Agenda item

DM/20/01084/FPA - Brancepeth Manor Farm, Brandon Lane, West Brandon, Crook, DL15 9AS

Extension to Chalet Park and two residential dwelling houses (amended description).


The Principal Planning Officer, Paul Hopper, 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 Principal Planning Officer advised that Members of the Committee had visited the site and were familiar with the location and setting.  The application was for an extension to Chalet Park and two residential dwelling houses (amended description) and was recommended for approval, subject to conditions and a Section 106 Legal Agreement.


The Chair thanked the Principal Planning Officer and asked Parish Councillor Jimmy Jamieson representing Brandon and Byshottles Parish Council to speak in respect of the application.


Parish Councillor J Jamieson thanked the Chair and Committee for the opportunity to speak on behalf of Brandon and Byshottles Parish Council. 


He asked what was being applied for, noting there had been no mention of applying to vary a consented planning application, adding that planning statement had not been changed other than removal of the farm shop.  He explained it was also concerning that the planning report was suggesting a fundamental change to the planning application that was previously accepted.  He added that should have been included within the current application to ensure that all parties were clear that the intention was to bring traffic for all lodges and properties along Wolsingham Road.  He added that the use of Wolsingham Road was seen as being fundamentally not allowed during the prior application and asked how had that changed?  In reference to the comment from the Highways Section on the application that stated they "understand that the application is now for the construction of eight additional holiday lodges only" he noted that was totally incorrect and they needed to be aware that traffic for all 30 lodges, plus the residential buildings, would be using Wolsingham Road. He explained that additionally one would need to account for bin trucks, shopping deliveries and construction traffic.  He noted the road was simply unsuitable for that.


Parish Councillor J Jamieson noted there was mention that the developer would put in two passing places and improve others.  He added that before occupation of lodges was too late and did not mitigate traffic impact on the whole length of the unclassified road.



Members were reminded that the application came when DCC had already declared a Climate Emergency (2019) and was currently evidencing whether or not to declare an Ecological Emergency.  Parish Councillor J Jamieson explained there would be a significant light, noise and environmental impact by quadrupling the numbers of properties.  He added the Parish had examples of a vast amount of wildlife in the area, and they would all be negatively affected by the construction works and the installation of the lodges.


Parish Councillor J Jamieson explained that the site was not a sustainable location, adding it was not realistic to say visitors could walk and cycle rather than use a vehicle.  He explained he did not think many would carry groceries that way, so there would be delivery services, take away vehicles.  Additionally, he asked where those bikes were to be stored.  He noted that access to the eight lodges was to be by the residents’ private road and then with a gate or gates, it not being clear which from drawings.  Parish Councillor J Jamieson informed Members that a new gateway with a Brancepeth Manor Park sign had been constructed on the lakeside road, directly in front of the five homes closest to the lake, with no indication of why.  He noted that there had been pre-planning advice, but no community engagement, adding that the application was a surprise to all residents, after they had bought their properties.


Parish Councillor J Jamieson noted that the advice of consultees was being side-lined or ignored by the recommendation to pass/accept the application, namely:


·        The Landscape Section say the Manager’s house would have an unacceptable impact on the Area of High Landscape Value (AHLV).

·        The Nuisance Action Team wanted more information as there was insufficient to allow full consideration, with that further information having not been received or included in the Planning Report.

·        Design and Conservation observe that the lodges appear further into the southern area of pasture, that was a landscape concern previously.

·        Environmental Health point out that the report did not cover the whole red line boundary of the site and that a Screening Assessment Form and photos should be completed and submitted in writing prior to the decision.


Parish Councillor J Jamieson noted that the financial viability was based on unsustainable fuel for the properties, namely gas which was not supplied on site.  He added it was not sufficient safeguard to rely on putting in conditions for aspects of the development, not fulfilling recommendations prior to determination or occupation of the lodges.  He explained that, as with the previous consented application, variations of conditions were possible resulting in less than optimal outcomes. 

He noted an example being, the proposed lodge drainage scheme was unachievable, varied to a less than best practice option and was now extended to include proposals which were non- compliant with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) legislation.  He explained the Developer had several times changed the drainage plan and emphasised that now it was non-complaint by discharging into a dry ditch, not on the Developer’s land.  He asked whether field drainage rights extended to 32 properties in any case?


Parish Councillor J Jamieson reiterated that no regard had been given to residents, and that could be demonstrated by the planting plan which showed no attempt to shield them from the view of the lodges.  He explained that there had been no attempt to reassure the residents that they would not have an ever-changing range of guests roaming around the residential area.  He concluded by noting that residents were being failed by the planning policies that existed to protect communities like theirs and their rights.


