Agenda item

Planning Application 2023/1686/FUL Critchill Farm, Critch Hill, Frome, Somerset

To consider an application for the siting of two timber buildings to form a Father Christmas grotto.

Decision:

That planning application 2023/1686/FUL be APPROVED contrary to the Officer’s recommendation as the site was not considered to be an unsuitable or inappropriate location for the business and the economic benefits of the scheme outweighed the harms identified in the Officers Report. Delegation of conditions was made to Planning Officers in consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chair.

Votes – 8 in favour, 2 against and 1 abstention.

 

Minutes:

Application for the siting of two timber buildings to form Father Christmas grotto.

The Officer’s Report stated that this application had been referred to the Committee as the recommendation of the Planning Officer was contrary to that of the Parish Council. The Chair had therefore requested that the application be brought to the Committee.

 

The application sought planning permission to site two timber buildings, which would be utilised as a Father Christmas grotto. The application was a resubmission of an identical scheme which was refused in July 2023.

 

The site was located approximately 165 meters southwest of the Manor and was accessed via a long drive and an existing car park off Critch Hill / Frome Road which served the various activities taking place on the estate.

 

Selwood Parish Council supported the application for the same reasons given in the previously refused application.

There had been 1 letter of objection from a local resident for reasons including the following:

  • The site was outside the development limits of Frome.
  • The site could be seen from public footpath FR14/78 in both directions, especially in winter.
  • The site was part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

 

There had been 6 letters of support for reasons including the following:

  • The proposed cabins will blend in well with the surroundings.
  • There would not be any noise disturbance.
  • The proposed use would have a smaller impact than the already approved glamping use.
  • Traffic, parking and congestion would not be an issue.

 

The Officer’s Report advised that the site, by virtue of its location, was poorly served by public transport and was not readily accessible by safe pedestrian or cyclist access. Visitors would have to reply on private car transport. It was not considered a suitable or appropriate location for the business, which, in their opinion did not require a countryside location. The application was therefore recommended for refusal.

 

The Planning Officer explained the application to the Committee with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation.

 

The Committee was then addressed by 2 supporters of the proposal. Their comments included:

 

  • The business encourages joint family trips to the site and it supports the existing café on site.
  • Nearly half the visitors are local to the area and combined trips to the grotto with a visit to the town.
  • There was excellent access and car parking.
  • The site was not remote nor in open countryside.
  • Desire to spread joy and happiness in these difficult times.
  • The grotto had a Mrs Claus to help shy children to relax and enjoy the experience.
  • Take the sustainability of the business seriously and give keepsake gifts rather than plastic ones.
  • There was overwhelming support from customers, the Parish Council and existing businesses on site.

 

A speech from a representative of Selwood Parish Council was read out on his behalf as he was unable to join the meeting. His comments included:

  • The grotto is the best in the area.
  • It was very unlikely that visitors would want to walk or cycle to the attraction.
  • Many bookings coincide with school pickup times so would not increase traffic.
  • Urges support of the application.
  • Suggested a restriction could be made on the future use of the buildings.

 

In the brief discussion which followed, Members commented that realistic alternatives to car use to travel to rural attractions were very limited. They felt the delay in bringing the application to the committee was regrettable and wanted to support the small business. They clarified with the Planning Officer whether a restriction on future use could be imposed but were advised that the application was purely to use the buildings as a Father Christmas grotto so it would not be appropriate to make any conditions of future use.

At the conclusion of the debate, it was proposed by Councillor Claire Sully and seconded by Councillor Philip Ham to approve the application contrary to the Officer’s recommendation.

On being put to the vote the proposal was carried with 8 votes in favour 2 votes against and 1 abstention.

RESOLVED

That planning application 2023/1686/FULfor the siting of two timber buildings to form a Father Christmas grottoat Critchill Farm, Critch Hill,Frome be APPROVED contrary to the Officer’s recommendation as the site was not considered to be an unsuitable or inappropriate location for the business and the economic benefits of the scheme outweighed the harms identified in the Officer’s Report. Delegation of conditions was made to Planning Officers in consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chair.

Voting – 8 in favour, 2 against and 1 abstention.

 

Supporting documents: