Agenda item

21/P/01337 - St Germain, The Warren, East Horsley, Leatherhead, KT24 5RH


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


·         Mr Michael Parker (to object) and;

·         Mr James Deverill (in support)


The Committee considered the above-mentioned full application for erection of a single dwelling and detached garage on the land to the rear of St.Germain.  The Committee received a presentation from the Planning Officer, James Overall and noted that the site was located off the Warren on a private road within the identified settlement boundary of East Horsley as well as the Green Belt.  The proposal was for the erection of a 5-bed house within the existing residential curtilage of the current property known as St. Germain.  The proposed development was set back from the main frontage of The Warren which would result in very limited views into the site.  The proposal was comprised of a contemporary eco house design which would differ from the predominant Surrey vernacular architectural style of the surrounding area.  However, given the siting and the landscape, the proposal was not considered to have a detrimental impact upon the character of the area.  In addition, the East Horsley Neighbourhood Plan outlined examples of more modern developments within East Horsley which added interest to the built form of the area.  There was also a significant amount of boundary screening surrounding the plot.


It was the planning officer’s conclusion that the application be recommended for approval.  As the proposal fell under one of the Green Belt exceptions noted within the NPPF, it was considered that the scheme would not result in detrimental harm to the character of the area or the amenities of neighbouring dwellings nor those of future occupiers of the proposed dwelling.  The proposal lastly would not result in significant impacts upon Highways and had been designed to achieve a high degree of sustainability.


The Chairman permitted Councillor Catherine Young to speak in her capacity as ward councillor for three minutes.  The Committee noted the following concerns raised that the proposal was inappropriate development in the Green Belt.  No special circumstances had been provided to justify the harm that would be caused to the openness of the Green Belt, by building a large 5-bedroom house in the back garden of St.Germain, especially when adding in the proposed 65 metres of tarmac road that would be laid through the garden for access.  Neither was it limited infilling, it was not a small gap between other properties and it was not surrounded by built development.  It had been mentioned that there was no backland development in The Warren and the reference to Chantry Cottage was misleading as it pre-dated the development by some 100 years.  Therefore the proposal did not meet the requirements of Policy P2 points 1 and 2.  The proposal would have an adverse impact on the character of the Warren and was out of keeping with the distinct settlement pattern. It did not reflect the local character of single houses with long spacious back gardens.  This would be the largest house in the Warren and by placing it in half of the garden of St.Germain, it would then be the smallest plot.  Therefore, the proposal did not meet the requirements of Policy D1, point 1 and 4 or the East Horsley Neighbourhood Plan policy EH8 point C which stated that the size and massing of new homes should be no greater than the surrounding dwellings.  Additionally, this was not an Eco House and the term was misleading in this context.  The proposal did not even meet building regulations introduced this year which required a 31% reduction in carbon emissions. A badger sett had also been observed 3.5 metres from the boundary who had moved following an internal clearing of the garden at St.Germain.  Badgers were protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and was an offence to interfere with the sett and was a material consideration given that Policy ID4 required the preservation and enhancement of biodiversity.  Given we now had a housing supply of 7.34 years, there were substantial reasons for refusing the application.  


In relation to comments made by public speakers and the ward councillor the Planning Officer, James Overall confirmed regarding the badger sett, the applicant had conducted ecological surveys which had been submitted alongside the application and had been taken into consideration.  The survey showed that there were no ecological issues onsite.  Condition 10 ensured that Phase 1 of the Habitat and Protected Species Survey was carried out in accordance with the development.   In the planning officers view, the development also represented limited infilling as it was located within the settlement boundary of East Horsley.  Other plots as far back as Chantry Cottage was located in a similar position and was considered limited infilling and was therefore an exception to Paragraph 149 of the NPPF and represented no in principle objection to development in the Green Belt.  No very special circumstances existed due to the fact that the proposal met one of the exceptions in Paragraph 149.  The surrounding properties consisted of many different sizes and shapes of residential curtilages, some of which were fairly large houses in spacious plots.  It was accepted that the proposed dwelling would be towards the smaller end of the scale in terms of the plot size.  The phrase used in the report alluding to ‘spare land’ was just terminology and was not the same as limited infilling.  The plot of land was located inside of the identified settlement boundary.  With regard to comments made that it was not an eco-house, condition 6 ensured that carbon emissions were in accordance with local planning policies.


