Charmydown Barn, Charmydown Lane, Swainswick, Bath
Charmydown Barn forms part of a historic farm complex centred on Charmydown Farm House, a Grade II late 17th century detached farmhouse with later 18th & 19th century alterations. The site also incorporates Charmydown Lodge, formerly a pair of worker’s cottages later converted to a three-bed detached dwelling (see 12/05579/FUL & 12/05580/LBA). The site is located within the Green Belt and Cotswolds AONB, as well as the indicative extent of the World Heritage Site setting and the indicative landscape setting of the Upper Swainswick conservation area. The original farmhouse is indicated to have been initially constructed around 1667, with a farm by the name of ‘Nicholas Farm’ in the area by 1742. The renaming of the farm site can be attributed to the early 19th century at the latest; Greenwood’s Map of Somerset indicates the presence of buildings including the Farmhouse, Lodge, and an earlier iteration of the Barn of a reduced size by 1822. The existing site footprint is more clearly depicted in cartographical evidence from the 1840s onwards to which the main barn building as well as the intersecting gable-ended barn can be attributed to. 1840s maps also include a parallel set of buildings to the eastern end of the site which are likely the piggeries; the southern building was removed around the 20th century but the northern set of piggeries have survived.
We are pleased to see that the local authority has confirmed that the Barn remains within the Grade II curtilage of Charmydown Farm House, despite previous rebuttals brought by the applicant. We maintain that the built farm complex as a whole, including Charmydown Barn and Charmydown Lodge, remains within the Grade II curtilage by merit of their historic association with the Farm House, and their retained, interconnected setting and visual relationship in wider landscape views.
The application as submitted bears a strong resemblance to the previously withdrawn application 22/01210/FUL, albeit with the following amendments as listed below:
- Glazed balustrade of link building amended to steel cable guarding
- Amended door design and glazing in the north-east and south-west elevations of the Cross Barn
- Amended glazed openings in the south-east elevation of the main barn
- Omission of second glazed doorway from the north-east elevation of the Cross Barn, to be replaced with an arrow slot window
- Amended design of external doors in the link building
- Amendments to the design of the Piggery, to include new glazed sliding doors and a recessed ‘outdoor’ seating area
- Landscaping plans including amenity lawn and a wildlife swale/pond
- Reprofiling works to the southern land parcel
Despite these amendments, this application remains largely the same as previous withdrawn application 22/01210/FUL, seeking to address a series of unauthorised works and planning breaches across the site. BPT therefore maintains our ongoing position as follows:
We remain strongly unsupportive of the history of unauthorised works on this site, and the constant cycle of retrospective applications to regularise unauthorised and substantial harm to a group of interconnected historic buildings.
We maintain that the scale, extent, and continuous progress of unauthorised works across the site is unacceptable. We are strongly concerned by the pattern of ‘works first, permission later’ in which it is assumed that a planning application can be submitted after works have already gone ahead, in many cases resulting in irreversible harm to historic fabric and significance.
This continued, intentional transgression of planning controls should NOT be allowed to continue and we urge strong enforcement action to be taken against this series of planning breaches where development has already resulted in harm that has unacceptably affected the visual amenity of a group of listed buildings, and its environment and setting within the Green Belt and AONB. The existing land is currently publicly accessible via PRoWs BA2/9 BA2/11, and BA2/12 and is visible in mid- to long-range views from the south. In accordance with paragraph 189 of the NPPF, heritage assets (including listed buildings) “are an irreplaceable resource, and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of existing and future generations.” As such, the historic qualities of this group of listed buildings, and the special qualities of its landscape setting, are considered to be within the public interest and worthy of protection through the enforcement process.
Harm to Listed Buildings:
Retrospective works have already substantially altered the character and appearance of the site, resulting in the ongoing detachment of the Barn from its agricultural farm context as well as associated harm to historic fabric.
Our comments remain unchanged in relation to the scale of unauthorised subterranean works to the ground floor, creating a new 4.4m wide extension which nearly doubles the original footprint of the building. The works have already substantially altered the legibility of the Barn’s form and scale as well as resulting in extensive loss of fabric from the northern wall; this is not appropriately excused by the reconstruction of the north wall where this was solely intended to address structural bowing.
The D&A Statement indicates that “permission and consent already exist for the creation of the rear extension”; whilst previous planning permission 12/05579/FUL does include the single storey link building and the creation of a new retaining wall and void along the northern elevation, this does NOT translate to the creation of a new extension along the entirety of the northern retaining wall. Similarly, the insertion of a kitchen in the subterranean extension has NOT been approved, despite claims to the contrary within the application. The D&A Statement goes on to indicate the use of this extension “to make room for servicing” – this is also erroneous when the extension in the proposed plans is clearly shown to be predominantly in domestic use, including an extension to the kitchen, home cinema, study, coat room, as well as a total of three bathrooms. The MVHR services are comparably accommodated within a small portion of the extension and runs via a narrow channel along the northern wall of the new extension. The floor plans as proposed therefore clearly demonstrate that the building’s servicing requirements would have been satisfactorily met with the previously permitted void space, and the extension as-built is not adequately justified by the cited servicing demand.
We maintain the use of Crittall-style windows are out of keeping with the Barn’s agricultural appearance, although we recognise a number of these have been superseded in plans with the use of single pane glazing.
