Prior Approval Granted for Conversion of Agricultural Building to Residential in Beech Hill, West Berkshire

Planning permission has been granted for the conversion of a barn to a residential dwelling in Beech Hill.

Bell Cornwell was instructed to submit a prior approval application for the conversion of the barn in West Berkshire in 2016, however, there were many challenges to overcome during the application process.

Firstly, an email was received from the Council recommending that the prior approval application is withdrawn due to the site being within the outer consultation zone in Core Strategy Policy CS8 for Burghfield AWE. The Council deemed this zone a safety hazard area and therefore, prior approval could not be given. The Council’s advice was followed and the application was withdrawn in the Summer of 2016.

This situation was not accepted by Bell Cornwell and research began into the differences between “consultation” zones and “safety hazard” areas as defined by either the HSE or Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). Discussions were held with the Civil Contingencies Manager at the Council who in turn took up this issue with the ONR and the Local Planning Authority (LPA).
At the same time, it was decided to pursue a change of use application as the only way forward. This was validated in the Autumn of 2016. This application was refused in December 2016 on the basis of the site being within the countryside and not in a sustainable location. All through this period, there was continued communication with the Civil Contingencies Manager and the ONR.

In Spring 2017, it was decided that the refused planning application be appealed and therefore a written representations appeal was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.

In Summer 2017, Bell Cornwell received an email from the Civil Contingencies Manager which had been sent by the ONR confirming that the site was “outside of the existing detailed emergency planning zones around AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield respectively.” Therefore, the site is not in a safety hazard area.

Accordingly, the prior approval application was resubmitted and based on the new information from the ONR was successfully approved by West Berkshire Council in September 2017.

When allowing the appeal on the 20th December 2017, and therefore granting planning permission for the conversion of the barn to a residential dwelling, the Inspector gave significant weight the prior approval granted by the LPA. It was therefore decided that the main factor that needed to be considered was the larger curtilage. The Inspector concluded that the site was well screened and that the proposal would improve the appearance of the site.

The above project demonstrates the long and complex route that is required for some planning applications. However, it highlights that with persistence and good dialogue with the LPA you can turn a difficult situation into a positive one which ultimately ends up with a successful planning approval.

For more information on this project please contact Senior Planner, James Clancy.

Local Authority
West Berkshire
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