The Committee discussed the application, and noted comments made that the proposal represented a classic example of garden grabbing.  The definition of limited infilling was not properly defined in the officer’s report.  However, it was clear in the Local Plan where it stated that limited infilling of small gaps within built development should be appropriate to the locality and not have an adverse effect on the character of the countryside or local environment.  The site was in fact surrounded by large gardens rather than a built environment and therefore did not constitute developed land.  The development was also considered to be out of character.  The Local Plan required that new developments achieved high quality design and responded to the distinctive local character including landscape which this proposal had not met.  The scheme was for a huge house in a small plot that was totally out of keeping with the rest of the properties in Warren Road, both in style and the materials proposed to be used.  There was also only a couple of metres gap between the dwelling and the next door neighbours house which was filled with a hedge.  The Planning Committee also noted final comments that the scheme did not comply with Green Belt policies given it was a new building and not a replacement one.  The Committee noted further agreement that the scheme did not comply with Green Belt policies. 


The Committee also considered comments that the scheme did represent limited infilling and that the application should not be refused.  


The Committee noted comments that the principle of limited infilling in this application appeared clear cut.  However, a specific query was raised in relation to Policy EH87 of the East Horsley Neighbourhood Plan which related specifically to designs being in keeping with the established character of East Horsley.  The descriptive text around it did mention that some modern designs could enrich the character of the village.  The exterior of the property would be clad in white and grey plastic and was this therefore necessary to blend in with the overall character of surrounding dwellings.     


In addition, the location of a badger sett within 30 metres of the property would appear to be a material planning consideration.  Clarification was sought of what evidence planning officers have seen in relation to that and if it was something that had come to light recently.  Also, the Committee was interested to know where the badgers lived as they travelled over a fairly large range to forage.   


The planning officer, James Overall responded to the comment that there was no definition of infilling and that a small gap within a built environment did not apply in this instance given the proposal was in fact surrounded by gardens not buildings.  It was confirmed that there was not a definition as to what built development was.  The proposal was located within the identified settlement boundary and was surrounded by properties in every direction.  It did not matter whether it was gardens, buildings or just residential curtilages but does lie in the middle of the development and therefore fitted within the grounds for exception of Paragraph 149 of the NPPF and could be considered as limited infilling within the Green Belt.  The planning officer also concluded that the proposal was not out of character given it would also be well screened by the boundary vegetation.  Warren Road was also comprised of both large and smaller properties, and modern properties such as that proposed did already exist in East Horsley.  Regarding the badger sett, a Habitat and Protected Species Survey had been submitted and it was concluded that there were no records of badger setts within 30 metres of the site boundary.  The applicant had therefore carried out the necessary surveys and no badgers were found.  The fact that photos had been circulated to the Committee of badgers did not confirm as a matter of fact that they lived close-by given them roamed large distances.


The Committee considered comments made that ecological surveys should only be prepared at the beginning of the design of a development.  It was noted that the survey had been conducted 2 years ago and was therefore almost out of date as well as the fact that the surveyors may have been looking for badgers at the wrong time of year when they hibernated.  The scheme was also considered to create a loss of habitat and lack of biodiversity and clarification was sought on what trees and hedges would remain.  The scheme was also considered to be out of character and a backland development.  In addition, there were no special circumstances to allow the construction of a 5-bed dwelling and did not correspond to the East Horsley Neighbourhood Plan.


The Team Leader, Gemma Fitzpatrick clarified that for the purposes of the application, a professional ecological survey was carried out and was still in date.  Its findings were therefore reasonable to consider.  No badger setts were found or evidence of badgers. That was not to say that circumstances could not have changed but the survey carried out was from a professional ecologist and we therefore have to accept its findings.  Badgers were a protected species and covered by legislation, so if in the future a badger sett was found there were other safeguards in place that would protect them.  Anybody developing the site would have to be bound by that legislation.


In response to concerns raised that there was no net gain in biodiversity, condition 3 ensured that a scheme of ecological enhancements would be submitted as per the NPPF.  Every development needed to provide a net gain of biodiversity so the fact there might be some tree loss, the development as a whole would provide a net gain of biodiversity which involved the planting of trees and putting up bird and bat boxes.  This would equate to more biodiversity onsite than prior to the development.  It was also confirmed that there was nothing in the Neighbourhood Plan which specifically precluded the development of a 5-bedroom house.          


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










Paul Spooner





Colin Cross





Chis Blow





Angela Gunning





Chris Barrass





David Bilbe





Marsha Moseley





George Potter





Maddy Redpath





Ruth Brothwell





Ramsey Nagaty





Pauline Searle





Fiona White










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


RESOLVED to approve application 21/P/01337 subject to the conditions and reasons as detailed in the report. 



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