We are supportive of works to remove the unauthorised set of double doors from the eastern elevation of the Cross Barn and reinstate the original “arrow slot” window, where this has already visually unbalanced the elevation and detracted from the principal historic midstrey opening into this part of the building. However, as this alteration remains unauthorised and has been previously recommended for reversal or else refusal by the conservation officer (see Amended Conservation Comments dated 28/06/2022, 22/01210/FUL), this intervention is expected to be corrected regardless of the outcome of this application. We do not consider it to be for the reversal of harmful, unauthorised works to be attributed any planning weight as a potential ‘benefit’.
There are ongoing, strong concerns regarding the treatment and enclosure of the Piggery building, formerly an open-sided animal shelter, which we don’t feel have been suitably addressed by the revised proposals. The Piggery has already been infilled with solid concrete block walls behind the historic, tapered columns to create a new bedroom and studio space, entirely contrary to its previously open and permeable appearance. Previous planning permission 12/05579/FUL proposed the partial glazed infill of the Piggery as a studio and pool room, but notably largely retaining an open pergola-style form facilitating a north-south route through the garden. The revised proposals, whilst making an effort to improve the building’s permeability through the addition of glazing and a token “sheltered seating” area, would fundamentally remain an almost-entirely enclosed, domestic building, at odds with the building’s historic form, appearance, and function. The addition of a sixth bedroom to an already high-capacity 5-bed dwelling is not considered to be justified or contribute any additional benefit to outweigh existing harm to a listed building.
We continue to emphasise that works have already had a cumulatively substantial adverse impact on the interconnected group value and appearance of the farm complex, and its contribution to its wider landscape setting. The development of the Barn and its adjoining outbuildings remains out of scale with its historically recessive agrarian relationship to the Farm House. Where works have already resulted in harm, we do NOT consider the fact that works have already been executed to be a valid justification for that harm. Unauthorised alterations to the listed building should be reversed to accord with the original 2012 consent.
Harm to Landscape Setting:
We maintain strong concerns with the continued development creep of this site, including the increasing ‘sprawl’ of alterations to the Barn as well as considerable landscape alterations and earth works within the Green Belt and AONB. Part of the value of this historic farm site is derived from its self-contained form and appearance and its isolated setting in Bath’s rural landscape. As such, it is clearly legible as an agricultural settlement with strong ties to its setting. We maintain concerns with continuing overdevelopment on the site, resulting in the over-domestication of the farm buildings and detriment to wider landscape views and character.
This application includes proposals for land reprofiling works to the south-east “to redistribute areas of temporary storage of spoil more evenly”, where unauthorised landscaping works and spoil distribution have already affected the height and steepness of surrounding land, and its appearance in landscape views. It is likely that this has already resulted in an undocumented impact on the ecological value of the site; the existing condition of the south-east field has not been adequately considered or detailed as part of the submitted Ecology Survey, nor is there any consideration of any biodiversity net loss that has already occurred within the total calculations.
It remains unclear as to why the existing spoil could not be removed from the site, rather than being redistributed, to reinstate original land levels.
The Ecology Summary further indicates that “it is proposed to retain the temporary access track which was installed during the initial development phase to provide access for habitat management.” The track is currently unauthorised, running along the eastern side of the development site through an area of woodland, and is not referenced anywhere else in the application. From aerial views of the site, there also appears to be a track from the development site onto the north-east field, although this is not referenced at all. We maintain that there is currently insufficient detail regarding these aspects of landscape alterations, with minimal assessment of landscape impact or any associated methodology of how works would be carried out and detailed to ensure a complementary and recessive appearance in wider landscape views. As yet, there is an ongoing disregard for the need to consider the development site within its landscape context and setting, and the cumulative impact works have already had from publicly-experienced vantage points across Charmydown.
The impact of works on landscape character and views has been insufficiently assessed or considered as part of this application and we strongly maintain the need for the submission of an LVIA to adequately consider the joint impact of material and landscaping works on this site. Considering the scale and visibility of development and the impact that it has already had on its landscape setting, the success of remedial landscaping will be critical in better embedding the development site within its context, and softening visual impact through mitigatory measures such as screening planting.
We note some ongoing concerns regarding the impact of development on the route of the established PRoW through the site, where the construction of a new retaining wall has resulted in the rerouting of the PRoW through a proposed area of on-site car parking. It has also been informally indicated that the route of the PRoW further south has been blocked by the installation of a septic tank. We trust that this will be looked into in further detail by the case officer.
The proposed scheme has resulted in cumulatively substantial harm to a group of Grade II buildings, as well as wider harm to the openness of the Green Belt and the contribution of the farm complex to the special character of the Cotswolds AONB. There is no indication that the proposals would achieve the “optimum viable use” of the Barn, beyond the proposals already approved as part of applications 12/05579/FUL & 12/05580/LBA, and therefore the harm fails to be outweighed by demonstrated public benefit. This application is contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, BD1, B4, CP6, D1, D2, D3, HE1, NE2, NE2a, and RE6 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan and should be refused or withdrawn. We urge appropriate enforcement action to be pursued.
We ask that B&NES Council brings planning breaches under control and is able to work constructively with the agents and applicants to repair the landscape and that any permissions granted are compliance checked at regular intervals.