Agenda item

Application DM/2020/00390 - Change of use of existing agricultural building to B1 use. Gaerllwyd Farm, Gaerllwyd Farm To Gethley Road Newchurch, Devauden Chepstow


We considered the report of the application and late correspondence which was

recommended for approval subject to the nine conditions outlined in the report with condition 9 being amended to ensure the parking layout includes a minimum of two electric vehicle charging points to be operational before the B1 use commences.


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 strongly objects to this application.


Our responses dated 8th June 2020 and 14th April 2021 are summarised in the Planning Officer's Report so we won't restate them here.


PPW11, Monmouthshire County Council’s comments in the LDP on policy RE2 and RE2 itself all acknowledge that development is not at any cost to the environment.  Developments must be carefully controlled and a balance is required to protect the character and appearance of the surrounding area. Whilst the shell of the building is largely retained, this application would be the first B1 site in this deeply rural countryside, industrialising a nature driven farming area.  Tourists and residents alike highly value our landscape and environment.


Gaerllwyd Farmhouse (now a private residence) is close by, Chapel Cottage is across the B4235, the barn conversion directly opposite the site is currently being rebuilt for residential occupation, the adjacent milking parlour has consent for conversion to a dwelling, and Glenmore, another residence, is barely 100m from the site, all of which would be directly affected by any increase in activity.

There are 19 parking spaces suggesting around 38 vehicle movements daily, plus deliveries and collections, all impacting on our residents.  Access past the building is unsatisfactory as the marked loading bays will inevitably obstruct access to the car park with consequential difficulties for emergency vehicles.


Whilst the Planning Report envisages unobtrusive offices, the Environmental Officer reminds us that the definition of class B1 includes research and development of products or processes, and any industrial process being a use which can be carried out in any residential area without detriment to the amenity of that area by reason of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit. We are further concerned that Wales may follow England in combining B1 in a new use class E with retail goods, financial and professional services.


We note this is a speculative development with no specific end user in mind. The internal layout of the building is unsuitable for offices, lacking heating and insulation, with a ceiling height to the roof ridge of 6.46m. The shutter doors are 2.95m high permitting the movement of large plant and machinery.


Were Councillors minded to grant consent we would request stricter limits on the operating hours particularly to exclude use at weekends and bank / public holidays and the operation of any plant, process or machinery outside working times, and an Article 4 direction confining use B1(a) as three offices.


If a farmer applied under RE3 a business case would have to be submitted showing the viability of the proposed use. Given the Covid-19 consequence for home working particularly for office workers, the need for offices and local workers is greatly reduced. We do not accept B1 use would bring any advantage in local prosperity, only detriment for our residents and the rural characteristic.


Were Councillors minded to grant consent we would request a limit of three years to demonstrate, or otherwise, the viability of the proposal and benefit to the community.’


The applicant’s agent, Mr. Stephen Williams, had prepared a video recording which was presented to Planning Committee and the following points were outlined:


·         The existing use of the farm is mainly agricultural and there are a number of large agricultural buildings which are coming to the end of their usable life in terms of agricultural use.


·         The applicant has considered there is an opportunity to change the use of these buildings for a different purpose, namely, light industrial use.


·         The buildings at Gaerllwyd are part of an existing range of agricultural buildings which include the car parking area to the rear.


·         The existing agricultural building will be kept in its current form.  The only changes will be that the south facing aspect of the building will have roller shutter doors attached to them in order to secure the units.


·         The car parking area is existing hard standing at the rear of the buildings. This will be retained with no plans to change the material.


·         The proposal brings benefits to the local environment.  A new hedgerow will be planted along the bank at the north and eastern side of the development and will be integrated into the existing hedge providing increased biodiversity.  Bat and sparrow boxes will be attached to the side of the agricultural building, further enhancing the biodiversity.


·         The application will provide employment for local people.


·         The scheme is well thought out. It adds environmental and biodiversity enhancement to the local area whilst making use of an existing agricultural building without fundamentally changing the fabric of the building. It provides employment opportunities in the local area.


