All posts tagged planning appeal

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.
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.
We recently succeeded in winning an appeal against the non-determination of an application that had been submitted to Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council for a small residential development within the grounds of a care home at Redmarshall. We had been advised by the case officer that it was likely that the application would be refused on the grounds that the proposed site is in an unsustainable location for additional residential development, in view of the settlement having limited services and provisions, thereby requiring occupants to travel for employment, education, retail and recreational uses. To save time for our client we submitted the appeal ahead of waiting for the Council to refuse planning permission. Prism Planning had been engaged to project manage the planning application and sought to work constructively with officers of the Council for what was acknowledged to be a proposal that the Council would be unlikely to welcome with open arms. Having worked with planning officers for a considerable period of time, revising plans to accord with officer advice/requests, it was galling to see the application heading towards being refused for an ‘in principle’ reason. Furthermore, we had submitted a comprehensive argument why the proposal should be accepted as constituting sustainable development. We also argued that due to their proximity, Redmarshall and the nearby village of Carlton, should be considered as one settlement when determining planning applications (Stockton regard Carlton as a sustainable settlement). It became clear that the planning officer had a closed mind to our arguments and therefore submitting the appeal was the only sensible option. It was pleasing to read in the decision from The Planning Inspectorate that the Inspector accepted the strength of our case, to the extent that he agreed with us on every relevant planning issue. In particular, he agreed with us that Redmarshall and Carlton should be considered as a single entity for planning purposes. He also agreed that the Council’s Villages Study (Planning the Future or Rural Villages in Stockton, 2014) should only be afforded very limited weight in his decision as it is not an adopted planning document, having been prepared as part of the evidence base for the Council’s Regeneration & Environment Local Plan, itself not yet adopted. Another factor in the decision was that the Council cannot demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply, as required by central government, and the proposed development would make an important, albeit limited, contribution towards meeting the deficit. We might not win every planning appeal, and wouldn’t expect to, but we have a good feel on the prospects of success when clients seek our assistance to contest a refusal of planning permission and can advise accordingly. If you have been refused planning permission recently and would like to discuss how best to proceed, we are only a phone call or an e-mail away.
Prism and their client are celebrating after winning an appeal against an enforcement notice issued by Stockton Borough Council, which tried to reverse works our client had carried out to stabilise his garden next to the River Tees. Our client had laid out a series of terraces in his garden area that sloped down to the River Tees. A number of other residents had carried out similar works in their garden area over the years but for some strange reason, our client’s activities attracted the attention of the Council who served an enforcement notice on him, requiring removal and reversal of the stabilisation works. On our client’s behalf, we had argued that the works were in keeping with the character of the area and didn’t contravene the Council’s policies. We argued the need for consistency in decision making and that our client should not be treated differently to other local residents whose works had gone unchallenged. In allowing the appeal, the Inspector advised: “My conclusion on this issue is that the development does not materially harm either the character or the appearance of the surrounding area, and does not conflict with relevant Council policies or The Framework.” The decision highlights several points. Firstly, as homeowners, the planning system does not give an unfettered right to carry out large scale landscaping schemes. Anyone considering using a digger in their garden should consider carefully whether the works proposed will require the benefit of planning permission. The legal position can be quite confusing and it is usually better to seek expert advice from specialists such as Prism, rather than run the risk of action from the Council. As a result of this decision, Councils do however have to think very carefully before rushing ahead with enforcement actions that try to dictate how an individual can layout and use their private garden area. Clearly opposition from nearby residents, on its own, is not going to be a sound barometer against whether to take action or not. Prism are delighted to have won the case and would be pleased to advise anyone else considering a similar situation. A separate application for an award of costs is still being considered by the Planning Inspectorate and a decision on this is expected shortly.
A Government Planning Inspector has agreed with Prism for the second time regarding a scheme for providing log cabins on a site at Easby, near to Richmond. The Inspector overturned the decision of Richmondshire District Council to allow development on the site for a limited period of time and instead gave a full planning permission for three years to enable the development to progress. This was the second time that Prism had been forced to go to the Planning Inspectorate to overturn the decision of the Local Planning Authority on this site. Initially permission was refused by the Council for the development and granted at appeal in 2010. Due to the complexities of the site and the uncertain economic situation in the intervening period, we sought to use new provisions to extend the life of the planning permission for a further three year period. Most applications of this nature are routinely renewed unless there has been a change in circumstances. The Council decided to only grant planning permission for a twelve month period and gave confusing and unclear reasons why this would be appropriate. At appeal, the Planning Inspector noted that the Council’s reasoning was flawed and fully agreed with all of the points raised by Prism on behalf of our client. In particular, the Inspector noted that the Government intend to give clear support for developments which help to improve the rural economy and that the scheme was and always had been of a particularly high design and well thought out. Because of these points, he had no hesitation in granting permission for a full three year period which will enable the scheme to progress. This is an important decision to have as it underlines the Government’s expectations that permissions will be renewed for a full three year period whenever there has been no change in circumstances and reaffirms the Government’s continued support for the rural economy. This is the second application that we have had approved this week relating to the rural economy – see next blog for a holiday cottage approval in Aislaby close to Yarm.
