Agenda item

DM/21/00176/FPA - Limekilns Farm, Lonton, Middleton-in-Teesdale

Siting of 2no Shepherd huts for holiday accommodation purposes and associated works


The Committee considered a report of the Planning Officer in relation to the siting of 2no Shepherd huts for holiday accommodation purposes and associated works (for copy see file of minutes).


The Principal Planning Officer gave a detailed presentation which included a site location plan, aerial photographs and photographs of the site and noted the application was recommended for approval subject to conditions.


The Chair noted comments had been received from the Local Members and asked the Senior Committee Services Officer to read out a statement on behalf of Councillors R Bell and T Henderson, Local Members for Barnard Castle West.


We appreciate the changes made by the applicant during the course of this application to improve it.  However, the fact remains that the Shepherds Huts will impact the amenity of the neighbour.


In general, rural tourism provision is to be welcomed, but It is not the case that this development has to take place here.  The applicant has land further away from the neighbour, for which he previously had planning permission for a similar development.  It is regrettable that this application impacts the neighbour's amenity in this way when an alternative option exists.  For this reason we would ask the Committee to refuse the application”.


The Chair thanked the Senior Committee Services Officer reiterated the point often made at Committee that the availability of alternative land was not an issue for Committee, rather the application before Members was for determination.  He asked Mrs Gillian Bainbridge, local resident speaking in objection to the application, to address the Committee.


Mrs G Bainbridge explained that she would be speaking on behalf of all objectors to the application, in particular the elderly resident of Lonton Blacksmiths who was very distressed by the application.  She noted that the applicant had amended his plans and had sought to address the points raised by objectors.  She added, however, that there was significant loss of amenity to Lonton Blacksmiths which was directly to the north of the application site.  Mrs G Bainbridge noted Policy 8 of the CDP states visitor accommodation should be allowed where appropriate to the scale and design of the area.  She asked Members to consider looking into a formerly green field where two huge black huts would sit on 25 square metres of grass, surrounded by a gravel track.  She added the huts would be 3.1 metres high, around 10 feet wide, and extend 6.7 metres, 22 feet long.


Mrs G Bainbridge noted that the huts would be visually dominant, overbearing and would overwhelm the small paddock.  She added that a third of their structure would extend above the wall, even when the wall height was raised, the equivalent to looking at the back of a building some 44 feet long, in a tiny paddock that was only 30 metres from a neighbour’s front door.  She explained it was enormously significant in terms of visual dominance for Lonton Blacksmiths and visual amenity for the neighbourhood, as the huts would be seen from roads and footpaths, especially in winter months and with the colour of the huts having been changed to almost black.


Mrs G Bainbridge noted that the impact for the resident of Lonton Blacksmiths was significant and she added that she believed the proposed development would constitute towards a statutory nuisance.  She explained that residents and visitors to Lonton Blacksmiths would be overlooked, and be able to overlook the site, despite the proposed wall.  It was added that the resident of Lonton Blacksmiths would lose his privacy that he had enjoyed for 60 years.  Mrs G Bainbridge noted the huts proximity and their north and east facing windows, in addition to external bollard lighting, would impact upon the Dark Skies area and allow light to escape and shine directly into the master bedroom of the property, impacting upon sleep. 


Mrs G Bainbridge added that the resident would also have to put up with noise nuisance from outdoor living and drinking throughout the day, up until the supposed curfew mentioned within a noise management document.  She added the resident would have to tolerate smells and pollutants from barbeques and al fresco dining, again statutory nuisance.  She explained that the resident’s quality of life would be impacted through visual intrusion, visual dominance, noise, and loss of privacy.  She added that she believed, as part of Policy 31, the development should not be permitted.  Mrs G Bainbridge noted that under NPPF considerations there was reference to healthy communities being safe and accessible, however, the proposed development had no provision for anyone with disabilities or limited mobility.  She added that NPPF also referred to the effective use of land, noting that the proposal would remove an agricultural use and would change the character of the small paddock substantially.  She noted that the site was within an area of High Landscape Value, next to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and therefore should be preserved.  Mrs G Bainbridge noted that Policies 38 and 39 repeatedly referred to preservation and not causing harm because its special character, adding the huts with their mitigation feature would have limited views for their holidaymakers.  She added that, due to their size and dark paint, the huts would stand out in the landscape, especially in the winter months.  She noted the Council’s landscape consultee had also picked up on that point adding she felt that was grounds for refusal. 


