Change of use from B(1)(b) to holiday accommodation.
LOCATION: HOE: Spring Studio Spring Farm,Hall Road HoeAPPLICANT:
Mr Richard Malt CASE OFFICER: Lisa ODonovan
The above application has now been considered and the application has been APPROVED.
The decision setting out the Council’s reasons and any conditions, if appropriate are available on our website by using the following link:
With reference to the planning application above, Hoe and Worthing Parish Meeting have now considered the proposed change of use and I have been requested to make a number of observations. In preparing this response I have taken account of the many views expressed by our parishioners and whole breadth of the issues raised so it is inevitably quite lengthy; for the sake of clarity I will employ a number of sub-headings
The buildings in the parish of Hoe are arranged in two broad, sparsely populated clusters, one of which is the more historic conservation area where ‘Spring Studio’ the subject of this application is situated. In order to research this response I consulted a small elected body who consider planning applications referred to our parish meeting and all of the property owners residing in the conservation area; as a result I am able to confirm the applicant’s assertion, that all nearby residents support the application and indeed the general view is the proposed use as a holiday let is the most appropriate one for the building.
Concerns that have been raised.
The theme of support extends well beyond the immediate neighbours but there was one view expressed that it would be inconsistent for the parish to support approval for a proposal by the current owners, when it had rigorously opposed all applications made by the previous one. There are three factors however that make this application very different to those that have gone before and they are that this proposal has widespread support, whereas previous ones were universally opposed, this application is within policy while none of the previous applications were and that there has never before been an application made for holiday accommodation so there is no similarity with anything the previous owner proposed.
The same view extends to concern the uninformed and erroneous inference might be drawn that a bias against the previous owner existed, to be replaced by one in favour of the applicants. For the sake of completeness therefore and the removal of any doubt it should be stated that the parish is responding solely to the features of the planning issues raised in this single application, in the knowledge that any consent achieved will run with the land and not be a personal award to the owners: the nature of the owners (past or present) is therefore irrelevant and without influence to this response.
The planning history of the application site is extensive, complex and comprises a determined owner’s attempts through various routes to achieve residential development in a parish where there is a presumption against any new dwellings. As stated this was universally opposed and our residents were nothing short of incredulous that the current structure was approved and as a direct result a residential element subsequently allowed. Consideration of this application therefore has as its start point an existing building that nobody, including the applicant, wanted but as it does exist the general view is that holiday accommodation is the most appropriate use for the future.
The focus of this response is firmly turned away from the past but there is no doubt that previous experience and the fact that any consent will run with the land has led to a universal caution about what future direction things might take. The firm and unequivocal opposition to use of the site for a primary residence, which has always been expressed by everybody including the current owners, still exists and there is concern that the way may become open for future planning ‘creep’ if the ownership changes. In the circumstances therefore our parish meeting requests that if the application is approved then it should be provisional on the tightest occupancy restriction conditions possible, to limit the use to holiday accommodation.
It is appreciated that such restrictions must be reasonable, enforceable, practical and not unduly onerous and it is noted that previous consents have generally included two conditions viz.
- The building shall not be occupied from 5th January for one month each year.
- The building shall not be used other than as holiday accommodation and not as a principle residence.
Our parish view is that these conditions must be included as a minimum when the intention of consent is to be clearly for sole use as holiday occupancy and not a principle residence. In isolation however they immediately raise the question of what is ‘holiday occupancy’ and ‘principal residence’, two issues that are not made clear in any available document on Breckland District Council’s website but are answered on those of other authorities. An example of this is ‘Guidance for holiday accommodation’ issued by Cotswold District Council which provides some clarity regarding the purpose and meaning of the two occupancy restrictions above, how they are made effective without infringement of human rights and how they will be enforced. The document has the added virtue of illustrating the local authority has a clear intention of ensuring any conditions are complied with in a district where visitors are encouraged. We would suggest that a similar document is adopted in Breckland to provide additional help and confidence for its residence that the two stand-alone conditions are sufficient.
On the question of sufficiency the two conditions clearly rely for their effectiveness on either pro-active supervision or rigorous enforcement. It is understood there is no pro-active supervision which makes it all the more important there is unambiguous guidance available to demonstrate there is an effective enforcement process available in the event of an apparent breach. A lack of such clarity has given rise to suggestions for conditions on this occasion which are not possible in the Breckland district but clearly have as their intention to provide a reinforcement to the two conditions above. Such understandable concerns regarding the adequacy of conditioning could be ameliorated by the existence of a clear guidance document.
It is noted that other authorities have previously required owners of properties let for holiday accommodation to produce records for local authority inspection, which clearly requires a degree of supervision that is not available in Breckland. We understand however that record-keeping will be required if permission is granted and our parish supports the requirement.
There is very clear encouragement for the application that has been made, for tourism in general and for enterprise in the countryside in national and local policies, including the emerging local plan for the Breckland District. These are succinctly and accurately summarised in the application document and our parish meeting is in agreement with the applicants’ assessment.