The Chair thanked Parish Councillor J Jamieson and asked Councillor M Wilson, Local Members to speak in relation to the application.


Councillor M Wilson explained that spoke in support of the application, noting that it was clear that more people were staying in the UK for their holidays and would likely increase post COVID-19, with the cost of international travel increasing.  She noted that Visit County Durham (VCD) had spelt out the benefits of scheme and while she had heard the comments from objectors, it was a clear opportunity.  Councillor M Wilson explained the work that had been undertaken in relation to the road, noting that the passing places would help in terms of access.  She reiterated a lot of hard work had been put in to the application, she felt the report was balanced and added she had been impressed by the early landscaping.  She added she was encouraged as regards the sustainable energy and cycle storage provision.


Councillor M Wilson concluded by noting that a number of welcome changes had been to the application and noted the proposals would help showcase the County and therefore she wholeheartedly supported the application.


The Chair thanked Councillor M Wilson and asked Mr Kevin Ayrton, speaking on behalf of several residents, to put forward their representations in objection to the application.


Mr K Ayrton explained that the site was unsuitable and, in respect of Highways, stated that the application site was at capacity.  He noted that the Local Plan set out the application site was within an AHLV, and he reminded Members that there were eight additional lodges over and above the 22 granted in 2016, none of which had been constructed. 

He added that the proposed houses were large in scale and the proposals would result in the removal of all the trees at the site.  He noted there would be significant harm in respect of the landscape and habitat, and in respect of the amenity of the residents of Brancepeth Manor Farm.  With reference to the two private dwellings, DCC Landscape Section had noted one would replace and existing pole barn and had raised “concerns that the dwelling would appear as an incongruent addition to the landscape, to the detriment of landscape and visual amenity”.  He added that the two dwellings were presented as enabling development, however it was noted that they did not support the function, and it was felt it failed to demonstrate significant public benefit.  He concluded by noting that the issues were finely balanced and that it was requested that the application be refused.


The Chair thanked Mr K Ayrton and invited Mrs Janet Heseltine, Local Resident, so speak in relation to the application.


Mrs J Heseltine explained that there had been no regard to residents in respect of the application, noting that that proposed planting would not shield local residents from the development.  She added that there would be guests wandering around and noted that a Management Plan had been referred to when residents were sold their properties.  She noted that now all proposed traffic would be via their existing access and reminded Members that the residents numbered 20, including young children, and that with 30 holiday lodges this meant there could be around 120 unknown people and animals in the area.  She explained that if residents had wished to live in a holiday park, they would not have bought a property in such an isolated farmstead offering peace and tranquillity.  She noted residents had not been given accurate information as regards stewardship and also as regards potential development, with third parties also being led to believe residents were ok with the development.  She stressed that the with the additional lodges and properties and management offices, local residents would only represent one quarter of the total number of people in the area.  She added that residents had been failed by planning policy and while residents had believed they were buying a dream, they acquired a nightmare.  She concluded by noting there would be an unacceptable impact upon the landscape.


The Chair thanked Mrs J Heseltine and asked Mr Alastair Willis, Agent for the Applicant, to speak in support of the application.


Mr A Willis noted he endorsed the balanced report of the Officer, as set out within the agenda papers.  He explained the application had been worked on for a long time, including working with Council Officers, with the scheme having alterations and improvements following comments received.  He explained the application sought only an additional eight lodges and two dwellings, 22 lodges already having permission. 

He noted the benefits to tourism that would result from the scheme and added it was felt those benefits to tourism and the economy would not be at the expense of the scheme’s green credentials.  He explained that County Durham had only 40 percent of the tourism bed spaces when compared with Northumberland, and only 20 percent when compared to Cumbria.  He noted the significant investments that had been made to the County Durham tourism offer, including Beamish and at Bishop Auckland, and how it was important to encourage their use and for those visiting to holiday and stay locally.  He added that site sustainability was promoted in terms of encouraging “staycation”, with features such as ground/air source heat pumps, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, secure cycling storage and use of high-efficiency materials. 


Mr A Willis noted that the development was supported by VCD and there would be links to local suppliers and producers.  In respect of biodiversity, he referred to the structural landscaping and area of meadow grassland and added that Condition 25 required compliance with Section H of the Ecological Appraisal.  He noted two for one replacement in respect of trees and of the biodiversity benefits from the scheme.  He explained as regards the details within the design including low level lighting, as set out at Condition 21. 


Mr A Willis referred to the 21 passing places and noted that traffic would not pass residents properties, rather would be diverted before that point.  He concluded by noting the application was considered acceptable by Highways Officers, suitable in terms of scale and design, provided benefits to the economy and was sustainable, and therefore he would respectfully request Members follow their Officer’s recommendation for approval.


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


The Principal Planning Officer noted that access for the previous approval had been for all vehicular traffic to be taken via a byway, however, within the original report Highways had not raised any issues in terms of traffic via Brandon Lane or Wolsingham Road.  He noted that within the assessment it was not stated that access via Wolsingham Road was unacceptable.  He added that looking at the current application on its own merits, with the Highways Section considered that the 22 lodges, together with an additional eight was acceptable.  He added that the recent comments referring to the eight noted all vehicular access being via Wolsingham Road.


The Principal Planning Officer noted that the Ecological Assessment submitted was considered and the proposals were considered acceptable by the Council’s Ecologist, subject to conditions.  In reference to the removal of trees, he explained that had been noted and mitigation was secured via condition. 

He noted that the Council’s Contaminated Land Section had asked for a screening assessment and conditions were included to the satisfaction of the Contaminated Land Section.  In reference to the two dwellings and enabling development, the Principal Planning Officer noted it was established material planning concern and used in reference to other non-designated heritage assets.


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


Councillor J Elmer noted he absolutely encouraged people to visit County Durham but stressed the need to protect the heritage assets that we had, as they were the reason came to visit.  He noted the proposal site was within an AHLV and explained that during the site visit it was apparent how ‘out in the open’ the property that would replace an existing barn would be.  He noted while there were concerns with that property, the other was more to the rear of the site.  He noted that he felt they did not comply in terms of residential development and added he struggled regarding approval for two dwellings being necessary for the delivery of lodge development.  He added enabling development should be to protect heritage assets, where as the proposals appeared to be provide more profit and income for the applicant.  He noted he was nervous that no lodges had yet been built, and also nervous as regards the increase in footfall.  Councillor J Elmer noted he noticed a Brown Hare during the site visit, a protected species, and also noted Peewits, also known as Lapwings, were also on the site explaining they were a species in decline.  He added that additional footfall would mean those species would be disturbed.  He noted the loss of trees and the 20-30 years in terms of the time to replace them, and the lack of screening during that time.  He also noted reports of another protected species at the site, namely Great Crested Newts.  He explained that was a statutorily protected species and that it was an offence to disturb their habitat.  He added it was worried as regards the ecological survey having seen a protected species, a Brown Hare, on site.


The Chair noted the original approval and acknowledged the need for visitors to come to the County.


Councillor C Marshall explained he concurred with the comments made by Local Member, Councillor M Wilson.  He acknowledged the benefits in terms of tourism and the economy and thanked the applicant in terms of their willingness to take on board consultation and make changes to the scheme.  He added that it was really important to invest in the County’s tourism offer, helping to improve on the lack of accommodation, in turn helping to support the excellent visitor attractions in the County.  He noted it was a local developer, from within County Durham, and not a speculative investor. 


He reiterated there were clear benefits to the economy, as supported by VCD and the North East Chamber of Commerce in their supporting representations.  He added he was not aware of any other such lodge developments within the North East with such green credentials.  Councillor C Marshall noted that Officers had noted the evidence provided in terms of the enabling development, and it had been accepted by Officers.  In reference to the comments from Councillor J Elmer relating to the ecological report, Councillor C Marshall suggested additional ecological work be conditioned prior to works commencing, and on that basis proposed that the application be approved.


The Principal Planning Officer noted the Brown Hare, and reference within the ecological survey in terms of the mitigation/avoidance mentioned.  He noted that such could not be discharged if there were doubt as regards protected species.  Councillor J Elmer noted the issues in terms of nesting birds and noted permission could not be approved without relevant information, for example as regards Great Crested Newts.  The Lawyer (Planning and Highways) noted that he had not seen the ecological assessment, however, the report relating to the pond had stated it was not suitable for Great Crested Newts.  He noted that the DCC Ecologist and the Applicant’s Ecologist stated there were no newts.  He explained that Members either had sufficient information to make a decision, or they did not, and should not look to condition or retrofit in that regard.  The Lawyer (Planning and Highways) explained that ultimately Officers were satisfied there was no need for further survey work.  The Principal Planning Officer noted that reference to ground nesting birds had related to the original application that had included an area for a farm shop and café, however, that no longer formed part of the application.  He reiterated that Officers were satisfied in terms of the information provided and the mitigations set out.


Councillor C Marshall noted he would therefore propose the application be approved, as per the recommendation set out in the report, without any additional conditions.  He was seconded by Councillor K Shaw.


Upon a vote being taken it was:




That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions and Section 106 Legal Agreement as set out within the report.



Councillor C Kay entered the meeting at 1.21pm


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