Field On Corner With Ferndale Road, Deadmill Lane, Lower Swainswick, Bath
The proposed site of development is the field adjacent to Deadmill Lane, situated within the Green Belt and World Heritage Site. It borders both the Cotswolds AONB to the immediate north, and the Bath conservation area to the immediate south, and consequently forms part of their contextual setting. The site remains an important green and open space within the Larkhall character area that demarcates the rural boundary of Bath, and its steep sloping position to the south makes it a visually prominent feature and an important open space that frames and enhances views both into and out of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. The site forms part of a “marked transition to a more rural character” (Larkhall Character Statement, 1998) and a tangible connection with the steep, undeveloped hillsides to the north and north-east as part of Larkhall’s significant landscape context and setting along Bath’s peripheral fringe.
The site is additionally associated with Dead Mill, a localised Non-Designated Heritage Asset (NDHA) of distinctive aesthetic, evidential, and historic character, the significance of which is accentuated by its retained rural setting and undeveloped, green space along Deadmill Lane.
A previous scheme for two detached 5-bed dwellings on the site came forward in 2022 and was subsequently refused on grounds of inappropriate development in the Green Belt which would, by definition, result in harm to its openness and character, as well as insufficient assessment of impact on local landscape character (see 22/01220/FUL). Development was also considered to have an adverse impact on the setting of the conservation area and the NDHA Dead Mill.
BPT maintains an in-principle objection to the development of this site, where this would constitute inappropriate development of the Green Belt and continued harm to the setting of the conservation area and the World Heritage Site, as well as the historic setting of Deadmill Lane.
Considering the continued, limited offer of two market-value houses on the site, we maintain that any consequential public benefit should be attributed very limited public benefit against the continued detrimental impact to the openness and character of the Green Belt. This is in line with the previous findings of the case officer (see 22/01220/FUL Delegated Report) where public benefit was concluded to be “limited” due to “the location of development is not supported in principle”, as well as already having a 5-year housing land supply secured.
In response to previous application 22/01220/FUL, the case officer concluded that the proposed development of two dwellings on the site would not meet the B&NES definition of infilling, and as such would continue to be viewed as inappropriate development within the Green Belt: “Whilst the site is arguably surrounded by development on three sides […] it does not form part of an extensively built-up frontage. The existing site is part of a wider green buffer, which frames the edge of the urban fringes of Bath. It is read as the transition between the urban area, into the countryside and is experienced as such on the ground. Officers therefore do not considered that this site represents infilling in the Green Belt.”
The D&A Statement makes reference to a permitted scheme on a site off Bailbrook Lane (see 14/02756/FUL), with regards to comparisons on the proposed design approach and impact on landscape character. Where the applicant identifies that the Bailbrook Lane site is not located within the Green Belt, we find the comparison with the site at Deadmill Lane to be erroneous where there are different policy and framework requirements pertaining to the preservation of the openness of the Green Belt, in accordance with Section 13 of the NPPF. The contextual setting of the site is also very different; situated to the south of Bailbrook Lane, the site is cut off from the open countryside to the north by the lane, with adjacent development bordering to the east west, and the far south along London Road. A planning decision on development on this site was also informed by the Inspector’s override of a refusal to application 12/00637/FUL, which had to be attributed significant weight. The planning decision taken in relation to the Bailbrook Lane site should not therefore be considered a precedent or comparative model in relation to the current scheme, where there is also a requirement to judge the application on its own merits.
Policy D7 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan defines infill development as “the filling of a small gap in an otherwise built-up frontage, usually consisting of frontage plots only.” The applicant has gone on to define a built-up frontage as “a continuous line of buildings or other built forms, including walls and fences that present a unified architectural frontage to a street or public space” in accordance with the London Plan. We acknowledge that there may be considered to be “a continuous line of buildings” to the south and south-east of the site along Ferndale Road, which to some degree marks the boundary of terraced development along this part of Bath’s residential periphery. However, residential development along the western portion of Deadmill Lane is increasingly fragmented and interspersed by green planting, or set back from the roadside. Development is an eclectic mix of later additions and is not considered to constitute a “unified architectural frontage”, or a continuous line of development.
We reiterate that this site constitutes a significant green intervention within the streetscape with considerable separation between the existing developments on either side of the plot. It is also considered to be an example of “fingers of green countryside which stretch right into the city” (WHS Management Plan 2016-2022), acting as part of a green corridor between the Larkhall character area and its open landscape setting to the north. Development on this site would introduce a larger, residential built form along the eastern boundary of the lane, which as existing is clearly legible as an open, undeveloped space. We do not consider that development would meet the definition of infill development, and would not read as an addition to an already built-up street frontage. Development would instead fail to “[have] regard to the character and quality of the surrounding townscape” and would be contrary to the character of the area, and as such would be contrary to local Policy D7.
Where the applicant refers to the existing presence of the bakehouse structure, we note that the structure as existing is a small-scale and recessive addition to the site, which in its current form may be summarised as a lean-to attached to the boundary wall that delineates the western boundary of the site and the eastern edge of Deadmill Lane. In public views, the bakehouse is barely distinguishable from the roadside boundary wall, with views limited to the slope of the corrugated metal roof. From this perspective, the presence of the bakehouse is clearly not comparable to the scale of development proposed. Where the applicant has interpreted the site to constitute Previously Developed Land (PDL) where the bakehouse is considered to be a “permanent structure” that “was once an active establishment under class A or B use.” Should we assume that this definition of PDL is correct, although this assertion is insufficiently evidenced, this would fall within paragraph 149(g) of the NPPF:
“limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed land, whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings), which would: ‒ not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt than the existing development; or ‒ not cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt, where the development would re-use previously developed land and contribute to meeting an identified affordable housing need within the area of the local planning authority.”
Where the bakehouse would be replaced with two new detached dwellings, this would result in a significant increase in the built form and massing across the site and would clearly have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt than the existing development. There is no indication that the development would contribute to meeting an identified affordable housing need and as such would result in harm to the openness and appearance of the Green Belt, without demonstration of special circumstances or outweighing public benefits. Proposals are considered to be inappropriate development in the Green Belt, contrary to Section 13 of the NPPF.
There is insufficient demonstration that development would result in “no net loss and appropriate net gain of biodiversity”, contrary to Policies NE3 & NE3a. No biodiversity net gain calculations have been included as part of the submitted Biodiversity Plan. Where biodiversity enhancement measures are proposed, there is little evidence that this would suitably mitigate for the loss of ecological value resulting from the built footprint of development as well as an associated change in land use from agricultural to domestic.
We reiterate that the previous reasons for refusal have not been addressed, and this application should be refused on the same grounds as previous. This application is contrary to Sections 12, 13, 15, and 16 of the NPPF, Policies DW1, B1, B4, BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, HE1, NE2, NE2a, NE3, NE3a, CP8, GB1, and RA4 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and Objective 2 of the Core Strategy, and should be refused. We continue to emphasise the unsuitability of the site for future residential use.