Mrs G Bainbridge noted that the applicant, within his statement, had referred to his 2011/12 application, however, he had failed to mention that he dismissed the site in question because of how it would impact upon Lonton Blacksmiths and invade privacy.  She added that she would ask that the applicant consider the location and do the neighbourly thing and relocate to land where only his family would be inconvenienced.  She noted the applicant had stated the market aimed for would be up-market couples, and asked what surety there was in terms of that being maintained, and how those guests behaviour would be any different to what the applicant described as the “birthday party market”.  Mrs G Bainbridge noted that the applicant, having purchased the huts, would expect 100 percent occupancy, and referred to lowering the huts, however that was in comparison to his previous application.  She noted the huts in question had always been three metres by three metres by seven metres and added the application had been suitably vague, with some items only coming to light within the Planning Officer’s report.  She added the failure to mention heating methods, shrubs, the height of low walls, material to be used and submission of an old design and access statement from 2011 was not appropriate. 


Mrs G Bainbridge concluded by noting the planning issues listed by the Officer were numerous and not insubstantial, particularly points 47 and 68 and she urged the Committee to use the NPPF and CDP to refusal the application, or at the very least to ask the applicant to use his other land.


The Chair thanked Mrs G Bainbridge and asked the applicant, Mr Liam Scott Patrick to speak in support of his application. 


Mr LS Patrick thanked the Chair and Committee for the opportunity to speak and noted he would not reiterate all of his statement from within the report, rather he would refer to points he felt may be useful for Members.  He noted he wished to explain the reasons why he felt the small development would work, why his family wished to do it, why they had chosen the site, and what they wished to achieve.


Mr LS Patrick noted he had worked within the hospitality industry and associated industries for the last 30 years, always at the top end of the market, firstly with Corney and Barrow within the wine business, and more recently with Lonton Coffee which had a great reputation, supplying many Michelin-starred restaurants with coffee roasted in Teesdale.  He noted he wished to convey that he had always operated at a certain level within the market and he added that was what he would wish to continue to do so with the proposed development. 


Mr LS Patrick explained that Visit County Durham (VCD) was actively looking for high quality accommodation and he noted that was what he was looking to achieve with the proposal, with the budget being approximately £80,000.

He noted that budget was close to that which would enable the purchase of a small cottage, however, he was looking to balance the need for high quality accommodation while also avoiding taking small cottages away from local residents, something he felt the holiday-let market was doing.  He reiterated that the aim was to provide quality accommodation for high spending individuals, without taking away housing stock for local people.


In respect of the proposed positioning of the huts, Mr LS Patrick explained that it was for two reasons, firstly when he had previously looked at the glamping sector in 2012, he had looked at camping pods.  He noted the Council’s Senior Landscape Architect at that time had suggested such camping pods be placed in the location that was being proposed within the current application.  He continued, noting that at that time his children were twelve and eight years old and the lawn was used as a lawn, with the children having now grown up the lawn was effectively unused land.  He added that therefore he had started with the position as suggested by the professional Officer.


Mr LS Patrick explained that there had also been a change in terms of what people would expect from accommodation, with glamping being very popular in 2012, camping without a tent with outdoor toilet arrangements, however, more recently the market had moved on.  He noted, with a view of looking at the aims of the CDP in terms of more high quality accommodation, the camping pods would no longer work, in respect of the pods themselves as a product as well as the location behind a wall.  He noted that therefore, working with Planners, he had looked to provide a solution which would give more space, provide accommodation with washing facilities within the huts while looking to protect everyone’s privacy.  Mr LS Patrick explained that the proposed location was therefore pushed further south, as far away as possible from neighbours, and other elements including car parking had been relocated, with the huts themselves also facing south.  He added that any of the windows that faced north were small windows with one being a bathroom, the other a kitchenette area.  He noted he was not a Planner, however, the position he had started with was that advised a few years ago by the Senior Landscape Architect and, working closely with Planners, he had tried to address any issues that would create conflict with national planning policy or the CDP, including many ways to create privacy.


Mr LS Patrick noted he had taken as many steps as he could in respect of the application, adding he lived on site and provided details of a noise management plan should any issues arise, reiterating that the aim was the professional couples’ market.  He thanked the Committee for their time, noting he hoped Members would approve the Planning Officer’s assessments.


The Chair thanked Mr LS Patrick and asked the Principal Planning Officer to respond to the points raised by the speakers.


