Agenda item

21/P/00030 - Yana Alpacas, Hawthorn Farm, Polesden Lane, Ripley, Woking, GU23


The Committee considered the above-mentioned application for proposed erection of a detached two storey permanent agricultural workers’ dwelling, and a general-purpose agricultural building, creation of new access with installation of gate and piers (amended description and amended plans received 25 November 2021).


Prior to consideration of the application, the following persons addressed the Committee in accordance with Public Speaking Procedure Rules 3(b):


·         Mr Chris Lee (Chairman of Polesdon Lane Residents Association) (to object);

·         Ms Josie Paul (to object) and;

·         Mrs Vicky Webb (Applicant) (In Support)


The Committee received a presentation from the planning officer, Becky Souter.  The proposal was for a new dwelling for the agricultural workers at an alpaca farm in Ripley as well as a general-purpose agricultural facility and new access.  The site was part of Hawthorn Farm which is a small agricultural holding of 10.5 acres.  The proposed site of the dwelling was in the northern part of the holding, outside of any identified settlement boundary and was within the Green Belt as well as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance and adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Importance. 


Given this siting as an isolated home in the countryside, the applicant had to prove an essential need, as per paragraph 80 of the NPPF.  Furthermore, it was considered that if an essential need for the development in connection with agriculture can be identified then the proposed development would constitute appropriate development within the Green Belt.  The site had up until recently focused on cattle farming, however in 2018 planning permission was granted for the siting of a temporary rural worker's dwelling as part of an alpaca breeding enterprise, as described in the Business Plan and Agricultural Assessment submitted as part of the 2018 application.  This supporting letter submitted with the application stated that the enterprise had now been operating for three years and was demonstrated to be financially viable.  The alpaca business commenced when the farm was purchased in 2018 and had therefore been established for at least three years.   Officers were satisfied that the agricultural activity had been established for several years, had made sufficient profits to be financially sound and now had a clear prospect of remaining. 


The site was in a rural position with only a handful of neighbouring properties.  The Council's agricultural consultant advised that inspection of the locality and searches on the internet failed to identify any suitable property in close proximity to Hawthorn Farm either on Polesdon Lane or in Tannery Lane.  Regardless, it had been demonstrated that there was an essential need for a worker to live on site and it was therefore considered unlikely that the urgent attention to livestock required by the workers could be properly provided by someone living further away from the holding.  The proposed dwelling would be on a similar sized plot to the surrounding dwellings.  The proposed dwelling would also be modest in height and in keeping with the two-storey scale of the surrounding dwellings.  Whilst the design would vary to that of the established dwellings locally, it would be of traditional design.  The elevations would incorporate traditional materials and detailing.  


Given the spacious plots that characterised this part of Polesdon Lane it was not considered that the proposed dwelling would detract from the rural character of the streetscene or surrounding area.   The proposed floor plans of the dwelling met with the national space standards and had a number of windows to ensure adequate daylight into the property.   It also included an area to be used as a study but would allow for the operation of the business.  There wouldn't be a need for an additional office space.  The proposed agricultural building elevations had been designed clearly for agricultural purposes and would be functional in appearance with timber boarding to the elevations and fibre cement sheeting roof.   This was in keeping with other agricultural buildings in the area and would not be excessive in size.  It would measure a maximum height of 5 metres.  The proposed dwelling would be in close proximity to the rear of the proposed dwelling and would minimise its visual impact within the wider surroundings.  The site was also well screened by existing mature trees and hedging along the boundaries which was to be retained.  The proximity of the building to the proposed new dwelling would also ensure there was a good surveillance of the building.  The agricultural building would have a total footprint of 148 square metres.  The Highways Authority had raised no concerns subject to conditions.  The Lovelace Neighbourhood Plan required the provision of three parking spaces for a 3 bedroom or larger dwelling.  Parking for 3 cars was provided on the proposed driveway and to the front the new dwelling with an additional parking area for up to two vehicles adjacent to the proposed new agricultural building. 


There was a minimum separation distance of approximately 10 metres between the northern flank wall of the proposed new dwelling and the boundary of the site which adjoined a private access track that ran between the site and a neighbouring dwelling.  Officers considered overall that sufficient proof of evidence of essential need had been provided by the applicant as well as the limited impact on the area from the proposed development.  Because of these reasons the application has been recommended for approval subject to a Section 106 agreement to secure a SANG and SAMM contributions and subject to the conditions.


