Agenda item

DM/21/03713/FPA - Land South Of Village Gate, Howden-le-Wear

Proposed detached dwelling


The Committee considered a report of the Principal Planning Officer which provided details of a proposed detached dwelling on Land South Of Village Gate, Howden-le-Wear (for copy see file of minutes).


The Principal Planning Officer provided a detailed presentation of the report and included site location plans, aerial photographs and photographs of the site.  A site visit had taken place on the day prior to the meeting.


Local Member, Councillor Jopling, spoke in support of the proposal and confirmed that the family had traded in Howden le Wear for 6 generations and employed 10 full time staff and 4 part time.  Mr Gibson had retired but still lived in the village and the Applicant was his daughter who wanted to live in the villag with her family in a more convenient location.


Howden le Wear was a decent size village which was spread out and included lots of infill developments and the field in question was one field and 2011 the Council had given permission for 47 houses to be built there.  The rest of the land was used in a very sophisticated manner for horses.  The house was only 70m away from the built area, which was no more than a large back garden and she had an issue with fact had been described as open countryside as the site was part of a developed field.  The house would not be visible from road as the site was situated in a dip and the foundations would be lower for the property.  To say that the house would not fit in with the landscape was spurious, in her opinion there was nothing detrimental to refuse the application and no objections from local residents or internal consultees, including the Landscape Officer had advised that the dwelling would be relatively contained in wider landscape and views screened with appropriate hardstanding access road.


Councillor Jopling continued that Howden le Wear was a large village with many estates and infills such as Valley Terrace which lead to Bishop Auckland and up to North Bitchburn and she took issue with the description that it was outside of curtilage as she did not believe there was a defined settlement boundary.  The site was not green open space, not a large portion of land and if it was refused, the rest would be developed anyway.  With regards to the size of the building, this was to be a family home and they wanted to make sure it was right.


Local Member Councillor Currah addressed the Committee and agreed that there was no village boundary.  The dwelling was in a sympathetic position, lower than the rest of the land, which made it less visible and it was adjacent to well maintained equestrian buildings.  The family had needs in the village and with a small portion of proposed land in a large village, he asked the Committee to consider approving the application.


The Agent, Mr Naylor advised that the property was well related to the settlement and the land had substantial sized buildings on site which formed development in planning terms.  The site was effectively terminated by a large bank of trees to south which was DCC land and on a site visit, you would class this as village boundary, however there was no longer a settlement boundary, so this was to a certain extent down to interpretation.  The site was within the old Wear Valley District Plan as a suitable development site.


The application was originally being determined on Policy 6 of the County Durham Plan (Development on unallocated sites) and the crooks of the application was that the property was well related to the settlement but Planning Officers then determined that it was within the countryside and the policy changed.  In his opinion this was not in open country, nor was it isolated and it related well to the property.   The report confirmed that it adhered to Policy 29 and 39, it was well contained and screened and would only be viewed a limited number of people using the public footpath.  In the current SHLAA the site is currently not available, but it also included a paragraph to confirm that it

development would be suitable.


On behalf of the Applicant, Ms Gibson, Mr Naylor then read a pre prepared statement which gave a background to the family business and confirmed that despite having a head office in Bishop Auckland, the original premises remained in Howden le Wear and the family had been in a fortunate position and assisted with local employment.  They had made large investments in the area and Ms Gibson and colleagues were on 24 hour call, so it was important to be located in an area that was central.


There had been several recent developments in Howden le Wear, her parents had purchased the remaining land in conjunction the original site, a working farm for 50 years.


The Applicant had attended a site meeting with Planning Officers and no objections were raised due to the existing buildings and access to mains services, however a week prior to determination she had received confirmation that the site was deemed to be outside of the village.  This had been confusing so she had done further research which had confirmed that the village boundary was incorrect and the site was inside.


Councillor Brown referred to Policy 12 (Permanent Rural Workers’ Dwellings) and queried where the Applicant had looked for another place to live in Howden le Wear and was advised that due to personal preference and the housing market, the decision was taken to utililse the land that was already owned.


Councillor Adam noted that great emphasis had been made with regards to how many years the family had lived and operated business in the village and he queried whether this particular building would have any links to the equestrian site and why the emphasis had been made to the other family business.


Mr Naylor advised of two reasons, the highway officers had not at first accepted that the existing access was suitable, but changed their mind when the Applicant had confirmed that there was a lot of high value stock and materials, visitors to the site, vehicles, horse boxes despite nobody living on site at the moment and there were a number of vehicles that visited several times a day.  The traffic calculation had therefore equated to the same or slightly less traffic movement, and the Highways Officers accepted that and removed the objection.


With regards to the link to the family business, the response and on call times to the premises in Howden le Wear and being in close proximity was the reason for that.


In response to a question from Councillor Brown regarding the residence, the Applicant confirmed that she lived 3-4 miles away from the site but was on call 24 hours and with small children often her parents assisted.  Living closer would assist her fulfil her duty as Director of company.


The Principal Planning Officer appreciated the desire for the Applicant to live on site, her ties to area and landowner status however the application had been assessed objectively on the basis of the planning merits of scheme, and  the way the County Durham Plan was worded had determined that the site was beyond the built up area and within the countryside.  The difficulty with application is that there was 70-100m in either direction which was a substantial distance and the Planning Authority had to take a consistent view.  There had been similar proposals that had been assessed in the same way and upheld at appeal.  There had been no functional case submitted for the dwelling to serve operation of either the family business or the equestrian site and it would not be supported for recreational purposes given the extension of similar facilities across the county.


Councillor Boyes, normally would be opposed to development outside of settlement boundary and don’t accept what the consultant had said about the boundaries being open to interpretation as he felt there was a clear boundary.  However, this application did not appear to be development in countryside.  When considering Policy 6, Councillor Boyes advised that the advice was to accept the application if it was well related to the settlement and he referred to a number of other criteria that should be met, which this application complied with.


In this particular instance Councillor Boyes advised that he disagreed with the recommendation and moved approval of the application.


Councillor Atkinson summed up the personal circumstances of the Applicant and the contribution the family made to the village and seconded the motion to approve the application.


Councillor Stead agreed that he had regularly driven along this road to go to Stanhope and there was a lot new housing developments which created more of a blot on the landscape than this would.


Councillor Adam was minded to go against officers recommendation until he visited the site and it raised question in relation to location, although there was an indication that it would be masked there was still a substantial amount of the building above the lay of land, and two top stories, which was not in keeping with area and look out on a limb, separated from the other buildings and it could look intrusive although he would consider comments from other Members before determining the application.


He asked whether approving the application would set a precedent in relation to this type of property and the Principal Planning Officer advised that each application was assessed on its own merits however Officers had a consistent view, and considered Committee decisions to arrive at the recommendation.


Councillor Sterling advised that the Applicant had done all she could to work with officers, she had complied with concerns and moved the location and she could not see any conflict with Policy 6.  The new housing to the north of the site was not in keeping and she wondered if the Officers would have arrived at a different view if this was a bigger development or if there was an application for affordable housing.,


The Planning and Development Solicitor advised that if the Committee were minded to approve the application, then he would advise them to delegate the conditioning of the  application to officers in conjunction with the Chair and Vice Chair.


Councillor Brown requested that the application was conditioned with the removal of permitted development rights.




That the application be APPROVED subject to conditions to be delegated by Officers in conjunction with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee.

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