Eight and a half months after it was first submitted, the Planning Inspectorate have just allowed permission for a hot food take away to extend its opening hours which has made a nice, if somewhat belated Christmas present for our client. The appeal referred to a hot foot takeaway located within a local shopping parade in Redcar comprising a mix of units, including another hot food takeaway, a number of which open later into the evenings. Planning permission was originally granted for the change of use of the property to a hot food takeaway with opening hours restricted to 9.00 am to 7.00 pm hours Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays. Subsequently, temporary planning permission was granted on three separate occasions since 2009 allowing the premises to open until 10.00 pm every day. The temporary nature of the permissions was in order to allow continued monitoring by Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council of the impact of the later opening of the premises. As far as we are aware no issues arose and in January 2013 our client applied for a permanent permission that would allow the takeaway to open until 11.00 pm each day. However, the application was refused by the Council’s Planning Committee and we were engaged to submit an appeal to The Planning Inspectorate contesting the Council’s decision. During the appeal process we were asked to consider a condition the Inspector was considering whereby the takeaway would close at 10.00 pm on Sundays, bringing the closing times of our client’s takeaway in line with that of the other takeaway within the shopping parade. We advised our client to accept the compromise suggested by the Planning Inspector and we believe that this helped in the successful outcome of the appeal. Our client is over the moon with the decision, which has arrived just in time for the busy festive season. As a side note, the appeal highlights the generally appalling situation in the Planning Inspectorate with speed of decision making lagging way behind where it should be for such an important institution. We hope that Father Christmas brings them some additional resources in the New Year to improve the current situation!
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.
A Planning Inspector has just overturned a decision by Durham County Council and granted planning permission for a new 500KW anaerobic digestion (AD) plant on a farm at East Hedleyhope, Bishop Auckland. The proposed plant and associated combined heat and power plant would provide electricity and heat out of digesting farmyard manure and other organic wastes. The case establishes Prism as one of the leading planning consultancies with expertise and in depth knowledge of the AD process. Prisms involvement was secured by Paul Palmer of CH4 Sense, a leading provider of AD services ch4sense.co.uk. The application was submitted to Durham County Council in June 2012 and although initially supported by officers, was refused by the planning committee in November 2012 with members disagreeing with officer’s assessment of the case. Members were concerned over the visual impact, odour, noise and the overall sustainability of the project. The decision of the Council was taken to appeal and an Informal Hearing took place in April 2013. In allowing the appeal, the Planning Inspector noted that the Council had not considered the National Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and considered that the Council’s policy base carried very little weight, being written well before the publication of the National Strategy in 2011. The Inspector considered that the tanks, although large in scale, would present itself as components of an existing farm and would have been properly screened by the landscape belt proposed in the application. In looking at the noise nuisance, he noted that the scheme did not breach World Health Organisation guidelines for night time noise and in looking at the odour decided this was something which would be properly regulated by the Environment Agency in due course. He considered that the Planning Authority were wrong in trying to adopt a precautionary stance in assuming that matters might go wrong. He went on to consider that this was a highly sustainable location for this type of development and was consistent with the National Anaerobic Digestion Strategy published by the government. He criticised the Council for seeking to locate such developments in existing industrial areas noting that certain types of AD facility would require large amounts of land to operate and they could not be expected to locate in general industrial areas to apply the presumption on favour of sustainable development established in the National Policy Framework for Planning and granted consent. Unusually, he went on to allow a full claim for costs against the Council noting that the members had departed from the professional advice of their officers without proper grounds. He was very critical of the Council applying a precautionary principle when advice clearly states that it is not their role in the planning system to do so. He concluded that the Council’s reasons for refusal were not justified or supported by any written or visual evidence and that the Council had put the appellant to the unnecessary cost of preparing evidence for and attending the appeal. Prism, and their client were delighted with the outcome of the appeal, noting that it was a complete vindication of the case they had argued and presented to the Council throughout the planning application process. In particular, Prism had supplied the Council with information covering all the points of concern and had sought to allay fears in these important areas. That this presentation of information was ignored by members is regrettable. However the AD process in the UK is still at a relatively young stage and it is perhaps understandable that fear of the unknown creeps into the decision making process. Hopefully this decision will show clearly that AD is here to stay and are properly considered proposals with well argued evidence should not be refused except on very specific and clear grounds. Prism look forward to working with the Council to get the scheme up and running in the very near future.
An end to farmyard smells? Free energy from manure? If these strap lines seem too good to be true then you’re in good company. Planning Authorities in the region have all had the same initial reaction to the process of Anaerobic Digestion when faced with applications for small processing plants.  Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is the process of fermenting animal manure and any vegetative matter or food wastes inside a sealed vessel to produce methane.  The methane is collected and used to power a generator that produces both electricity and heat.  The electricity is usually pumped back into the grid and if you can use the heat, you might be able to claim renewable heat incentives.

