Application DM/2021/01763 - Change of Use of the Land to an Animal Sanctuary. Temporary accommodation in the form of a touring caravan, to allow staff working at the Animal Sanctuary to stay occasionally overnight to assist with ill or injured animals. Rhewl Farm, Shirenewton To Rhewl Farm, Shirenewton, Chepstow.
We considered the report of the application and late correspondence which was recommended for approval subject to the conditions outlined in the report.
The applicant attended the meeting by invitation of the Chair and outlined the following points:
· The animal sanctuary offers a home for life for unwanted, neglected, abused and abandoned animals.
· Currently, the site is home to 200 farmed animals. The farm is a registered charity.
· The site comprises 62 acres with woods and low pasture.
· Orchards have been planted within the sanctuary, as well as planting a medicinal herb garden for the animals. The applicant is rewilding a number of areas throughout the sanctuary.
· Work has been undertaken with wildlife charities since 2019. Orphaned bats are rehabilitated back into the wild at the sanctuary.
· 50 dormice boxes have also been put into the woods.
· Fertilizers or chemicals are never used on the land and animals are fed organic and non-genetically modified food.
· Matt Pritchard, celebrity chef, is the sanctuary’s patron.
· The sanctuary had been voted one of the UKs favourite animal sanctuaries in 2020 and 2021.
· The sanctuary’s team of staff are locally based and there are up to 230 volunteers that help with small events.
· The sanctuary is supported by donations and fundraisers.
· Local people are getting to know the sanctuary and are wanting to visit and volunteer. All focus is on the wellbeing of the animals which means that people cannot turn up and visit the site. However, bespoke visits have been arranged.
· It is not a commercial venture but a small sanctuary wanting to help animals in need, to protect the environment and offer support and wellbeing for people who need it.
· The caravan is required to allow staff to remain overnight and help sick animals in emergency situations.
The local Member for Shirenewton attended the meeting by invitation of the Chair and outlined the following points:
· The sanctuary is located inappropriately off a narrow rural road. The local member made reference to the Highways Department’s view in the report of the application outlining that the area has very poor sustainable transport provision with visitors attending the sanctuary having to travel by car. The open days generate additional traffic with the concentrated vehicle movements associated with the high number of open days in the sanctuary which are considered to be detrimental to the safety and capacity of the narrow, rural highway network. The Highway Authority recommends that the number of open days run by the sanctuary is controlled by way of a suitably worded condition.
· This application was part of a previous joint application which dealt with the aspect of any opening to the public but this application had been withdrawn. However, the condition allows for open days. It was considered that the application does not fully deal with all concerns. The Highways Department had submitted a strong objection to the previous application that had been withdrawn due to the nature of the road.
· Local residents are concerned regarding the highway situation. Coaches have blocked the road for a period of time whilst entering and exiting the sanctuary.
· Staff, volunteers and seasonal workers also access the site.
· The Highways Department considered that the number of open days should not be increased.
· The local Member asked the Planning Committee to defer consideration of the application as it does not deal with all the aspects of the centre. However, if the application were to be approved, the local Member asked that the Planning Committee does not alter the condition to see 16 open days for the public. 16 sessional days would be more appropriate in line with the recommendation of the Highways Department.
The Development Management Area Manager responded as follows:
· The previous application has been withdrawn.
· This application is for the touring caravan and for the operation of the site as an animal sanctuary.
· The Highways Department has considered the application and did not raise any objections to the proposals in terms of traffic movements. Highways did indicate that a restriction on the number of open days should be considered and is outlined in the conditions to the report. The limitation is to 16 open days per calendar year.
· Cars can access the site and there is ample parking provision. The level of activity should not create a significant amount of congestion or obstruction on the lane, which has been confirmed by the Highways Department.
Having considered the report of the application and the views expressed, the following points were noted:
· The caravan was required in order to provide overnight care to sick animals.
· If the open days become significant or offer a tourist attraction, then this would be considered a change of use and would be subject to a separate planning application.
· Before the sanctuary takes on any additional animals an assessment is undertaken regarding the impact that this will have on the existing animals within the sanctuary.
· The applicant was asked to consider communication with local residents when an open day is scheduled.
· For the open days, chemical toilets will be brought onto the site and taken away.
The local Member summed up as follows:
· The Planning Committee was asked to reconsider the 16 open days open to the public. Currently, the list of visitor days included VIP visits and corporate days. Over the previous 18 months there were 24 visits. It was considered that the 16 days would be adequate to cover all the types of visits.
· The local Member suggested that the Planning Committee considers 16 visitor sessions on 16 days.
In response the Development Management Area Manager informed the Committee that scale and function of the sanctuary will limit the number of people going into and leaving the site. The number of visitors will be linked to the scale of the business. The number of open days would be for the Planning Committee to determine.
Following discussion, it was proposed that the wording of the condition to control event numbers be agreed via the Delegation Panel.
It was proposed by County Councillor Jill Bond and seconded by County Councillor Ben Callard that application DM/2021/01763 be approved subject to the conditions outlined in the report and that the condition to control event numbers be agreed via the Delegation Panel.
Upon being put to the vote the following votes were recorded:
For approval - 13
Against approval - 0
Abstentions - 0
The proposition was carried.
We resolved that application DM/2021/01763 be approved subject to the conditions outlined in the report and that the condition to control event numbers be agreed via the Delegation Panel.