Agenda item

Application DM/2021/01823 - Change of use from agricultural to One Planet development. Land south of Trecastle Farm, Trecastle Road, Llangovan, Monmouthshire.


We considered the report of the application and late correspondence which was recommended for approval subject to the conditions outlined in the report and subject to a Section 106 legal agreement.


The local Member for Mitchel Troy and Trellech United attended the meeting by invitation of the Chair and outlined the following points:


·         Concerns have been raised regarding the impact on the landscape of the proposed buildings which will be particularly visible during the autumn and winter months.


·         It is an essential One Planet Development (OPD) requirement that there is a ‘light touch’ on the environment with a positive landscape impact.


·         OPD guidance states that dwellings and structures should not stand out in views from public vantage points and the OPD should enhance the landscape in which it sits.


·         The report of the application stated that the Landscape Officer considers the development proposal acceptable subject to additional clarification around the specifics of the proposal and longer-term maintenance.


·         The local Member referred to the conditions outlined in the report in that they are related to the landscape and appear to require substantial additional information. Concern was expressed that these were not being addressed at the application stage.


·         It was suggested that the applicant should consider submitting the information required to allow the Planning Committee to make an informed decision in respect of the application.


·         The Cruck Barn will be the most visible building due to its elevation on the site and will not have a grass roof but one made of metal or slate.  The plan and elevation states that the exact material and colour are to be conditioned to allow the use of a reclaimed product.  However, there appears to be no such condition in the report of the application.


·         The applicant intends to construct a dwelling workshop and barn with reclaimed materials and that the exact appearance of the structures may vary from that presented in the application drawings. Concern was expressed that the importance of preserving the environment was key and that this would not be acceptable. Greater clarity was required in respect of this matter.


·         Concern was expressed regarding the degree of the impact on the landscape in terms of the long access track which will cross a water course. This was considered not to be a ‘light touch’ on the environment.


·         OPD guidance states that all water needs are met from water available on site. There are two streams on the site, but both have dried up this summer.


·         The local Member asked for details regarding rainfall harvesting calculations.


·         The local Member asked whether independent monitoring will be undertaken.


·         The residents’ impression is that the application has been given a ‘light touch’ in terms of ensuring its compliance with the requirement of the Policy. This is building in the open countryside with concerns regarding the landscape impact.


·         Applications of this nature need to be vigorously stress tested by independent experts.  Concern was expressed regarding the lack of transparency.


·         Residents were concerned that approval of the application would result in disparate buildings being scattered across the open countryside.


The applicant, Paul Trotter, attended the meeting by invitation of the Chair and outlined the following information:


·         The OPD is an opportunity for the applicant to dramatically increase his sustainability while promoting biodiversity.


·         Over the last five years the applicant has devoted time to research into low impact living, permaculture, regenerative agriculture, and natural building.  This has come together to form the planning application presented to Planning Committee today.


·         Thousands of broad leaf trees will be planted locking carbon into the soil, while increasing shelter and forage for wildlife, as well as for livestock.


·         Systems have been incorporated to capture and use nutrients on site, protecting watercourses from animal manure.


·         The applicant is looking forward to living with a ‘light touch’ on the planet, being self sufficient in water, heating and electricity, as well as growing and rearing the majority of their food.


·         The applicant’s transport impacts will be around half the norm and their ecological footprints will be 70% lower than the Welsh average.


·         The development will be a local exemplar of sustainable living and inspire other families to address the climate change and biodiversity crises.


·         The applicant intends to live on the site for the rest of their lives, raising a family and being a part of the community. Local connections have already been established locally by supporting events and volunteering in community projects.


·         Produce would be sold locally providing residents with more sustainable choices.


·         The applicant wants the project to benefit the local community directly. The management plan details the applicant’s commitment.


·         Many letters of support have been received regarding the application with a small number of objections having been received.


·         There has been ample time for Officers and professional consultees to examine the application in depth.


·         The concerns raised by objectors have not been supported by the assessments of the professionals.


·         Monmouthshire County Council’s Highways, Biodiversity and Ecology, landscapes, drainage and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have all indicated that the proposal is acceptable and in line with Planning Policy.


·         The independent OPD assessors are satisfied that the application successfully meets the criteria of the One Planet Development Policy.


·         The applicant asked the Planning Committee to consider approval of the application.


The Development Management Area Manager responded as follows:


·         Details of soft landscaping will be agreed as a pre-commencement condition.


·         The site is already well screened by established mature vegetation.


·         The use of planning conditions to agree further soft landscaping is appropriate and in accordance with the planning conditions circular.


·         If the application was approved, samples of finishes could be agreed prior to construction.


·         The applicant would be tied to a legal agreement and the monitoring report would be subject to annual review via the Planning Department’s Monitoring Enforcement Officer.


·         Officers are satisfied that there are sufficient stringent steps in place for the development to be monitored and the conditions are fully enforceable.


The local Member for Mitchel Troy and Trellech United, also a Planning Committee Member, outlined the following points:


·         Concern was expressed that the applicant was able to submit his own visual impact statement which was considered to not be accurate. The site can be seen from roads, footpaths, the historic Motte and Bailey and listed buildings.


·         The independent assessor had not undertaken the individual impact statement.


·         Many of the trees surrounding the site have Ash Dieback and will need to be removed.


·         The half kilometre track to the dwelling is for agricultural purposes. Clarification was sought as to whether a residential driveway will need to be applied for.


·         Visibility when exiting the site is poor when looking right. The Highways Department has expressed concern and the applicant had tried to mitigate this matter by drawing up an agreement with the farmer who owns the hedge either side if the track. This notice can be ceased within seven days-notice by the farmer and will become void if either party sells their property. The highways risk to road users remains.


·         Llangovan is located within a phosphate zone. Concern was expressed that a new family dwelling with livestock will produce phosphates adding to an existing problem.


·         Both water courses run into the River Usk. It was considered that the business plan and predictions were questionable.  With the considerable rise in living costs and high inflation, it was considered that the applicant’s living figures were no longer valid which could affect the business plan and the sustainability of the development.


·         The applicant predicts that the three-bed detached dwelling will be within Council Tax band A, valuing the property at £44,000 or less providing a Council Tax bill of £1071 per annum.  This valuation is considerably lower than other three bed detached properties in Monmouthshire. Concern was expressed regarding the accuracy of these figures.


·         The letters of support for the application do not come from local residents.


·         The local Member considers that the application will neither enhance nor benefit the community and could be harmful to local businesses that sell similar products which does not adhere to OPD policy.


·         Clarity was sought as to why Section 106 monies were not being undertaken.


·         The local Member considers that the application does not fully meet OPD policy or that the business model is robust and sustainable.


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


·         The proposal is an inspirational development and will enhance its natural environment by increasing biodiversity in the area.


·         It was suggested that consideration of the application be deferred on a public health basis. It was considered that the business plan fails to incorporate how meat will be stored in chest freezers throughout the winter months when solar panels cannot generate enough electricity to keep freezers permanently running. Concern was also expressed that some produce will be delivered via E Bikes. It was considered that the Environmental Health Department needed to scrutinise the practicality and public safety of the business plan. The development also competes with local businesses which sell similar produce. OPD policy states that the proposed business should not create a negative impact on other local businesses.


The Development Management Area Manager responded as follows:


·         Advice has been taken via the independent assessor regarding the business case.


·         The findings of the Council’s Landscape and Urban Design Officer is that the development would be acceptable.


·         Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has confirmed that it does not have any objection in respect of the nature of the development in terms of phosphates which has been screened out under the Habitats Regulations Assessment.


·         Contributions towards affordable housing are set out in the Authority’s Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) but would not be required for a OPD proposal. Therefore, Section 106 monies are not being sought.


·         The independent assessor is aware that there is a need to provide refrigeration on site and is satisfied that this can be provided but not to the detriment of the wider energy needs. The storage of meat would be subject to Environmental Health Standards and is not a Planning matter for consideration.


·         Planning permission had been granted in 2020 for the track to be surfaced with granular material for agricultural purposes. The track is sufficient and would not require any additional surfacing. The track could therefore be used in conjunction with the OPD site.


·         the Independent Assessor has accepted the calculations presented by the applicant in respect of the value of the property and has advised officers accordingly.


·         Consultant advice indicates that the proposed development will not be prejudicial or harmful to other local businesses.


It was proposed by County Councillor Ben Callard and seconded by County Councillor Jill Bond that application DM/2021/01823 be approved subject to the conditions outlined in the report and subject to a Section 106 legal agreement.


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


For approval                -           9                                 

Against approval         -           1                                 

For deferral                 -           2                                 

Abstentions                 -           0


The proposition was carried.


We resolved that application DM/2021/01823 be approved subject to the conditions outlined in the report and subject to a Section 106 legal agreement.                            



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