Retention of kennels in association with the keeping and breeding of dogs at the site (amended description).
The Planning Officer, Lisa Morina, gave a detailed presentation on the report relating to the abovementioned planning application, a copy of which had been circulated (for copy see file of minutes). Members noted that the written report was supplemented by a visual presentation which included photographs of the site. The application was for the retention of kennels in association with the keeping and breeding of dogs at the site and was recommended for approval, subject to conditions.
The Planning Officer noted the application was for the regularisation of present use, a retrospective application. She noted that the Applicant currently had 11 dogs (Dogue de Bordeaux) at the site, with there being usually two litters of dogs per year, used to replace dogs for showing and to fund the upkeep of the remaining dogs. She noted former Councillor L Pounder had requested the application be considered by Committee, with issues including noise disturbance, highway safety, traffic generation and access.
The Planning Officer noted updates to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and updated Members as regards the references to paragraphs within the NPPF, namely:
· Paragraph 40 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 213 changed to 219.
· Paragraph 52 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 122 changed to 124, NPPF Paragraph 170 changed to 174 and NPPF Paragraph 180 changed to 185.
· Paragraphs 53 and 67 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 180 changed to 185.
Members were asked to noted Condition 1 as set out within the report was no longer required as works had already started on site.
In respect of consultation, the Planning Officer noted that there had been no objections from the Highways Section, or Environmental Health subject to conditions. The Planning Officer explained that Hutton Henry Parish Council had sent two letters of objection to the application, with concerns raised including: noise having a detrimental impact of neighbouring residents and land use, in particular the adjacent cemetery when funerals were taking place; and use of the access road, with some visitors to the kennels reported to have used the incorrect access and knocked at nearby properties, disturbing neighbours. It was added there had been seven letters of objection and seven letters of support received, as summarised within the report.
The Planning Officer noted that the application was considered acceptable in terms of Policy 6 of the County Durham Plan (CDP) and added that the impact on residential amenity was not considered to be unacceptable, subject to conditions. She noted that the application was also considered acceptable in terms of highway safety, subject to conditions, and was also acceptable in terms of the impact upon the visual amenity of the area. The Planning Officer noted that the objections and concerns of residents and the Parish Council had been taken into account, however, on balance it was felt that the concerns were not of sufficient weight to justify refusal of the application and therefore the recommendation was for approval, subject to the conditions.
The Chair thanked the Planning Officer and asked Ms Swainston, the Applicant, to speak in support of her application.
Ms Swainston noted she had kept dogs for a long time, they were part of her life, and noted when she moved to the area with 11 dogs she had needed to have stables built to house them, it being a welfare issue for the dogs. She added that the stables had been constructed so they would look well and not impact upon views and had been placed out of the way to minimise any disruption to neighbours. She added that the pens were not visible, and the stables would not be visible unless a neighbour climbed to look over the fence at the bottom of their garden.
Ms Swainston noted the dogs were highly trained, she had been keeping dogs for 21 years and had been a veterinary nurse. She explained she had shown dogs all over Europe and noted she arguably had the most successful kennel with that breed of dog in the world. She reiterated that the breeding of the dogs was a way of life and that the dogs were not bred primarily for money. She noted she could not see how she could have done anything differently, the dogs had required a home in December.
She explained that the dogs did not bark in general, and all that had been done had been with neighbours in mind. She noted that it was always the intention to apply for planning permission as this was an essential part in terms of obtaining a breeder’s licence. Ms Swainston reiterated that the design for the kennels was with the neighbours in mind, with sound monitoring equipment in place. She noted that while the dogs may bark if someone approached them, the stables and pens faced towards fields and therefore no one would be approaching them. She noted the kennels were not a boarding kennel, the dogs were not distressed coming and going, they were settled and she understood the dogs needs. She noted that the Parish Council had made reference to people knocking on neighbours’ doors and reiterated their kennels were not that type of boarding kennel, the dogs were effectively pets, bred in order to pay for their upkeep and to be shown.
Ms Swainston noted that she would look to keep the best dogs from litters, and that others may be sold to pay for veterinary bills which could be quite high for Dogue de Bordeaux. She added that while recently there had only been single litters each year, there may be a need to breed more than one litter in order to help pay for such bills. She reiterated that the breeding of the dogs was her passion and that she would not wish to upset neighbours, adding that if there was ever an issue she would be there, the dogs would not be left alone.
The Chair thanked Ms Swaintson and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.
Councillor D Brown asked for advice from the Solicitor in terms of the application, in the context of a similar retrospective application previously considered by the Committee that was refused and upheld at appeal, together with another similar application having recently been considered by the Area Planning Committee (South and West) which had been approved. He noted that there was a need for consistency in decision making. The Solicitor – Planning and Development, Neil Carter noted he was not familiar with the details of the appeal, however, in general the Councillor was correct that there should be consistency in decision making as far as they could be, with each application to be determined on the basis of the the material considerations before Members, contained within the report. He noted that Members would be aware that if an application was retrospective, that was not sufficient reason to refuse an application. He asked if Planning Officers could give further information relating to the other applications referred to.
The Principal Planning Officer, Paul Hopper explained that he had been the case officer for one of the applications and was familiar with the case and appeal. He noted that he was not familiar with the case from the South and West area.
He explained that in reference to the first case there were some specific differences between that application and the one before Members and, as noted by the Solicitor – Planning and Development, each application was looked at on its own merits. The Principal Planning Officer noted that this had been the case in this instance and that Planners were satisfied with the controls that would be in place via condition and that there would not be any adverse impact to residential amenity. He noted some of the differences between the applications, including that the separation distance to the nearest residential property was fundamentally different, being much closer in the other application and that the breed of dog was also different. He noted those differences were such to be able to recommend approval of the application before Committee and he noted that there had been a consistent approach taken.
Councillor D Brown noted the comments from the Solicitor – Planning and Development and Principal Planning Officer and, after looking at the application on its own merits, he would move that the application be approved as per the recommendation. Councillor C Marshall noted that a difference between an application being considered at Committee now, compared to the application from around two years ago, was that the CDP was in now in place. He explained that, upon consideration of the report and representations, he would second the proposal for approval.
Upon a vote being taken it was:
That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions as set out within the report, with Condition 1 having been removed.
Councillor D Freeman left the meeting at 9.51am
Councillor S Deinali, Vice-Chair in the Chair