The Principal Planning Officer noted the application site was a previously undeveloped parcel of land, similar to the previous application considered by Committee, and the test would be whether the impact of development was at an unacceptable level such to warrant refusal of the application and substantiate at appeal.  He explained that Officers did not feel the impacts were at an unacceptable level, with colleagues in Environmental Health having assessed the application in relation to residential amenity and statutory nuisance and had raised no objection to the application, subject to adherence to a noise management plan.  He added there was a condition recommended to be attached to any approval that would ensure the plan would be adhered to.  He added that, in terms of landscape impact, it was felt the development would be considered within the context of a background of existing development.  The Principal Planning Officer noted objectors had pointed out that the previously granted permission was for a site to the east of the proposed site, however, the site would be more visually prominent that the proposed site.  He added the proposed site was well contained within the garden wall as highlighted on the photographs within the presentation.  He noted the wall would be refurbished and additional planting was proposed, and existing planting would be retained.  The Principal Planning Officer highlighted there was a condition proposed to control details of external lighting with motion sensors to be used, and to ensure the luminance was not significant.  He reiterated that the proposed site was residential amenity space, not agricultural land, the applicant being able to use the land for residential amenity with the impacts associated with that use.  He noted that therefore it was not felt that the level of impact from the application would warrant refusal and substantiate at appeal.


The Chair thanked the Principal Planning Officer and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.


Councillor I Jewell noted the comments from objectors in respect of visual impact and asked how far the huts were from the applicant’s premises.  The Principal Planning Officer referred to presentation slides detailing side elevations of the proposed huts, noting they would be constructed in timber, with a dark stain, and they were considered acceptable in terms of visual impact.  He added that the huts would be located around 30 metres from the neighbouring property, in excess of the recommended 21 meters set out within the Residential Amenity SPD.  He added the huts would be approximately 40 metres away from the applicant’s property, although there were areas of amenity space that were closer to the application site.  He added that the applicant would be within earshot of the development and be able to effectively manage the site, not being located off-site as was the case for some holiday-let accommodation.

Councillor L Brown asked whether there would be screening planting between the objector’s property and the proposed huts.  She added that post-COVID-19 she felt there needed to be a way to attracted tourism back into the area as the County’s town and village centres were going to need all the help they could get.  She added she could not see any reason not to allow the application, though she would listen to comments from other Members.  The Principal Planning Officer referred to the proposed site location plan and highlighted the wall in a t-shaped arrangement, proposed to be 1.2 metres tall.  He added that there would be a secondary wall to the north extending from the roastery building across the northern boundary of the site, the application proposing that it be constructed in stone and be 1.8 metres in height to provide additional screening.  He noted that no vegetation was proposed, however, referring to site photographs, there was vegetation within the objector’s boundary which did provide a degree of filtering.  He added that if Members’ wished, a condition to provide additional planting could be explored, however he did not feel it would be necessary.  He reiterated that there was support for the application by VCD and the benefits of tourism with the rural area was recognised.


Councillor I Jewell noted he could not see any reasons not to go with the recommendation from Officers for approval, adding he felt there were some mitigation measures within the proposal and therefore he would propose the application be approved.  Councillor L Brown noted it was not an easy decision, however, she would second the proposal for approval, reiterating that post-COVID-19 the tourist industry would need as much help as it could get.


Councillor G Richardson explained that he considered himself a countryman, and that the application was in Barnard Castle West, not Barnard Castle East which he represented.  He noted that if the application had come forward within a housing development, or similar area, he would not have been surprised.  However, he noted the application was within the countryside, where he believed friends and neighbours really cared for each other’s opinions.  He noted the application was placed right in front of the objector’s property and as such blocked their amenity.  He added that he had only seen such a shepherd’s hut on the television programme “The Yorkshire Shepherdess”, filmed only a few miles across the border of North Yorkshire, however the chosen location for the hut in that programme was in a private area where it would not affect anyone.  Councillor G Richardson noted the location for the two proposed huts was in effect the total opposite and he noted the objections raised by his local colleagues and also that the original application location would not have impacted anybody.  He noted he would therefore support refusal.




The Chair noted that he felt the Committee had an incredibly difficult decision to make and noted all would be able to understand the impact of two holiday chalets appearing next door with people arriving to have a good time on holiday.  He noted the impact in terms of the neighbour and added that the applicant as a resident also had the right to develop their property to be a commercially viable as possible as a business.  He noted the previous application considered by the Committee, of the development of a factory alongside residential properties, and highlighted that while the perceived change in residential amenity may be huge to an individual, the Officer had highlighted whether it was felt to be acceptable in terms of the level of impact upon residential amenity.  He noted the issue raised by Councillor L Brown in respect of tourism and the support of VCD for the application.


The Solicitor – Planning and Development noted there was a proposal by Councillor I Jewell, seconded by Councillor L Brown, for approval of the application and upon a vote being taken it was:




That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions as set out within the report.

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