There is some requirement of applicants to demonstrate local need when applying for consent for holiday accommodation and the applicants in this case have made reference to the level of demand, after a similar type of application was approved in Hoe. They could also have mentioned others, including the year-round demand for the holiday cottages at ‘Waterfall farm Cottages’ in Swanton Morley and that a full exploration of demand is included in an application for 15 holiday lodges at Otters Mead, Elmham Road, Beetley (reference3PL/2017/1074/F). These two are very close by in adjacent parishes and the latter is an application to extend a site which already contains 5 holiday lodges, where the demand is said to outstrip the available supply and the owner is therefore willing to further invest. In summary the need for local holiday accommodation is quite clear and the applicants have indicated the type of holidays envisaged in a parish which is protective of its quiet enjoyment. The nature of those is broadly the same as identified by ‘Visit Norfolk’ in the Otter’s Mead application where it is stated Breckland has a ‘unique offering of wildlife and our natural capital’.
There is also the question of sustainability which is again accurately supported in the application, where part of the applicant’s case refers to a holiday let approved on appeal in Hoe where sustainability was considered at some length (3PL/2015/0632/F. As with this case, there was no doubt regarding the ‘financial’ and ‘social’ elements of sustainability but some focus on the ‘environmental’ aspect. The appeal inspector found there were more than adequate facilities nearby which were accessible without undue reliance on the private motor vehicle. These same facilities would be available to occupants of Spring Studio which is closer to the full range of services provided in the town of Dereham. This short distance is considerably less than that undertaken daily by residents who live in the designated ‘service centre’ villages who travel to town to access fuel, supermarkets etc.
It is widely known that the applicants purchased the application site with the intention of letting the property within the constraints of the use class, whilst preventing any possibility of its further development. Finding a tenant however proved extremely challenging and for the last year completely impossible, despite a letting agent’s best efforts. At the time this document was prepared the agent’s ‘To Let’ board is still prominently displayed and our parish view is that every effort has been made, as the applicants claim in the application, to establish an already consented use. Having said that the requirement to demonstrate such efforts have been made only applies to redundant buildings that are proposed for residential consent and not, as in this case, the change from one commercial use (B(1)(b) to another (holiday accommodation).
Both the question of ‘need’ and ‘sustainability’ appear to be more than adequately supported in this application.
Hoe and Worthing Parish Meeting have responded to this application on its merits and entirely uninfluenced by any other considerations. There is a clear mandate for me to indicate support for the proposal for change of use to holiday accommodation.
The proposed change remains a business use but unusually there is no use class available in the Use Classes Order. Our parish requests that any consent therefore should be conditional on at least the two issues indicated by the bullet points here and that consideration should be given to further possible conditions, to effectively limit future use to holiday accommodation and preclude use as a principal residence.
It is strongly felt that further clarity regarding holiday accommodation should be available and that the information contained in the document ‘Cotswold District Council. Guidance for holiday accommodation’ is helpful.
We would be grateful if you would take our observations into account when considering this application.
Chairman, Hoe and Worthing Parish Meeting
Throughout the 1980’s until 2016 the application site was in the ownership of a couple who made a number of planning applications to develop the land. On the whole these were unsuccessful except that in 1999 consent was obtained on appeal to build an artist’s studio for the professional use of an artist. After the studio was established a further application was submitted in 2006 to extend the structure and facilitate the creation of large-format art works in a greater space; again this succeeded on appeal and again the consent was provided specifically to enable the practice of an artist. It was however argued subsequently that the painting of large format pictures could only be achieved over several days and therefore the local planning authority could not reasonably prevent the artist sleeping at the studio, sharing the stay with her husband and adapting the building to facilitate their sleeping and sanitary arrangements. After taking legal advice the LPA conceded it would not consider staying for the purpose of the artist’s work a breach of the planning consent. In effect the studio business use (B(1)(b) had therefore been extended to include a residential element to the research and development purposes already permitted.
Following the installation of residential facilities use and occasional occupation the owners submitted other planning applications for residential consent, predicated on the building already being a de facto dwelling, on another occasion that it was an ‘office’ and entitled to residential use as ‘permitted development and finally that it already had established use as a dwelling because it had been covertly and extensively used for that purpose by a number of people over several years (whilst avoiding enforcement). None of these were successful, including on appeal and eventually in 2016 the property was advertised for sale.
It should be noted that although the last planning application (in 2013) included very specific claims that the property had been regularly used by people taking holidays and weekend breaks, there has never previously been an application made for holiday accommodation. In the circumstances therefore Hoe and Worthing Parish Meeting has never been asked by the local planning authority (LPA) to respond to an application for that purpose. In the circumstances therefore the single concern referred to above, that there would be something inconsistent in our parish meeting not objecting now, is shown to be without foundation.