We have obtained permission for two farm based schemes so far, and have two more in the pipeline.  As a concept, it is one of the greenest forms if renewable energy generation and hits a number of government agendas.  Although it is a relatively new technology in the UK, our European cousins have been doing it for years and the technology is well proven and established. It doesn’t take up much space and the buildings and tanks needed are virtually the same as those used on a farm – silage clamps, slurry stores and general purpose buildings. Our first two schemes have both nestled at the feet of the North York Moors National Park so they can be accommodated in sensitive landscapes, if designed properly.

There have been a number of schemes for large scale commercial AD plants that have foundered when it came to securing waste streams and this has led to a number of specialist such as JFS & Associates in Stokesley offering to deliver farm based AD that simply uses waste and crops produced on the farm. Although small scale, such schemes can produce useful returns for the farmer over the life of the plant, delivering heat, power, money and odourless fertiliser produced on site!

Planning Authorities can find schemes novel and often need gently educating as to what it’s all about. As a result of our experiences, we have a solid background in the plant and are well placed to convert a sceptical audience into supporters, whether they are local residents, planning officers or a planning committee. If you are a farmer or in the food waste business, then please give us a call and either Prism or our contacts in the industry will be able to help you take a look at whether AD can help you out.

Prism Planning has been very busy recently testing out the principles of the Localism Agenda. It is quite clear that once the Localism Bill becomes statute the general public will potentially have a strong mandate to shape their communities through the planning system.

Private developers have been quite cautious of these proposals. It has been argued that some conservative (note the little ‘c’) thinkers will simply become Nimby’s to the extreme – we at Prism have a much more positive outlook on the Bill, and recent jobs have only strengthened our views; let’s look at two which illustrate our point:

We have been involved in a residential scheme in the Haxby Road area of York. The project for affordable housing on the site of a former Co-operative Dairy created quite a stir locally. The Planning Officers recommended the scheme for approval, but during the Committee politics took its course and permission was refused.

During the Appeal it was quite clear that there were no hard and fast planning issues which meant that the scheme should be refused. The Inspector agreed with us and permission was subsequently granted with a partial award of costs.

The second case was closer to home, in Darlington where we are based, and was to a certain extent, a mirror image of that of Haxby Road. It involved the refurbishment of an existing Georgian house, through the development of two subservient homes within its large residential curtilage.

The Council in this case were against the proposals for reasons of conservation and planning policy. However following extensive consultation with local people it became increasingly obvious that the public were in support of the scheme and wanted the application to be approved. Once the day of Planning Committee came around, an army of supporters (and one or two objectors) made their presence known and the officers’ recommendation was overturned by the committee.

The point which I am trying to make is a simple one, the Localism Bill is not a “Nimby’s Charter”. The Bill will not give the public the ability to impose a negative planning agenda. Recent Ministerial Statements have argued that planning needs to be for growth and sustainability and just at these two cases show; if the public want to make a real positive impact through the planning system, they can!