Mr M Probyn
Replacement dwelling, following demolition of existing dwelling (part retrospective) (additional information received on 23 and 24 June 2020).
Replacement dwelling (part retrospective) (additional information received on 23 and 24 June 2020)
The Principal Planning Officer introduced the application. The site was situated within the East Meon Settlement Policy Boundary (SPB), the East Meon Neighbourhood Plan boundary and within the South Downs National Park. The site was also within the East Meon Conservation Area.
He outlined the history of the site and said that the previous application SDNP/18/01438 had permission granted in August 2018. This was for a two-storey dwelling to the rear of the site which had also been built out and completed and it also granted a series of works/improvements/changes to the existing property, 2-3 The Square. This was not for demolition works but works to enhance the property which had received no objection from the Conservation Officer at that time.
Planning permission was required for demolition in conservation areas apart from two exceptions which the site did not benefit from. The demolition works took place in approximately mid-March 2020 and a separate legal prosecution case was ongoing against the applicant at this time. This was a separate matter and the decision the committee made on this application, would have no bearing on that prosecution case.
He drew the committee’s attention to the relevant Legislation and Planning Policy – Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 – Section 72, Policy SD15 – South Downs Local Plan, part 2 and National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (Section 16).
It was a regrettable situation that the dwelling had been demolished before this application had been submitted. Officers had considered that there were two other potential options. These were to leave the site vacant and void of any development or have an alternative building on the site. Officers discounted the first option as it was not considered the site being empty and vacant would be of benefit to the Conservation Area, it would further compound the harm and leave an exposed gable end wall for 1 The Square. The second option of an alternative building form may have greater medium to long-term impact on the Conservation Area.
Whilst the application was a departure from the Local Plan as it was contrary to Policies SD15 and SD12 of the South Downs Local Plan, what was presented represented the best option in the circumstances and would provide the best development possible to safeguard the medium and long-term character and appearance of the East Meon Conservation Area.
In response to points made in the deputation, the officer said that it was not for him to question how and when it came about. Without being able to assess the building to formally assess its condition prior to demolition, it was difficult to put too much clarity on the points raised.
Each member of the committee confirmed to having received and read the written deputation circulated prior to the meeting, which had also been published on the council’s website. This submission had been received from:
(1) Mr Ellis (Southern Planning Practice), the agent, on behalf of the applicant.
As set out in Appendix 1, attached to these minutes.
The Chairman invited Councillors to ask questions of officers.
In response to a question raised, it was confirmed that the application in 2018 had permission to alter the existing building. By demolishing the dwelling, the applicant was falling foul of that permission.
It appeared from the photographs shown that in terms of materials, there was not much left on the site and it was asked whether they were being stored elsewhere and if they had to be re-used for the new dwelling. In reply, the Principal Planning Officer said that Condition 3 requested further material details. In addition, the Heritage Team Leader said that it was also important to get very good quality new materials, they did not have to come from older properties. It was a case of getting the best possible materials they could. New materials were available that had the look of an older brick/tile already. Sometimes materials from an older property could be a diminishing resource.
It was asked whether there was any mention of instability in any of the reports from the 2018 application, with regard to the proposed alterations that had been given approval. The officer found that there was nothing within the original Design and Access statement that alluded to the building being of poor state or unstable.
It was pointed out that during the presentation, the officer mentioned an ongoing action against the applicant for the demolition of the original dwelling. A councillor asked if there would be any outcome from that action which could interfere with the decision the committee would be making. The Solicitor clarified that the position was the fact that this building had been demolished was not a material consideration for the committee in determining the application. That was made even more important because there was now pending a separate prosecution for the unauthorised demolition of this building. These were separate proceedings and had nothing to do with the committee’s decision that evening. The fact that criminal law was going to be applied to deal with this infraction of the law made it even weightier that the applicant should not be punished twice. This was effectively a civil application and what EHDC’s Solicitor would be dealing with were criminal prosecutions. The court was entitled to take into account any financial gain that the defendant may have made in the unauthorised demolition.
It was asked whether the replacement dwelling would be up to insultation standards for a new build. The officer confirmed that modern building standards would apply as would modern building regulations.
The committee debated the application.
The committee struggled to understand why the demolition had not been flagged up, given the sensitivity of the area. The statement from the applicant had said that the demolition had been carried out over a phased period. In response, the Development Management Team Leader said that in terms of enforcement, once neighbours and residents make the authority aware, officers would then go out to investigate. Given where the site was, officers were surprised that they had not been made aware of the situation sooner.
Concern was expressed that solar panels could be used as a method of saving energy when the building was within the Conservation Area and had three listed buildings in close proximity. It was therefore asked whether Condition 8 could be amended to have ‘above slab level’ removed in order that the applicant could look at an alternative such as a ground source heat pump which would not result in any above ground visual impact. Whilst the officer appreciated the concern raised with regard to solar panels, he was reluctant to amend the condition as the applicant was keen to carry out works as soon as possible. He therefore advised he could add an informative to say that such measures were unlikely to be supported.
The committee thought that this was a very unfortunate situation and were sad to see the building go, despite the fact it may not have been in the best condition. However, it would present a habitable building for the future with a new lease of life and could make a positive contribution once people got used to it. Given the retrospective application, it would be perverse to not allow a design which had been previously approved two years ago. A like for like replacement was the only option and should be done so using the best materials. The committee felt that lessons needed to be learned and were interested to see the outcome of the legal action taken.
Following the vote, the recommendation was declared CARRIED, 12 Councillors voting FOR permission, no Councillors voting AGAINST permission and no Councillors ABSTAINING from voting.