Agenda item

Planning Application 2019/1577/FUL - Land at Upper Wellesley Lane, Dulcote


2019/1577/FUL - Land at Upper Wellesley Lane, Dulcote


Full application for a proposed new dwelling, new access and associated development.


The Officer’s Report stated that this application had been referred back to the Planning Board following its deferral at the meeting of the Planning Board on 22 April 2020. The Recommendation remained for refusal.


The Report continued that the reason for deferral had been because Members of the Planning Board had been unclear as to whether the applicant had a case for being a rural worker and thus demonstrating an essential need to live in the countryside.  The deferral was to allow the applicant to come back with more information about the exact nature of the business and their reasons for having to live on site.


Since then, the applicant had provided a statement which said that a person would be required to live permanently on site for research purposes together with the day-to-day management of livestock, observing and caring for 30 to 40 cattle/sheep, rising to over 100 units of livestock in the future.  However, the Officer’s Report concluded that no clear evidence had been submitted regarding research methodology, with a specific explanation as to why a person might need to live permanently on site rather than merely carry out the research during normal working hours from the existing site which was only a 20 min journey away.


In conclusion, the Report said that, with respect to the additional information requested by the Mendip Planning Board, there remained no clear justification for the proposed development and the recommendation that the application be refused for the reasons set out in the original Case Officer’s report remained valid.


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


The Committee was then addressed by 5 speakers in support of the application.  Their comments included:


        The application would provide a unique resource nationally, in Somerset, close to many of the current QMMS (Quality Milk Management Services) collaborating farms and had the potential to be of significant value from a research and financial perspective to Somerset.

        There have been many delays in determining the application, namely Phosphates and Covid.

        The benefits of the application would outweigh any harm caused.

        The proposed site, whilst on the edge of a SSSI, had a history of habitation (a well, a septic tank, old footings, various outbuildings and structures) and was significantly degraded.

        Natural England had commented that they considered that securing beneficial management proposals through the application would have a net positive effect on the SSSI and outweigh any loss of a small portion of the site which did not contain interest features. They were not opposed to the application subject to conditions and a S106 agreement.

        The site has been described as remote, but is adjacent to a national cycleway, within easy cycling and walking distance of Wells and within 300 metres of the substantial development of Wellesley Park.

        Although the land was an SSSI it had not been managed sympathetically and with conservation in mind.

        The development site was nationally important and had the potential to safeguard and preserve the SSSI to a very high standard in perpetuity.


The Committee was then addressed by the Division Member for the application.  She said that she supported the application. Despite it being an SSSI, there were mitigating factors which led her to recommend that Members approve the application, contrary to the Officer’s Recommendation. Although there were good reasons for refusal, she was conscious that the farming community had seen this company as being a significant employer looking not only at milk production but also how the land would be sustainably used.


Finally, the Committee was addressed by the applicant. His comments included:


        The development would be behind an existing hedge and no more intrusive than other nearby developments.

        There could be up to 350 livestock on the site which necessitated living on site for observation and assisting with births.

        He estimated 6000 miles of travel from home to this site last year. This time would be better spent stewarding the land.

        Natural England had said the proposed development site contained no special features and the proposal would have a net positive effect.


During the discussion which followed, Members made a number of points, including the following:


        We should not be building in the SSSI. The way the land is managed should not be used as a ‘bargaining chip’.

        Would the bat roost be harmed or moved? The Team Leader – Development Management confirmed that it would remain unharmed.

        The proposed building would be visible in the landscape from the road.

        Policy DP13 is clear on new developments only being permitted where there was a functional need. If this was approved, there could be a legal challenge. The Legal Advisor said that if permission was granted the Council would have to demonstrate the rationale for doing so in light of the 3 strong refusal reasons recommended by the Planning Officer.


Members sought clarification regarding the applicant’s claim of essential need to live on site to support the business. The Legal Advisor explained that the judgement made by the Planning Officer based upon the evidence provided by the applicant was that no essential need had been proven.


The Team Leader – Development Management clarified for Members that the decision must be made in the context of Policy DP13 as to whether the benefits were desirable or essential.


At the conclusion of the debate, it was proposed by Councillor Helen Kay and seconded by Councillor Bente Height that the application be refused in accordance with the Officer’s Recommendation outlined in the Report. On being put to the vote the proposal was carried by 7 votes in favour and 6 votes against.




That planning application 2019/1577/FUL be refused in accordance Officer’s Recommendation.

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