The Granary, Southstoke Lane, South Stoke

Outline application for B1 commercial development (All matters except access reserved).
Our Response

This application concerns the agricultural Manor Farm Buildings situated to the west of South Stoke village. It is located within the Bath and Bristol Green Belt, the Cotswolds AONB, and the indicative landscape setting of the Bath World Heritage site. Whilst it sits along the outside boundary of the South Stoke conservation area, it remains a built-up site in a prominent position overlooking the village, and consequently has a significant visual impact on the rural, low density setting of South Stoke, and remains a material indicator of the area’s previous agricultural function. Access to the site remains through Southstoke Lane, one of the “narrow steep sided lanes” that strongly contribute to South Stoke’s “close-grained” rural character.

Several buildings to the south-east of the site have already been redeveloped to a B1 usage, referred to as the Sulis Down Business Village, under applications 06/03235/FUL and 16/05985/FUL, with the provision of 61 parking spaces on-site. This already constitutes a significant development of agricultural buildings within the Green Belt.

Following consideration of this application, BPT objects to the scheme for the following reasons:

We remain concerned regarding the supposed suitability of the existing agricultural buildings for conversion and use; constructions such as the slurry pit will undoubtedly be unfit for conversion, and will require demolition and reconstruction. The construction of new buildings is deemed inappropriate within the Green Belt in accordance with Paragraph 143 of the NPPF, and replacement is only permitted so long as “the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces”. Despite the agricultural buildings’ low historic or aesthetic significance in their own right, the Trust maintains that they have become and remain a distinct part of the agricultural landscape; their replacement will not be deemed acceptable, and will constitute harm to the rural character of the Green Belt and AONB. This application therefore needs to demonstrate a clear, considered plan as to how these buildings will be materially repurposed before this scheme can be considered feasible.

We continue to feel that a development of this scale will implicitly result in harm to the Green Belt and AONB due to a change and of use and activity within the area, and a change in boundary treatment around the site. The intensified use of the site will have a knock-on impact on the appearance and character of the area, with elements such as an increase in cars, noise and light pollution, external changes to the building envelope, and a changed footprint of landscaping degrading the existing rural beauty and atmosphere of the area.

The additional, predicted increase of parking will have a severe impact on the openness and natural appearance of the AONB and Green Belt. Due to the site’s provision of 3042 square meters of floor space, the applicant has estimated a need of 101 parking spaces that will likely result in the conversion of the green land to the north of the site into hard standing, resulting in direct visual, material, and functional harm to the Green Belt.

Furthermore, due to the site’s continued access via Southstoke lane, the proposed redevelopment of the site, and increased activity will be of detriment to the character and setting of the South Stoke conservation area as noted in the South Stoke Conservation Area Appraisal. The existing lane is narrow and limited in its capacity. The proposed increase in traffic volume will place undue pressure on the conservation area with a severe impact on resident amenity and safety, contrary to Paragraph 127 of the NPPF, and Policies D4 and D6 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan. The Trust further maintains that any future applications for alterations to the lane such as widening, the removal of walls, or the removal of trees and hedgerows to be wholly inappropriate due to the resulting harm on the AONB and the rural character of the conservation area, as well as the setting of several Grade II buildings. Consequently, any development must be tailored to the existing capacity of the area to ensure that the area’s heritage and landscape assets are preserved, which this scheme fails to do.

Ultimately, the Trust is unable to support this application due to the fragmentation of the scheme. We cannot accurately assess the development’s suitability for the site without the inclusion of aspects such as appearance, landscaping, scale, and density, details that have been earmarked for future reserved matters. We maintain that the principle of B1 development on this site is unsuitable and inappropriate due to the harm caused to the appearance and character of the Green Belt, AONB, and the setting of the South Stoke conservation area and Bath World Heritage site through the increase of traffic, the construction of parking on a greenfield site, and potentially unsuitable material changes to the existing agricultural buildings.

We would strongly recommend that any future applications should be fully detailed with regards to proposed material works on site, and should include a scheme of suitably considered mitigatory measures, before BPT can comprehensively consider the feasibility of this scheme.
This application is therefore harmful to the agricultural character, openness and undeveloped appearance of the Green Belt and AONB, the setting and characteristic features of the conservation area, and the OUV of the World Heritage site’s landscape setting. We consider the proposed volume of the site to constitute overdevelopment due to incongruity with the scale of the access route to the site, and the area’s village setting. We do not feel that this application constitutes the “special circumstances” requested by Paragraph 143 of the NPPF that will permit development in the Green Belt. This application is therefore contrary to Section 12, 13, 15, and 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, B4, CP6, D1, D2, D6, HE1, NE2, NE2A, CP8, and GB3 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should be refused or withdrawn.

Application Number: 19/05556/OUT
Application Date: 30/12/2019
Closing Date: 21/01/2020
Address: The Granary, Southstoke Lane, South Stoke
Our Submission Status: Object