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


·         Concern was expressed that the application is not ready to be received by the Planning Committee.  There is no full site plan covering the development despite the Planning Officer requesting the applicant to improve the plan.


·         Planning permission is granted on the basis of approved plans and once planning permission is obtained the site may be developed by anyone, not just the applicant.


·         Policy RE2 on conversion of buildings states that these should be checked to ensure they are suitable for conversion before consent is granted.


·         There is no structural risk report despite the comment by Monmouthshire County Council’s Ecology Officer regarding the poor state of the building.


·         It is a speculative application as there is no end user in mind.


·         Monmouthshire’s Highways Department has commented that the proposal is located in an unsustainable location in Monmouthshire.


·         Shirenewton Community Council describes the area as deeply rural and is a remote location away from any settlements.


·         The Highways Department has also stated that the level of detail submitted in support of the application is not considered adequate to provide constructive Highway comments.


·         The first time the local Member found out that a car park was being dug out at the rear of the site was when she received the photographs for the Planning Committee meeting.  Concern was expressed that this will become a pond as there are no details of the surface used, slope or drainage under SuDS. Underground pipework will not cover this new area.


·         There are three agricultural buildings on the site.  A milking parlour with permission to be converted to residential use. The application was granted on the basis that the same site was unsuitable for business use due to poor broadband and better location of offices in Chepstow.  The situation was considered to be no different for this application.  It is unclear what the derelict agricultural building opposite will be used for and how that will integrate into the rest of the site.


·         In view of the concerns raised, the local Member requested that the Planning Committee consider deferral of the application at this stage.


·         If the Planning Committee was minded to approve the application, the local Member referred to page 34 of the officer report and requested that the application should be for B1(a) use only as it is three metres from the milking parlour that has residential consent.


·         The condition referring to the operation of any plant or machinery should be amended to include no work being undertaken on weekends or bank holidays and that there be a three year consent to test its viability.


·         There is a need for a structural report.


·         The car park should have a hard surface and drainage provision.


·         There is a need for an approved layout plan.


The Development Services Manager outlined the following points:


·         The plans that have been submitted are sufficient for the application to be validly made and determined.


·         Condition 9 needs to be amended to ensure the parking layout includes a minimum of two electric vehicle charging points to be operational before the B1 use commences.


·         The broadband issues can be addressed via the new technologies that are emerging.  Monmouthshire County Council is promoting this.


·         B1 developments are not noisy and it was considered that the application was an acceptable form of use within the range of B1 use. A condition has been put in place to limit the hours of opening which is considered to be acceptable in protecting the amenity of those living near the site.


·         A three year temporary consent would be a deterrent for anyone investing in this proposal in terms of economic development.  It was considered that the application was acceptable in its own right and should be given the opportunity to establish itself permanently.


In response to questions raised by the local Member the Development Services Manager outlined the following points:


·         With regard to drainage, the proposal will need consent from the Sustainable Drainage Authority.


·         The car park will have a hard surface and will have SuDS approval to ensure that it drains properly.


·         B1 uses are capable of being carried out without detriment to noise in terms of amenity.


Having received the report and the views expressed, the following points were noted:


·         There is a need to support rural enterprise. Diversity in rural enterprise is essential.


·         The proposal will be better under B1.


·         The proposal would not be disruptive in the countryside.


The local Member summed up as follows:


·         She would be unable to support the application as it is a speculative development. 


·         The broadband provision for the area is poor making it difficult to attract businesses of B1 use to the area.


·         There has been no consideration to add the conditions suggested by the local Member.


It was proposed by County Councillor P. Murphy and seconded by County Councillor A. Davies that application DM/2020/00390 be approved subject to the nine conditions outlined in the report with condition 9 being amended to ensure the parking layout includes a minimum of two electric vehicle charging points to be operational before the B1 use commences.


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


In favour of the proposal                 -           12

Against the proposal                       -           1

Abstentions                                       -           0


The proposition was carried.


We resolved that application DM/2020/00390 be approved subject to the nine conditions outlined in the report with condition 9 being amended to ensure the parking layout includes a minimum of two electric vehicle charging points to be operational before the B1 use commences.


Supporting documents: