Updated: Jul 28, 2020
The Wychavon planning committee voted in support of the application being approved in line with the officer's recommendation with 11 votes for, 0 against and 4 abstentions.
Due to the prescriptive nature of the General Permitted Development Order, it is extremely uncommon for applications for prior approval to be 'called in' and, in fact, many councils actually remove the ability for such applications to be brought before committee. The committee chairman started by describing the agenda item as a "slightly unusual application…which would not normally come to committee" and one which "would normally be dealt with by officers because of its nature", however "it appears on our agenda so as a committee we will have to determine it even though it is a slightly unusual case".
The application itself concerned the conversion of a redundant former poultry shed to 5 dwellinghouses, the maximum permitted under Class Q. When the application was submitted in May, the case officer's initial response was that the application should either be withdrawn or it would be refused on the grounds that the proposed demolition was not "reasonably necessary to carry out building operations" permitted under the Order and that the purpose was actually to bring the building within the floorspace allowance of 765 sq. m. for 2 larger and 3 smaller dwellinghouses. The permitted building operations includes the installation of exterior walls and so it was argued that the proposed demolition was necessary in order to install an exterior wall on the south-east elevation; this was subsequently accepted by the local authority.
As the application approached the 56-day determination deadline, a spate of objections were received from local residents citing concern that the proposal was an attempt to revive a previous failed proposal for a care village on the same site which was dismissed on appeal in 2017. The objections were supported by the local ward councillor who exercised his right to call the application into committee.
Paragraph 28 of the Planning Practice Guidance states that:
“The statutory requirements relating to prior approval are much less prescriptive than those relating to planning applications. This is deliberate, as prior approval is a light-touch process which applies where the principle of the development has already been established.”
The submission had been objectively assessed against the criteria set out under Part 3 Class Q (a and b) of the General Permitted Development (England) Order 2015 and was found to comply with all of them. Aside from the GPDO, there are no other planning considerations to be taken into account during a prior approval submission of this type and accordingly, it was recommended for approval by the Local Planning Authority.
Of the 13 objections received, a total of 10 referenced the previously refused planning application for the care village. The Class Q application being discussed was a submission for prior approval for the conversion of a single agricultural unit to five C3 dwellinghouses; it bore absolutely no relation, resemblance or reference to an application for the major redevelopment to a use falling within C2 Residential Institutions. In any case, each application must be assessed on its own merits and therefore the 2017 care village refusal was not a material consideration for this notification for prior approval.
It was made clear in our committee planning statement that approval of this application would not, in any way, increase the likelihood of further development on the site. Any application for a care village, or indeed any future development, would require a separate planning application which would be assessed on its own merits against the local planning policies as with the previous application.
At the committee the local ward councillor stated:
"I should I perhaps apologise for bringing this to you because as you rightly say this isn’t actually a matter for decision by the planning committee because we have to grant it.
The houses that are proposed, some of them are quite large. What the [General] Permitted Development Order allows is conversion to category C3 which is ordinary houses but there is a category C3(b) which covers Houses in Multiple Occupation for up to 6 people living together in a single household and receiving care e.g. supported by housing services such as for people with learning difficulties or mental health problems."
The councillor cited local concern that this proposal was a way of ‘getting round’ the refusal of the care village. He continued:
"I think one concern was, if we gave permission for these things to be converted to C3, they could then be converted to C3(b) and then they would be convertible to elements for a care facility.
Now, I think that isn’t the case because I think a care facility is a different use class...I think that all my concerns are met and i'm happy for this to go forward, as I think legally it must."
A motion to grant prior approval was carried by the committee. You can watch the councillor's statement below.
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