Last week Beth attended the Planning Committee meeting at Wychavon District Council to speak in support of her planning application for the residential conversion of a building from B8 Light Industrial.  The outcome was a resolution to grant, subject to completion of a S106 agreement (to secure an affordable housing contribution).

This is, evidently, a great outcome but this was a result of applications made over a longer time period to get the final permission which demonstrates why planning is sometimes a longer term, strategic, plan.  In this case it was around three years worth of working through the system.

Eleni first visited this site in August 2020 and the objective, to convert the building, was established but as part of this two immediate issues were flagged.  The first being that replacement floor area was needed as part of a lean-to (which would be lost) for on-going use and the second, larger, issue was that the building was classified as agricultural but had been utilised as storage (non-agricultural) for around a decade.  This meant that options such as Class Q would have failed due to the qualification criteria.  The first two applications made, by Eleni in 2021, were for a new building on the paddock adjacent and a certificate of lawfulness (based upon ten years use) for B8 (storage).

Following the certification of the use, Beth had then joined Eleni and submitted a pre-application advice request for residential conversion to seek clarification on the application of a particular policy in late 2021.  The pre-application advice was negative and we didn’t agree with Wychavon’s approach so we sought instructions to proceed with a full application once we had discussed our reasoning with the client.  This application was then refused, for two reasons: unsustainable location and lack of a mechanism to secure affordable housing contributions.  Whilst we did provide information to support that the location was not reliant on the private car within the application itself (at both application stage and further within the application process), the Council did not agree with this and then a S106 agreement was never requested.

We then went on to appeal the refusal, but did not prepare a S106 due to the cost involved so expected a dismissal but were realistically testing the location theory which was the main point of disagreement.  This, again, was discussed with the client who supported our approach and reasoning.  The appeal was dismissed solely due to the lack of a S106 agreement for affordable housing with the Inspector concluding that whilst the site is within open countryside it is within a reasonable distance of day to day services and had genuinely sustainable travel choices.  Further weight was given to the provision of EV charging points.  This appeal then became a key material consideration, essentially confirming the principle of the proposal as being acceptable which is what we had thought despite the initial pre-application advice given.

Following the appeal we immediately re-submitted the proposal to Wychavon DC with an offer to complete a S106 agreement, thus overcoming the final outstanding issue.  Despite this a local member still called the application to committee on sustainability grounds as well as requesting double the policy requirement for affordable housing contributions which was unjustifiable in policy terms.  Beth spoke to highlight the key points and, after further clarification from officers, the proposal was approved at committee subject to completion of the S106.

So, all in – nearly three years from initial visit to the end goal with four applications (one new building, one certificate of lawfulness and two change of use) and one appeal between both Eleni and Beth.

Planning isn’t always a straight line but we can usually work out how to get you there and are certainly used to more complex proposals were there is a requirement to interpret and argue the application of planning policy at both local level and at appeal.  Sometimes it pays to think outside the box and stick to your gut feeling.

Got a trickier application that might not be straight forward or needs some matters regularising first?  Give us a call and we can talk you through options within a development appraisal or, initially, a 15 minute mini-chat (bookable via the main contact page!)