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Planning

Parish Councils invest considerable effort in responding to planning applications. This is perhaps the most significant Parish Council activity in a rural Parish like Charlcombe, where we typically consider 12 – 15 applications each year. Parish Councils are statutory consultees on all planning applications, which means that B&NES send the Parish Council a copy of every planning application within the Parish, for comment. In formulating our comments, we consider each application in relation to local and national planning policy, enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the B&NES Core Strategy and supporting documentation. We are given a relatively short timescale in which to respond (21 days). For significant developments, we aim to make a site visit to help inform our judgement, and to involve more than one Parish Councillor. Comments are always discussed and endorsed by the full Parish Council; where timescales do not permit an application to be discussed at a bi-monthly Parish Council meeting, draft comments are circulated to all Parish Councillors for ex-committee discussion and approval. Details of all planning applications in the Parish can be found on the B&NES planning website. We are always very happy to discuss planning applications with Parish applicants. It must be emphasised that the Parish Council is only a consultee in the planning process and that the final decision rests with the B&NES Planning Authority. There have been a number of instances where B&NES has permitted an application to which we have objected and, on fewer occasions, refused an application which we have supported. Where appropriate, we will ask our Ward Councillors to request that an application is brought to the Development Management Committee for determination and we will make representation at the relevant Committee Meeting (Parish Councils get 3 minutes to speak).

The comments submitted by Charlcombe Parish Council on each planning application are included on the B&NES planning website. The Parish Clerk also maintains a register of applications received, comments submitted and the decisions of the Planning Authority.

B&NES Placemaking Plan

Parish Councils were invited to work with B&NES Planning Policy to develop a Placemaking Plan to complement the Council's Core Strategy. The Placemaking Plan will form part of the new Local Plan and will allocate land for specific uses such as housing and employment and will safeguard valued assets. Parish and Town Councils within B&NES were asked to examine the character of their settlement(s), to identify assets to be protected and to identify sites for development by 21 December 2013.   The Charlcombe Parish Council's Placemaking Review was submitted in December 2013 and has been retained on our website for future reference. It provides a comprehensive review of the Parish.

Further information can be obtained from the B&NES Placemaking Plan website: http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy/placemaking-plan

Since the Parish of Charlcombe lies entirely within the Cotswold AONB and entirely outside the housing development boundary, we have been advised by B&NES that we do not have to take any further part in the development of the B&NES Placemaking Plan.

Topical Planning Issues within the Parish

Woolley Valley. Over the past 5 years, a huge amount of Parish Council effort has been spent objecting to development in the Woolley Valley by Golden Valley Paddocks. The land in this valley was made the subject of an Article 4 Direction in 1992 by the Secretary of State for the Environment removing the usual permitted development rights which exist for agricultural purposes. This means that planning permission is required for works for the erection, extension or alteration of a building or any excavation or engineering operations which are reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture. This is the only agricultural land within B&NES to be accorded this special protection, which was imposed specifically to prevent the spread of agricultural development in the valley. Despite this protection, significant development took place without planning permission. Every endeavour has been made to work with the B&NES Planning Authority, but despite our best efforts, B&NES could not agree with our arguments. Representations were made to the Chief Executive, the Strategic Director with responsibility for planning and the Divisional Director of planning, but to no avail. Our local MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg has been very supportive and we have been in regular contact with him. In 2011, the Save Woolley Valley Action Group was set up to represent the interests of local residents and to campaign against the development. Whilst the Action Group is separate from the Parish Council, its aims have had the full support of the Parish Council and there has been close liaison. Ultimately, the Action Group sought redress against B&NES in a Judicial Review in the High Court. On 27 July 2012, Mrs Justice Lang ruled that B&NES had misdirected itself in law in its interpretation and application of the term development (in relation to the 10 huge poultry sheds on the site, which B&NES had argued were movable chattels and therefore did not constitute development). Mrs Justice Lang’s judgement effectively means that the poultry sheds do constitute development and require both planning permission and an Environmental Impact Assessment. She also ruled that B&NES acted unlawfully by granting planning permission for a Stock Pond without having carried out a lawful screening opinion. In other words, B&NES should have considered the cumulative effect of development on the site and not addressed the pond in isolation. Charlcombe Parish Council has continued to work with the Planning Authority on this very sensitive and topical issue and on 8 May 2013 the Development Control Committee unanimously refused all 5 planning applications which GVP had submitted to regularise the situation. Over 250 letters of objection were submitted by local residents, indicative of the very strong local feeling on this issue. B&NES then prepared an Enforcement Report which recommended enforcement action against the poultry units, mobile home and shed, feed hoppers, temporary lambing shed and shipping container. Following the serving of 3 Enforcement Notices, all the relevant structures were removed from the site. 2 further planning applications were subsequently submitted seeking to regularise the remaining unauthorised developments on the site (site gates and entrance, alterations to the pre-existing stock barn. retention of 1 km harcore track and hardstanding, retention of stock pond).  The Parish Council objected on grounds of visual impact and on the basis that none of these developments is necessary for the grazing of sheep and cattle on the land, the activity which GVP stateD the land was now being used for. We also objected to the site entrance and gates which had been refused permission on no less than 4 occasions on the grounds of visual impact and highways safety. The B&NES Enforcement Report of May 2010 recommended "that an Enforcement Notice be served on the grounds that the design is inappropriate to this rural location; and the restricted visibility does not provide for a safe access". For reasons which have never been explained, B&NES never followed up their enforcement recommendation and the development was allowed to pas the 4-year point without further action. At the Development Control Committee meeting on 20 November, the 2 planning applications were approved, meaning that GVP now have retrospective permission for the remaining development and that the site entrance which B&NES has consistently declared to be unsafe, is now "lawful".

