Agenda item

Application DM/2020/01036 - Reposition of access and gate, new planting and retention of access track. Bluebell Farm, Blackbird Farm Road, Earlswood


We considered the report of the application and late correspondence which was recommended for approval subject to the two conditions outlined in the report.


Councillor I. Martin, representing Shirenewton Community Council, had submitted a written statement outlining the community council’s objections to the application which was read to the Planning Committee by the Head of Planning, as follows:


‘Shirenewton Community Council objects to this application.

The Planning Committee may not be aware of application DC/2017/00607 in virtually identical terms to this application, and of the decision by Monmouthshire County Council to refuse on the grounds:

1 The proposed access and roadway by virtue of its prominent location would be incongruous features that would be detrimental to the character of the locality. The development would have a significantly detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the rural landscape contrary to Policies DES1 (c), (e) and (h), LC1 and LC5 of the Local Development Plan.

2 The proposed new access is an unnecessary engineered incursion across a prominent open area which would not provide a safe easy access and could potentially harm the safety and convenience of the road users contrary to Policy MV1 and criteria (a) and (e) of Policy DES1 of the Monmouthshire Local Development Plan.


We are not aware that these planning policies have changed since that refusal.


We consider the report by Lime Transport is misconceived because:


1. It is headed Proposed Agricultural Access and makes reference to agriculture. This is not a farm but a private residence.  Putting a private road across two open fields is unjustified. The access is for the movement of the residents' own horses the keeping of which is not an agricultural activity.


2. It asserts at para 1.1.3 There is no change in use on the farm and the number and type of vehicle movements generated by the site will remain unchanged. Therefore, there is no impact on the wider highway network associated with this additional access.


Previously, access was by Blackbird Farm Lane not Old Road. Old Road is very narrow with limited vision and high hedges, with no passing places back to the main road (see para 2.1.4 - there is: limited carriageway width at the Old Road/Bluebell Road crossroads). It is already hazardous for motorists and pedestrians alike.


We are disappointed that Highways have not supported Monmouthshire County Council’s 2017 refusal that it would not provide a safe easy access and could potentially harm the safety and convenience of the road users.


We further take issue with the Landscape and Visual Appraisal Paper which asserts the proposed track will be indistinguishable from the field appearance. Not only is the track as presently laid immediately apparent because of the open nature of the landscape but also the use of heavy horse boxes over the track in winter will cause significant ruts eventually necessitating a more robust road foundation.  Despite the earlier refusal decision, the road has now been laid.   We consider placing of private roads across fields to be bad farming practice and unnecessary scaring of the landscape. 


Our recent survey of residents shows they wish to preserve the characteristics of our area which are essentially farming and rural landscape. This area should again be designated as of special interest and we consider it is important both for the attraction of tourists and for the benefit of future generations to maintain those characteristics.’ 



Mr S. Courtney, applicant’s agent, had submitted a written statement in support of the application which was read to the Planning Committee by the Head of Planning, as follows:


‘I act on behalf of the applicant, Mr James Howells, in respect of this application for the reposition of an access and gate, translocation of hedging together with new planting and retention of access track leading to his barn/stables. This application follows a previous refusal in 2017 to retain an altered access and track.


Members should be aware that the application is required to overcome a highway safety issue allowing the applicant to safely access his barn/stables via a modified access and track, avoiding safety issues and conflict with neighbouring properties. The applicant keeps horses and occasionally needs to transport them using his horsebox. The original route to the south, via Blackbird Farm Road, is a single-track lane which is shared with neighbouring properties and the applicants’ horsebox is too large to safely use this route; this has previously resulted in conflict with the applicant’s neighbours. The part retrospective nature of this application is due to the fact that the applicant was originally advised that the works, including the modification to the existing field access, didn’t require permission.


I would like to reassure Members and interested parties that the concerns raised by the Community Council and indeed the Local Planning Authority previously, have been duly considered within the revised scheme. In light these and following a process of pre-application consultation with Officers, the proposals have been revised and supplemented as follows:


• A more modest access is now proposed comprised of galvanised steel farm gate flanked by timber post & rail fencing, together with the hedge planting, which is considered to be more befitting to the rural location.


• The access is recessed into the field parcel to allow sufficient space for the horsebox to access and egress from the property without blocking the lane. This recess offers an additional safety benefit through the provision of an additional passing bay for passing traffic.


• Additional tree and hedge planting is proposed, to further soften the visual impact of the proposal and to provide an overall net biodiversity gain.


• A Landscape Assessment has been prepared which confirms that any visual impact of the new access is negligible and not out of accord with the rural location and as such the proposal is considered acceptable in landscape and visual terms.


• The application is also accompanied by a Technical Note which confirms that the new access accords with relevant design standards and provides a more suitable vehicular access for agricultural vehicles (including a large horsebox) and will represent an improvement in terms of highway safety.


To close, I would like to reassure Members and the Community Council that this application, has been properly considered and has subsequently received your Officers support, following a process of consultation, taking on board a number of suggestions made during the process. No objections are raised by any of the specialist consultees, including Highways and Landscape Officer.


In light of the above, I would respectfully request that Members support your Officer’s recommendation for approval in accordance with both national guidance, together with policies of the Local Development Plan.’


The local Member for Shirenewton, also a Planning Committee Member, outlined the following points:


·         In 2017 the first application was refused by the Local Planning Authority on the basis of landscape concerns with a detrimental impact on the rural landscape and highways concerns could harm the safety and convenience of road users.


·         The original application provided a residential urban style gate with a long hoggin drive being 420 metres long across two fields.  It has been amended in this application to a standard agricultural gate, but the hogging drive still remains.


·         The original application was refused on landscape and highway grounds.  The landscape assessment submitted by the applicant for this application states that this is an agricultural feature in an agricultural landscape and is considered acceptable in landscape and visual terms.  However, this a drive towards a private residence.  It is important to bear in mind that the applicant’s landscape report also refers to the site being within both the high and in the historic landscape side as outstanding in terms of landscape considerations.


·         The original officer report in relation to the same hoggin drive for this retrospective application stated that the Highway Authority considers the proposed access is unnecessary and will create an unnecessary conflict point along the public highway.  The application site is already served by a suitable access and driveway.  This new access and massive hoggin drive is unnecessary as there is an existing shared, shorter access on Bluebell Farm Lane creating a new private residence non farming access across two fields in open countryside at Old Road which is very narrow.


·         At four metres, the hoggin drive track in the middle of two fields on open countryside is wider than the single track road for the new access from Old Road.


·         The original officer report, in relation to the hoggin drive, stated that the proposed development is not satisfactorily assimilated in the landscape due to the distance across open countryside position and material used.


·         The track does not respect the character of the surrounding area and has an unacceptable adverse impact on the landscape by positioning a domestic access across the field.  It is also not required due to the existing access available for use.


·         It is important for local people that there is consistency in policy making.


·         The local Member asked that the Planning Committee considers refusal of the application on the grounds of the refusal of the original application.


Having considered the report of the application and the views expressed, the following points were noted:


·         It was considered that Paragraph 6.1 of the report comes to the right conclusion that all of the development requires consent. However, some concern was raised regarding how the conclusion was reached.  Paragraph 6.1 makes its case on immaterial matters, gives weight to them and infers that the principle of the track would not have been a material consideration if only the prior approval process had been followed. The Development Management Area Team Manager stated that paragraph 6.1 would be reviewed and indicated that the application as it currently stands should be considered by Planning Committee.


The local Member summed up as follows:


·         The landscape is a particular issue due to the engineered drive.


·         The local Member quoted from the applicant’s landscape assessment.


·         One of the fields considered in the earlier application is about 30 metres.  This application refers to a 420 metre track which is about four metres wide, which is wider than the roads adjoining it.  This is located in an area with outstanding landscapes.


The Development Management Area Team Manager stated that the application was considered by the Authority’s Landscaper Officer and no objection was raised in relation to the track or the impact on the landscape. The landscape officer’s recommendation is that the proposed track is not sufficiently harmful to warrant refusal of the application and that the access as designed now and changed is also an enhancement. The landscape concerns that were raised in respect of the previous application have been mitigated against.


It was proposed by County Councillor A. Webb and seconded by County Councillor D. Evans that application DM/2020/01036 be approved subject to the two conditions outlined in the report.


Upon being put to the vote, the following votes were recorded:


For approval             -           10

Against approval      -           2

Abstentions               -           0


The proposition was carried.


We resolved that application DM/2020/01036 be approved subject to the two conditions outlined in the report.

Supporting documents: