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Officer Report
Erection of a 5 bay garage block.
Mater Ecclesiae Convent, Withybrook Road
Authorised Use
Relevant decisions
Change of use of dwelling to convent
Replacement of existing coach house and outbuildings to form 15
bedsits and chaplains flat
Creation of private cemetery
Replacement of existing coach house and outbuildings to form10
convent rooms and chaplains flat
Demolition of existing stable block and erection of a chapel
Replacement of existing log store with a 5 bay detached garage
Alterations to the existing vehicular access and entrance gates
Erection of a single storey building to house grounds maintenance
machinery and ancillary office area and staff welfare facility
Alterations and improvements of existing vehicular access and
provision of new gates and railings
Erection of a single storey building to house grounds maintenance
Refused (appeal
Currently being
Technical Consultations
Third Party Consultations
Parish Council
(1) Inappropriate development in the Green Belt
(2) Councillors already concerned at the
incremental development at this site and this
further application confirms their concern.
Other relevant information
The application site consists of a large Mid-Victorian country house that has been converted to form a
convent for nuns. The site consists of the main house and a group of outbuildings including a coach
house that benefits from planning permission for a replacement building of convent rooms and a
chaplains flat. Some existing outbuildings have been replaced by convent rooms and a chapel. The
existing log store stands approximately 15m by 4m and is open fronted with a mono-pitched roof. The
store is of wooden frame construction with wooden cladding and a corrugated metal sheet roof. The
existing store stands approximately 3.1metres in height at its highest point lowering to just over 2 metres
to its frontage. It is set approximately 40 centimetres lower than the natural ground level in this part of
the site. The main buildings and the recently constructed chapel/bedrooms are set at a lower level to the
log store. There is a sparse hedge and wooden fence to the rear of the log store and fields behind, which
slope upwards slightly from the log store. The site is accessed from Main Street and is in the region of
250m from the highway and lies within substantial grounds that form part of the green belt.
The application for the erection of a single storey building to house grounds maintenance equipment
(currently being considered) has been considered an agricultural building based on a report submitted by
Warwickshire County Council (see R07/0290/PLN for further details). This application for a garage block
is not being considered as an agricultural building garage is not intended to be used in association with
agriculture but for the parking of vehicles associated with the convent. Therefore the proposal does not
fall into the categories of development that are appropriate in the Green Belt and it is for the applicants to
Report Sheet
demonstrate that there are very special circumstances that would justify an exception to established
Green Belt policy.
Planning Policy Guidance
GP1 Appearance and design
GP3 Protection of amenity
Green Belt
Access and highway layout
Parking facilities
PPG 2 Green Considerations
Previous appeal
The previous application was for a larger and taller garage block. An appeal was lodged against the
refusal and this was dismissed. The Inspector considered that the proposed garage had a larger footprint
that the existing log store, and greater mass and bulk so reducing the openness of the green belt. The
Inspector supported the Council’s opinion that the modest form and scale of the existing log store sits
comfortably against the open countryside but the proposed garage created a harder transition between
the convent and the countryside beyond. In addition it was considered that the required excavation
would damage the root system of the hedgerow to the rear of the log store. The Inspector looked at the
special circumstances to outweigh any harm to the green belt, which related to the garages being
described as an essential facility in connection with the use of the convent. The inspector accepted that
the garages would provide a degree of security and frost-free vehicles, but considered these matters
could be dealt with without the need to construct the proposed garage. The Inspector concluded that no
material considerations were put forward to outweigh the harm identified and that the scheme therefore
conflicted with policy E2 and PPG2.
Based on the Inspector’s decision, there are essentially two main issues with the current application. The
first is the impact of the proposed garage on the openness of the green belt, and second is the
justification proving the need for such a development.
Current application
Full planning permission is sought for the replacement of an existing log store with a 5 bay garage for the
storage of vehicles owned by occupants of the site. The proposed garage block subject of this
application would be of timber frame construction with sawn oak cladding and metal sheet roofing. The
garage block would stand on the footprint of the existing log store and be of the same length but 2
metres wider (extending into the site). The garage would be 3metres at the highest point (front) and
1.6metres at the rear due to difference in the land levels.
Taking the first issue identified by the Inspector, the size and scale of the proposed garage is less than
the previously refused garage. The height of the current proposal is similar to that of the existing log
store. The garage is proposed to be of wooden construction with a corrugated metal roof, whereas the
previous application involved brick. In terms of its impact on the openness and character of the area the
development would be sited 2 metres from the boundary of the site with adjacent farmland which is
marked by a hedgerow which provides some screening. If approved, further screening could be
conditioned. As the proposed garage will look like a traditional wooden framed rural building of similar
proportions to the existing log store, although it will be visible across the adjacent fields it is not
considered that it would have a significant detrimental impact on the openness and character of the
Green Belt.
In terms of the justification, the applicant’s supporting statement states that the development would
provide an essential facility that would be incidental to the enjoyment of the main house. The applicant
does not consider the garage will have a significantly greater impact than the existing log store and will
not contribute to the unrestricted sprawl of built up areas or contribute to the coalescence of
neighbouring towns or villages. It is argued that the proposed development although larger in floor area
would have less impact than the existing log store as the proposed height of the building would be lower.
It also suggested that the reinforcement of the existing boundary hedge would effectively screen the
building from outside of the site while the links between the convent and the community of Monks Kirby
are also put forward as very special circumstances. A discussion on site suggested that the garage block
would cater for the vehicles expected on site following the completion of the approved bedroom
accommodation and Chaplain’s flat.
Report Sheet
Whilst the Local Planning Authority would agree with applicant’s comments concerning the impact of the
built form on the green belt, the justification concerning the need for the garages is limited and not
considered sufficient. The Inspector wrote in paragraph 6 of the appeal decision, that while he accepted
the use of the proposed garage would allow vehicles to be kept frost-free and provide a degree of
security, he considered that there are other means of dealing with these matters without the need to
construct the garages. These comments have not bee addressed by the applicant and therefore in
similar conclusion to that of the Inspector, it is not considered that any special circumstances exist.
Aside from the main issues raised by the Inspector, parking and amenity issues must be considered. In
terms of car parking the development would provide a total of 5 additional spaces. The Council's
adopted parking standards do not set a standard for convents with such uses to be considered on its
own merits. The garages would be the only formally marked parking spaces and therefore it would not
appear to be excessive or lead to an overprovision given the number of occupants at the site once the
previously approved developments are fully occupied. In terms of the access and highway layout the
proposed development would not alter the existing access arrangements and would not lead to a
significant increase in vehicle movements to and from the site. It is therefore considered that the
proposed development would comply with the requirements of Policy T5. The development would stand
in a remote location with the only nearby property being a detached house that lies to the south of the
site. The house stands over 40m from the proposal and has a large oil tank and enclosure sited to the
end of its garden that would restrict views of the proposed development. It is therefore considered that
the development would not have a significant impact on the amenities of this property and therefore
would comply with policy GP3 of the adopted Local Plan.
The garage also raises the question of where the logs would be stored once the log store is demolished,
potentially leading to pressure for further development at the site. However, it is considered that any logs
required could be stored outside.
Although based on a report by Warwickshire County Council there is some element of agriculture
occurring on the site, it is not considered that the proposed garage is linked to this. It is therefore
considered that there are no very special circumstances that would justify this development in the face of
a strong presumption against development and that the proposal would be detrimental to the rural
character of the area. It is therefore considered that the proposal would be contrary to policy E2 as well
as the guidance of PPG2: Green Belts.
Unlike the previous refusal, this application is not considered contrary to GP1 as it is not considered that
the revised design of this garage would have a significant detrimental impact on the openness of the
Green Belt.
Prepared by:
Checked by:
Eilish Donovan 28/3/07
G S Vigars 28/03/097
Report Sheet