Planning permission has been obtained for a new veterinary practice including ancillary overnight accommodation in Hook, Hampshire.
Being based in Hook for the last 30 or so years, Bell Cornwell has been an active part of its growth into the bustling village that it is today. Until we moved 3 years ago, we were based on Bell Meadow Road and our next door neighbours were the veterinary practice where they remain… for now.
The constrains of the vets’ current site means that they have been unable to keep up with the demands of the growing village and need to relocate. The Hook Neighbourhood Plan envisages a comprehensive redevelopment of the area, including the vets and the Station Road frontage element to the west, but to deliver this, the vets need a new site. The potential site for the relocation was a greenfield site where development would not normally be appropriate.
We started out by promoting the site through the emerging Neighbourhood Plan and proceeded with an outline application to Hart Council. Irrespective of the Parish Council support, the District Council would not entertain the idea, sticking rigidly to policy and refusing to see that the need for the relocation was current rather than in the future.
Further work at Parish/Neighbourhood Plan level resulted in a policy that supported the development of the site being included in the emerging Hart Local Plan. In addition, the draft Plan also allowed community facilities to be provided on the edge of settlements if there was no better location for it available within.
Despite this positive movement in development plan policies, Hart Council refused a second application as a matter of principle and on flooding grounds (part of the site is in flood zone 3, albeit the proposed building itself is not). An appeal was held by a Hearing where the Inspector agreed that there was policy support for the vets in this location following a detailed Sequential Test to prove that there were no more suitable sites (either in the settlement boundary or less likely to flood). Unfortunately, the Inspector endorsed the Environment Agency’s objection on flooding grounds, demanding detailed local modelling of the Whitewater River and Griffin Stream to prove the flood levels.
With the modelling work completed, the third application was greeted with no objection from the Environment Agency yet still resistance from Hart Council who remained concerned about safe access and egress from the site. To address this, pedestrian egress to the rear of the site, directly onto the Bassetts Meads public open space was agreed with the landowners (Hook Parish Council) meaning that planning permission could finally be granted. It was a long and unnecessarily onerous process which demonstrated that the Government’s concept of “localism” and Neighbourhood Planning still has some way to go before the mindset of local authorities catches up!
Bell Cornwell acted throughout on behalf of Flavia Estates. For more information about this project and for advice about your own development project in the Hart district area, get in touch with our Hook office today.
Partner, Nick Cobbold.