The Committee discussed the application and noted concerns raised that the Council’s agricultural consultant had rejected the proposal on the basis that the applicant had failed to prove the business would remain profitable and by virtue of that there was no need for a permanent dwelling.  However, the applicant’s agricultural consultants had countered the arguments put forward.  The Committee also noted that a similar application had been made in Effingham a few years ago for a joint livery stable and smallholding with sheep which was refused as the Committee was not convinced by the business case.  The decision was appealed and allowed and had now turned into a thriving business.  The Committee was interested to know why the Council had not gone back to the Farm Consultancy Group.  The Committee also discussed condition 11 which stated that any external lighting needed to be suitable for bats.  External security lighting could also impact nearby residents and have implications for Dark Skies policies.  Would the lighting proposed be movement sensitive or put on a timer?


The Head of Place, Dan Ledger confirmed that the Council had not received a response from the Farm Consultancy Group despite contacting them on a number of occasions.  Planning officers therefore had to deal with the application as best they could and had assessed the information concluding that sufficient evidence had been submitted to warrant essential need for the house.  With regard to condition 11, it could be altered to require no external lighting was permitted, unless already previously agreed in writing.


The Committee noted concerns that the proposed dwelling was specifically to house agricultural workers but what if one of the persons who lived there no longer worked in that field, how would that be managed? The Head of Place, Dan Ledger stated that conditions should not be used for such a scenario and would not be upheld on appeal.  A temporary unit had been in situ for some years already and was an ongoing operation already in place.  Therefore, it was in the interests of the applicant to build in accordance with the planning permission.  If one of the persons, no longer worked in agriculture then a replacement person would be required to carry on those operations.


The Committee remained concerned that the Council’s agricultural consultant had not responded.  It represented an injustice to the applicant given the Council was committed to supporting businesses in the countryside.  The Committee discussed whether deferral was an option given the circumstances. 


The Committee queried whether the planning authority did monitor when a property did become vacant to ensure that its inhabitants were employed directly with the agricultural work it had been built for.


The Head of Place, Dan Ledger confirmed that if no agricultural operation was in existence, then there would need to be an application to change that condition.  However, the Committee also needed to look at the history of the site and the fact that there had been a temporary agricultural dwelling on the site for the last three years.  With regard to the lack of comment from the agricultural consultants, planning officers had sought their feedback, but it was not forthcoming.  There were also a limited number of agricultural consultants that are available.  Planning officers were satisfied that the scheme met with the appropriate planning policy criteria and had undertaken a detailed assessment of the scheme.  Deferral of the proposed application was not recommended.


The Committee noted concerns raised that the dwelling was too big, given it had four bedrooms and would impact the openness of the Green Belt.  The planning officers confirmed that the applicants were currently living in a mobile home and therefore needed permanent accommodation as a temporary home did not constitute a building.  The test that was being applied was whether the new dwelling met the criteria for fulfilling an exception test on a rural agricultural workers dwelling.  It was not about whether the replacement structure in the Green Belt was materially larger than the one it replaced.  Planning officers considered that its current siting was acceptable, and the size of the proposed dwelling had been reduced in size through negotiation of the application.   


A motion was moved and seconded to approve the application which was carried.


























Maddy Redpath





Colin Cross





Liz Hogger





Angela Goodwin





Marsha Moseley





Jon Askew





Chris Barrass





Fiona White





Pauline Searle





Chris Blow





Paul Spooner





Guida Esteves





Angela Gunning





Ruth Brothwell











In conclusion, having taken account of the representations received in relation to the application, the Committee


RESOLVED to approve application 21/P/00030 subject to amended condition 11:


(i)            That a S106 Agreement be entered into to secure the provision of:


·         SANG and SAMM contributions in accordance with the formula of the updated tariff


If the terms of the S106 or wording of the planning conditions are significantly amended as part of ongoing S106 or planning condition(s) negotiations any changes shall be agreed in consultation with the Chairman of the Planning Committee and lead Ward Member.


(ii)           That upon completion of the above, the application be determined by the Head of Place.  The preliminary view is that the application should be granted subject to conditions.








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