The Senior Planning Officer presented the report and referred to the slides that had previously been circulated to the Committee. He stated that drone footage showing the site and wider landscape was available. He recommended approval of this application subject to the conditions as set out in the report.
Martin Leay (supporting)
Councillor T FitzPatrick, the local Member, considered that the plans were very imaginative and that the proposal met the criteria in the NPPF. He referred to the history of outstanding buildings in North Norfolk. He considered that the proposed development would fit in well with the surrounding area and there was a real opportunity to provide employment and develop skilled craftsmen and tradesmen. He was happy to support this application and had received no objections to it.
Councillor Mrs A Fitch-Tillett considered that the building was truly outstanding, and that the development was sensitive within the landscape, had taken wildlife into consideration and there was a superb emphasis on carbon neutrality. She proposed approval of this application as recommended.
With the approval of the Chairman, Councillor P Heinrich asked Mr Leay how many apprentices would be employed and how the proposal would benefit the local community.
Mr Leay stated that there would be one apprentice working with the contractors, and that the building would be seen as an exemplar of new construction following the best traditions of traditional architecture, and the trades working on the building would afterwards apply those skills in the wider locality.
Councillor Heinrich requested that the drone footage be shown as he was unsure how the development would relate to the enhancement of the surrounding landscape and biodiversity.
The Head of Planning referred Members to the sections of the Officer’s report relating to landscape and biodiversity.
The Senior Planning Officer presented the drone footage and indicated the site, the main features of the landscape and explained where the building and landscaping would sit in the wider landscape.
Councillor Heinrich stated that this was an application for a new house in the Countryside, which would have been rejected if paragraph 79(e) of the NPPF did not apply. He considered there would be no great benefit to the community beyond one apprentice and additional skills for existing workers. There was no contribution towards community facilities or affordable housing. He considered that the proposed building was a pastiche of neo-Classical style. He stated that there were many large country houses in the area, and he questioned the need for another. He had considered carefully the national guidance, Inspectors’ reports and Court cases relating to development of this nature, and he considered that it was a matter of interpretation of paragraph 79(e), which was not prescriptive. In his opinion the design was not innovative, although it was arguable that the proposal achieved a higher standard of architecture. He considered that the proposed dwelling would not raise design standards in the area as it was an individual property and typical of North Norfolk estates. He was not convinced that the proposal was really sensitive to the defining characteristics of the area. He accepted that it would enhance the landscape with a parkland setting and improvements to the wider area. He stated that he would have been more inclined to support the application if it had been a modern, innovative design in architecture and landscaping for the 21st Century but he was not convinced by the current proposal.
Councillor P Bütikofer referred to paragraph 78 of the NPPF relating to sustainability. He considered that this proposal did not follow paragraph 78 as it was a single dwelling. He referred to a Planning Inspector’s report relating to isolated homes in the Countryside.
The Head of Planning explained that proposals did not need to comply with paragraph 78 if they were considered to be in compliance with paragraph 79(e), which required the site to be in an isolated location.
Councillor A Brown accepted that the bar had been set at a high standard, but did not consider that it was high enough for a scheme that had been put forward on outstanding design quality instead of innovation. He did not consider that the building as proposed would meet the requirement to raise the standard of design more generally. He referred to the statement that the proposal would significantly enhance its immediate setting, and questioned the meaning of ‘immediate setting’, which had not been defined. Given that the property would be well camouflaged from the road, he could not see how the public would benefit from its architecture unless the grounds were open to the public. He referred to the comments by Historic England regarding paragraph 8 of the NPPF, which required net gains for social, economic and environmental objectives. He considered that the only objective that could be met by this scheme was the economic objective, although he had concerns as a condition could not be imposed to require the engagement of a local apprentice or local contractor. Such a requirement could only be secured by a community benefit agreement which sat outside the planning legislation.
Councillor R Kershaw supported the views of Councillors Brown and Heinrich. He considered that the building was a pastiche, did not take innovation far enough and did not provide benefits for the wider community.
Councillor C Cushing disagreed with the previous speakers. He considered that this was a subjective matter and he could not see that the bar could be raised any higher than the proposed building. He considered that a modern style building would not be in context with the environment. There would be benefits in the enhancement of hedgerows, wildflower meadows and enhancement of the existing field. There would be economic benefit in terms of the amount of work, effort and money that would be put into the local economy to build a house of the style proposed. He considered that this was an outstanding proposal. He seconded Councillor Mrs Fitch-Tillett’s proposal to approve this application as recommended.
The Senior Planning Officer stated that this application had been considered by Historic England and the Council’s own Conservation and Design Team, who agreed that the design could be considered to be truly outstanding. The applicants had sought the opinion of a panel of RIBA experts who had reached the same conclusion. He suggested that a modern, contemporary approach would not be right for the site, and the plan as proposed was in keeping with the ethos of the Holkham Estate.
Councillor A Yiasimi considered that the design was outstanding and the landscape enhancement was excellent. He considered that the lakes alone would attract many birds and other wildlife, and the drone footage had demonstrated a wider benefit.
Councillor N Pearce referred to the lack of objection from consultees. He considered that the proposal was innovative and would provide benefits to wildlife. He considered that the proposal would enhance the District’s heritage.
Councillor A Varley considered that the proposal was exceptional in biodiversity terms and encouraging wildlife. However, he was concerned as to how much working farmland would be lost by the proposal.
The Head of Planning referred to the presentation and the landscape strategy, which contained a landscape masterplan. A significant amount of land would be retained in agricultural use, with other areas being given over to biodiversity, landscaping and the introduction of water features into the landscape. The loss of agricultural land was part of the planning balance.
The Senior Planning Officer added that the area of the site which would be taken up by the house and formal gardens was small. The majority of the site would be taken up by landscaping and landscape enhancements. A large proportion of the site would be retained for agriculture and pasture in addition to the wildflower meadows and aquatic habitats.
Councillor Mrs W Fredericks stated that this was a new build in the countryside, which was unsustainable, away from any shops and towns, and would only benefit the local community by its view. She was concerned as other dwellings had been refused as they were in the countryside and were unsustainable. She considered that this application was contrary to the policies which the Council was trying to uphold.
The Head of Planning reiterated that this proposal was exceptional and should be judged on that basis. It was a matter for the Committee to decide if the building was truly outstanding in terms of its architecture, biodiversity offer and wider landscape benefit. Community benefit did not have significant weight as it stood outside the planning process and could not be part of the planning decision. If the Committee did not accept that the building was truly outstanding it would be necessary to give planning reasons as to why it was not.
The Development Manager reminded the Committee that planning decisions must be made in accordance with the Development Plan, and outlined the local and national policy issues which were applicable in this case.
The proposal to approve this application was put to the vote, with 7 Members voting in favour and 7 against. The Chairman exercised her casting vote in favour of the proposal and it was
That this application be approved in accordance with the recommendation of the Head of Planning.