Scalebor Park Farm Planning Application Response
A planning application for development at Scalebor Park Farm, Wharfedale has been submitted to Bradford City Council 20/00785/FUL for the construction of a new single storey dwelling house in the Green Belt. The applicant has declared ambitions to create a 21st century country house. CPRE West Yorkshire have considered the details of the proposal that have been supplied, and questions how such aspirations can be proposed without involving the community. Can style fulfill such criteria without the substance to benefit and gather the support of community, conservation and heritage bodies?
We consider such questions in our response to the planning consultation, as well as highlighting the importance of giving the public the time and opportunity to assess applications in situation, whilst adhering to the current travel restrictions, before applications are decided. We need to protect the right to full public engagement with the planning process during the time of this pandemic.
Our holding response can be read below:
20/00785: Scalebor Park Farm – CPRE comments submitted online 28/05/20
1.1 Please treat these comments as a holding objection. We are unable to make a fully-informed appraisal of the scheme without a site visit, and this is currently not possible due to pandemic travel restrictions. We therefore ask that determination of the application be deferred until an appropriate time period after travel restrictions have been lifted, to enable all interested parties to see the site. This is fundamental, since the merits of the scheme from a landscape impact and/or enhancement perspective are critical to the decision.
1.2 Aside from the merits of the enhancement proposals, we do not consider that any other material considerations amount to a sufficiently strong benefit to outweigh the harm that a new residential development causes, in principle, to the Green Belt, nor to justify a departure from the Development Plan.
1.3 If the applicant’s declared ambitions to create a 21st century country house are to be taken seriously, then much more proactive engagement with the local community and with landscape, ecology, heritage and sustainability stakeholders is needed.
2.1 This application makes bold claims for its potential as a 21st century country house, in relation to its design, its sustainability credentials and its contribution to its landscape setting.
2.2 The proposed plan (D&A Statement p37) has no scale or north point, so it is difficult to be sure of the position or presence of the scheme, especially without the benefit of a site visit, which has not been possible to date due to the pandemic restrictions.
3. Pre-application engagement
3.1 The scheme appears to suffer from a lack of meaningful pre-application engagement. NPPF paras 39-40 highlight the need for such engagement, and Core Strategy DS1 (C) requires “Working with local communities and key stakeholders to develop shared visions for the future of their area”. We do not see evidence that this has happened, yet if the project is as unique and exceptional as the applicant claims, it should be fully informed by, and enjoy broad support from, community, conservation and heritage bodies.
4. Green Belt and conformity with Development Plan
4.1 The site is within the Green Belt and outside the settlement boundary as defined by the adopted Core Strategy. The Core Strategy defers to national Green Belt policies, so the relevant policies are:
NPPF 143 “Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.”
NPPF 144 “When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.”
4.2 These paras make clear that the scheme does not need to be judged separately against the five purposes of Green Belt: it is harmful by default, because new residential development is inappropriate. Therefore, the Council must determine whether the scheme is so beneficial as to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and the departure from the Development Plan.
5. Material Considerations
5.1 Any material considerations that could weigh in the scheme’s favour must be justified in the context of NPPF paras 79e, 170 and 192, discussed below.
5.2 Para 79e – heavily cited by the applicant, in fact contains two tests – to be ‘truly outstanding or innovative’ AND to ‘significantly enhance its immediate setting, and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area’. The second of these tests is best considered with regard to Core Strategy polices WD1 (D5) and (D6), which identify aspects of Wharfedale’s distinctive character and the need to conserve and enhance both the designated and the undesignated heritage assets of the Wharfe Valley. We consider that further, much more detailed analysis of the scheme’s contribution to the character of the area is needed.
5.3 Para 170 “Planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by: a) protecting and enhancing valued landscapes…(in a manner commensurate with the statutory status or identified quality in the development plan.” We recognise and broadly welcome the applicant’s ambitions for enhancement in biodiversity net gain and carbon sequestration, but we would defer to other consultees with greater professional and scientific expertise on their efficacy. In terms of the landscape masterplan, it is not possible for us to comment meaningfully without a site visit, which has not been possible as yet due to the pandemic travelling restrictions. Consequently we will reserve judgement on this matter, and ask that no determination is made until a suitable period after the lifting of travel restrictions, to enable all interested parties to make their own investigations.
5.4 Para 192 “In determining applications, local planning authorities should take account of: c) the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness.” In other words, is it a positive contribution and, if so, is this a desirable enough outcome to warrant a departure from the development plan in this case? The scheme attempts to compare itself to existing country house estates in West Yorkshire. These are not realistic comparators, because they each have a deep cultural and economic role that is related to the value in which people hold the local landscape, its history and character. In that context, it appears that this proposal – whilst very interesting – is essentially ‘left-field’. Therefore we consider that there should be a much better opportunity provided for local people, as well as landscape, ecology and heritage stakeholders to engage constructively in the proposals – for example an exhibition and site tour.
5.5 There is a wide spectrum of possible outcomes here, from a new country house and park, in the fuller, cultural sense, to an exclusive private dwelling with extensive gardens. At present, insufficient evidence has been provided for stakeholders to be able to genuinely distinguish where this scheme sits on that spectrum. This is a crucial issue in determining whether very special circumstances exist to justify approval.