of the impacts of the scheme, using a BRE special assessment tool which allowed for the impacts to be objectively measured.

Having visited the site and looked at the assessment, the Inspector agreed with Prism’s approach and granted permission for the extension.

BRE daylight assessments are not routinely used in all cases but this appeal shows that they can give rise to significant positive results when properly used by specialists.
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.
At their meeting of 21st February 2017, Sunderland’s Development Control (Sunderland South) Sub-Committee voted by a significant majority in favour of our client’s development of a part brownfield site within the urban area for a residential development comprising affordable housing, low cost housing and supported housing for people with learning difficulties.

At face value, you may have thought the application would sail through: a development of social housing on a brownfield site within the urban area, a residential area at that, and the brownfield part of the site was Council owned and was to be sold to our clients subject to planning permission being granted. How wrong you would have been.

The application, was recommended for approval at the meeting of 3rd January. However, the application faced stiff opposition from local residents and a Ward Councillor who attended the meeting and spoke against the application. At this point it was looking likely that the application would be refused. Thankfully, our Director, Rod Hepplewhite, also attended the meeting to speak in support of the application and was able to address the issues raised by the objectors. The Committee then decided to defer a decision to allow for the issues raised to be fully explored before the application was reported back to them.

Revisions were subsequently made to the proposals and additional information was provided, which addressed all of the issues that had been raised. When the application was reported back to Committee, again with a recommendation for approval, the objectors spoke again as did our Director, Rod Hepplewhite. He was able to advise that all issues previously raised had now been addressed, as evidenced by the officer report and the recommendation that that the proposed development be approved. In this instance the Planning Committee accepted our argument and by a significant majority voted in favour of granting planning permission. Our clients and the architect for the scheme http://www.bsbaarchitects.com who also attended the meeting were delighted with the outcome.

We have dealt with many applications for residential development of various forms. We have built up a good level of expertise on the subject and recognise that no two developments are the same and have learnt to be prepared for the unexpected. Notably, just because and application is recommended for approval doesn’t necessarily mean that the Planning Committee will grant planning permission. You should be represented at the Planning Committee meeting as we are aware of cases where only objectors speak and in the absence of the applicant being represented Planning Committee refuses planning permission. A subsequent planning appeal may succeed but that adds additional expense to the project as well as a significant time delay, both of which could have been avoided.
A long running saga relating to housebuilding in Ingleby Barwick has been brought to an end today with a government appointed planning Inspector allowing the development of 200 homes on farm land at Ingleby Barwick, close to the controversial new Free School.

Darlington based Prism Planning represented the landowner and farmer of the land, Ian Snowdon at a public inquiry in March of this year and it has taken the Planning Inspector nearly 9 months to decide that the scheme was acceptable. The inspector found for the appellant on all counts, noting “The social and economic benefits of the new housing would be very significant indeed and would make an important contribution to the Borough’s housing supply. The scheme would include a useful and much needed contribution to the stock of affordable housing in Stockton-on-Tees.”

He went on to note that “The site forms part of a wide area south of Ingleby Barwick as far as Low Lane that is being comprehensively redeveloped to provide much needed housing and other facilities. The appeal result comes at a time when there is a significant national focus on the need for new houses to be built with significant concerns that not enough housing is being built. A new Housing white paper is promised by the government just next month.

Responding to the decision, Steve Barker of Prism Planning, who gave evidence at the inquiry said; “Stockton have recognised that they haven’t been able to demonstrate a 5 year housing supply for some time now and the debates over development in this corner of Ingleby have used up a lot of time and resources for landowners and the Council alike. I hope that now this final decision has been made all parties can start to move forward positively and work in partnership to make things happen on the ground. A lot of time has been spent arguing when we could have been focusing on improving the area and meeting our housing and leisure needs.” It is likely that a detailed application for reserved matters will now be submitted to the Council in 2017.
Obtaining planning permission for an equestrian worker’s dwelling on a site outside of development limits and in the open countryside is often fraught with difficulties and the consideration of the application by the local planning authority can be a lengthy process.

It therefore gave our Director, Rod Hepplewhite, great delight in advising his clients that their application for their dwelling on land next to their stables on a site just to the west of Easingwold in Hambleton District had been approved with little difficulty and, more importantly form their point of view, within the 8 week target period.

Due to a marital break-up our client had had to relocate his business, based on the schooling and training of horses together with breeding of ponies, to a temporary site elsewhere in the district while he found a permanent site. We first obtained permission for the stables on the 9¼ acres (3.75 hectares) site as this was the most pressing need before tackling the more challenging application for the dwelling for our client and his new partner (both employed in the equestrian business).

Under normal circumstances, when an equestrian business is first established on a site, local planning authorities will only allow residential accommodation in the form of a static caravan or mobile home and for a limited period of three years. They normally also require a lot of supporting information regarding the operation of the equestrian business.

In this instance the local planning authority accepted our argument that they were looking at the relocation of an existing business rather than the establishment of an entirely new business and granted permission for our clients’ dwelling without the need for the usual supporting information. The dwelling was proposed in the form of a ‘Country Home’ bungalow, a type of mobile home, which may have assisted in us obtaining planning permission for our clients but it was still the end result our clients were hoping for and we were delighted with the swift positive outcome for them.

We have now dealt with numerous applications for equestrian and agricultural worker’s dwellings together with associated applications for stables and farm buildings and have built up a good level of expertise on the subjects. We are always happy to help clients with such proposals.
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.