Monkton Combe School Farm, Brassknocker Hill, Monkton Combe
The Trust accepts that this scheme is subject to a finely balanced planning argument about ‘very special circumstances’ in the Green Belt. We accept the applicant’s argument that the current derelict buildings are harmful to what is a very remarkable view down and across from Brassknocker Hill, and that the modestly conceived and sensitive architecture of the proposed development would likely enhance that view.
Undoubtedly the change of use from agricultural use to housing represents a change in character and means that the scheme cannot be seen as an exception under para 89 of NPPF to new buildings being ‘inappropriate development’, but the proposed housing, while not strictly a conversion of the existing (‘tin shed’) barns, references the ‘barn conversion’ aesthetic. There is also a reduction in the number of structures and built volume from 5 structures to 2 buildings. The creation of two dwellings will undoubtedly intensify the human use (even with sunken gardens and hidden underground garages) but this is countered by the reduction of the eyesores of redundant and end-of-life buildings. As the scheme stands, we find the scheme to be acceptable in design, scale, massing and overall visual site appearance.
In planning terms, we would object to this scheme if it was proposed for an open undeveloped Green Belt site. However we do not perceive that any of the five purposes of Green Belt are adversely affected by this development and in particular the openness of the Green Belt will, in our view, be only marginally affected, in a way that barely constitutes ‘harm’, given that a volume of built form already exists on this developed site. In AONB terms, and compared with the current visual appearance of the site, the beauty of the landscape could feasibly be enhanced by a sensitive scheme that assimilates and sits well with its surroundings. We recognise that this development does not strictly comply with Para 89 of the NPPF as an exceptional case but the developers have been as considerate as possible to the Green Belt setting. We have not seen any evidence that a continuing agricultural use for the site is wanted by any potential users and therefore on balance we are not objecting to the scheme.