Officers clarified that the Application had been brought to the Planning Committee for consideration at the request of Councillor K. J. May, Ward Councillor.
Officers reported that since publishing the agenda papers, one representation had been received in support of the proposal, as detailed in the published Committee Update, copies of which were provided to Members and published on the Council’s website prior to the commencement of the meeting.
Officers presented the report and in doing so drew Members’ attention to the existing and proposed floor plan presentation slides, as detailed on page 67 of the main agenda report.
The application site related to a two storey detached building with single storey additions. The site was to the south west side of the Stourbridge Road, in a very elevated position. The site was also relatively isolated with adjoining fields to the east. The nearest defined settlement in the Bromsgrove District Plan (BDP) was Belbroughton.
The proposal comprised of a single storey flat roof extension to the south side of the building. This would create a new rectangular dining room which would be attached by a glazed corridor link. The internal layout of the existing building would also be slightly altered, in order to provide a disabled toilet.
Officers further drew Members’ attention to the height of the dining room extension and the proposed glazed corridor link, as detailed on page 56 of the main agenda report.
The site lay within the Green Belt and therefore the key consideration with this application was whether the proposal would constitute appropriate development within the Green Belt and the impact to the openness of the Green Belt.
Members were further informed that, Policy BDP4 of the Bromsgrove District Plan (BDP) similarly allowed for proportionate extensions to buildings within the Green Belt, however, distinguishes between residential buildings and non-residential buildings. Whilst a proportionate extension to a dwelling was considered to be up to 40% over and above the original, a proportionate extension to a non-residential building was not defined by a numerical figure. Policy PDP4(d) stated that extension to non-residential buildings should be proportionate and that the potential impact to the openness and purposes of the Green Belt should be taken into account. It further stated that proposals that could demonstrate significant benefits to the local economy and/or community would be considered favourably.
Officers drew Members’ attention to the calculations that had been undertaken, which highlighted that the existing extensions approximately totalled a 77% increase over and above the original building. The proposed extensions would increase the building by a further 64 sqm, resulting in extensions totalling a 115% increase above the original building, as detailed on page 57 of the main agenda report.
As the proposal would not be proportionate and would have a detrimental impact to the openness, the proposal would comprise inappropriate development within the Green Belt. Paragraphs 147 and 148 of the NPPF stated that inappropriate development within the Green Belt was harmful by definition and should not be approved unless very special circumstances existed.
Officers drew Members’ attention to the ‘Very Special Circumstances’ information submitted by the applicant, as detailed on pages 58 and 59 of the main agenda report.
Officers highlighted that with regard to the considerations of the ‘Very Special Circumstances’ submitted by the applicant, the proposal would likely result in some economic benefits to the business and to other local businesses and employment of staff. However, the purported failure of the business going forward had not been submitted by empirical factual evidence. Despite the Local Planning Authority requesting that a financial viability report be submitted, the applicant had advised that no such report would be commissioned for consideration.
Officers further drew Members’ attention to the Design and Appearance, as detailed on page 59 of the main agenda report.
At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr. G. Moss the Applicant’s agent and Mr. S. Miah, the Applicant addressed the Committee. Councillor M. A. Sherrey, Ward Councillor also addressed the Committee.
The Committee then considered the Application, which officers had recommended to be refused.
In response to questions from Members, officers clarified, that as detailed in the main agenda report; Policy BDP4 of the BDP stated that whilst a proportionate extension to a residential dwelling was considered to be up to 40% over and above the original, a proportionate extension to a non-residential building was not defined by a numerical figure.
Some Members commented that the glazed finish of the proposed extension would not harm the openness of the Green Belt.
Members debated the possible reasons as to why the Applicant, during a difficult time for businesses with the Covid-19 pandemic, had not submitted a financial viability report. Some Members further commented that businesses were on the brink due to the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore Members had some understanding as to why the Applicant had chosen not to submit a financial viability report. However, the Applicant was still willing to invest in the business, as explained during their address to the Committee; that the proposed extension would enable the Applicant to increase the number of covers to 96 at the premises whilst still maintaining post Covid-19 restrictions in respect of social distancing.
During the debate, Councillor P. J. Whittaker proposed an alternative recommendation that the Application being deferred until a financial viability report was submitted by the Applicant, this was subsequently withdrawn by Councillor P. J. Whittaker.
Members highlighted that the Council’s current position, with the Covid-19 pandemic, was to support local businesses wherever possible.
In response to further questions from Members with regard to a financial viability report not being submitted; officers stated that financial viability reports were not confidential information and would be public information if submitted.
Having considered the officer’s detailed report, the information provided by the public speakers, Members commented that the proposed development, in their opinion, was inappropriate development within the Green Belt. However, having had regard to the comments as detailed in the main agenda report, Members agreed that the proposal would result in some economic benefits and a need to encourage economic development; and that this would equate to very special circumstances. Members were also mindful that the Council had made a declaration to support local businesses, where possible, following the Covid-19 pandemic.
In response to queries from Members with regard to adding a Condition that should the business fail, that any commercial use to residential use be removed; officers explained that Conditions needed to be reasonable, relevant and proportionate.
There followed a further brief debate on appropriate Conditions. Members were in agreement that the application be approved.
RESOLVED that Planning Permission be granted, subject to relevant Conditions and Informatives as appropriate.
At this stage in the meeting due to IT technical issues and with the agreement of the Chairman the meeting stood adjourned from 18:54pm to 18:59pm accordingly.