More recent developments include permission (Feb 2014) for 150 sq metres of the former stock barn to be leased separately as Office Space under the Government's 2013 relaxation of the General Permitted Development Order and an application for 2 mobile field shelters which was refused by the Development Control Committee on 30 July 2014.

In June 2014, GVP vacated the land and removed all livestock and equipment. The land has since been advertised for sale. We look forward to a new owner who will be more in tune with the very special nature of this land.

STOP PRESS (Nov 15) - We are delighted to announce that both the land and the former stock barn have been purchased by local residents. Cattle are once more grazing the land. A very successful outcome, and congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to achieve it.

MoD Ensleigh. The development of the MoD site at Ensleigh represents a major planning opportunity. Although the Ensleigh site lies within the city ward of Lansdown, it is bordered on 3 sides by the Parish of Charlcombe and whatever occurs at Ensleigh will have a significant impact on the Parish and its residents. Detailed comments on the Ensleigh Concept Statement were submitted in May 2012. A particular concern was the B&NES proposal to consider the 2 playing fields adjacent to the site (owned by Kingswood School and the Royal High School) as a potential part of the development to enable “a bolder vision for the site to be generated”. Should the 2 playing fields become part of the development, there will be a need for their relocation nearby. Almost certainly, this would be further along Lansdown Road within the Parish of Charlcombe, the Green Belt and the Cotswold AONB. The Kingswood Playing Field includes a number of pitches, large stadium lights and a recently-constructed 2-storey pavilion. Were these facilities to be relocated elsewhere on Lansdown, they would have a significant detrimental impact on the openness and character of this part of the Green Belt/AONB and might even encroach on the setting of the historic battlefield site at the northern end of the Parish. A representation was made in July 2012 to Cllr Tim Ball, Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning asking B&NES to reconsider. The Parish Council was also concerned that insufficient work has been done to show how the site can accommodate 350 homes, 2000 sq m of B1 employment space and 3.3 ha of open space, natural areas and allotments, and a primary school, particularly in view of building height constraints on this sensitive part of the Bath skyline. In conjunction with the Bath Preservation Trust, Charlcombe Parish Council funded a short “massing study” undertaken by the architecture department at Bath University, which showed that a more realistic figure was between 280 and 300 homes.

Development of the Ensleigh site will take place in several stages. The site to the south of Granville Road was to be developed by Skanska, with Fielden Clegg as their architects. The proposal for 40 homes on this site was the subject of extensive consultation with the local community and the planning application which was submitted approved 2013 had the support of the Parish Council. However, Skanska has now withdrawn and the site will be developed to the approved plans by another developer. The site to the north of Granville Road has been acquired by a consortium led by Bloor Homes and will be developed in stages as the land becomes available from the MoD. Public consultations were held which showed plans for around 250 homes on this part of the site (which would bring the total to around 290, very much in line with our massing study). A full planning application was subsequently approved by Committee in November 2014. Whilst Charlcombe Parish Council is in favour of residential development of the site, we submitted an objection to this application on the basis that certain issues had not been adequately addressed, in particular the impact of the development on traffic in local lanes and the failure to include a single form entry primary school as part of the development, one of the original requirements. However, the developer has since reached agreement with the Girls' Day School Trust to purchase the adjacent Royal High School playing field ("the Chill") and this will be used to site both the new single form entry primary school (210 pupils) and additional housing (up to 95 dwellings). B&NES will be responsible for the provision of the school. This is to be welcomed, but our concerns about traffic on local lanes remain, particularly as fewer than half the pupils are anticipated to come from on-site. At the December 2015 Planning Committee, we successfully argued that access from and to the site from Granville Road should be restricted to pedestrian and cycles only - all vehicle access to the site and the school should be from Lansdown Road; the Committee placed a condition of approval for the building of a loop road within the site to facilitate this. It is hoped that this will help to improve the situation.

Environs Sub Committee of the Bath Preservation Trust

Charlcombe Parish Council is represented on the Environs Sub-Committee of the Bath Preservation Trust. This committee, which meets bi-monthly, consists of members of the Trust and representatives of those Parish Councils which form the outer ring around the city of Bath. The committee addresses planning in the Parishes and the impact which development within the Parishes might have upon the setting of the World Heritage Site. Charlcombe Parish Council has received very helpful support from the Trust in dealing with a number of controversial planning applications.

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