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04 Dec
Old Hall Farm

Green Belt Update - Case Study on Very Special Circumstances

New Housing and Heritage

NJL consulting have just secured a significant new consent for a private client. This is for 3 new build houses and conversion of old barns for further residential development.

This particular case, in Cheshire Green Belt is very significant for a few reasons.

Firstly, it demonstrates the absolute requirement for a very high quality of design. We have been extremely impressed by the work of Annabelle Tugby Associates on this project. Their blend of old and new was exactly what was required to show how the case could work.

Second, the client was totally committed at the outset to deliver a major renovation project of the whole collection of buildings. This had already commenced with the renovation of the Grade 2 listed Hall.

Third, in planning terms it raised particular matters that were challenging.

The planning matters revolved around how to weigh and argue the overall very special circumstances. In this case, we used several points. The Council do not have a 5-year land supply, but whilst highly relevant the number of dwellings proposed this would not really weigh as heavily as normal.

The main point was the complete re-think of the overall collection of current buildings / outbuildings / accretions to provide a significantly enhanced setting of the listed building whilst reducing the overall volume and area of existing buildings. This would then lead to a substantive reduction in the impact of buildings on the openness of the Green Belt.

Those existing buildings were all part of the previous farm operations. Notably, and a point the Council disagreed over, was whether those buildings could be considered in terms of how the overall impact of buildings on the green belt was reduced. We considered that they could be counted. They considered that, because they were agricultural, they could not. Our own view is that, technically such buildings could be re-used and hence could take on a new use. Hence, they should still be considered as “buildings” for the judgement over this issue.

Where we were agreed was that agricultural buildings could not be considered as previous developed land for the purposes of re-development.

The proposition was to flip the layout of the buildings to create a new courtyard and re-create the whole historic context of the listed building. Early work was undertaken by the architects to engage with the Council’s heritage officer and this ran alongside the renovation of the Hall. Hence, the obvious care being taken by the owner was on display at the outset.

The proposals have been 2 years in the making, showing how long it can take to deliver such a sensitive project. At its culmination, the Planning Committee were hugely supportive of the whole project and were impressed over the care and thought process that had gone into it.

If you have such a challenging project but are struggling to work out how to tackle the whole planning approach, please get in touch with us to see how we can assist.


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