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Dear Mr Wager

P204242 Warham Court Farm, Breinton, Hereford HR4 7PF. Demolition of existing barns within the grounds of a Listed Building. Proposed new farm shop and cafe and office accommodation buildings with associated car parking area.

Breinton Parish Councillors considered this application at their meeting (via Zoom) on 13 January 2021 and unanimously agreed to OBJECT to the proposed development. The council’s grounds for objection can be grouped under the following headings:

Economic benefit

The application signals a major intensification and change of use at the site for which no Business Case has been provided in justification of economic benefit as would normally be expected with such a large-scale application. The small amount of economic information given partial; for instance, 13 new FT or PT employees are claimed; yet no indication of hours of business or of opening hours for the proposed shop and café is given to support these numbers. The business proposal does not appear to have any firm foundations which raises the prospect that it will ultimately fail.

There are known to be many vacant sites available for both retail and SME business or office use in nearby Hereford city, far better located with transport links and facilities for employees and customers. The application’s Design and Access Statement principles include: “…satisfy the exclusive commercial requirements for the area.” Councillors are assured that there is no current demand in the parish for business units of the kind proposed, let alone the requirement for 60 parking spaces (almost 50% of those provided at Hereford’s Aldi supermarket!). Moreover, the parish already contains the popular Breinton Manor Farm Shop which provides its own locally sourced produce without the need for many delivery vehicles; and, by its boundary, the café/restaurant at Blue Diamond (formally Wyevale) Garden Centre. The long-established and thriving Oakchurch Farm Shop is also easily accessible from Breinton or Hereford, in its case appropriately sited by being adjacent to the A438 main road.

This application fails to comply with the following Breinton NDP and Core Strategy policies:

  • Breinton NDP Policy B4 which does not support the re-use of buildings for office space.
  • provides for “the re-use or conversion of existing buildings for uses appropriate to the tranquil and unpolluted open countryside”.
  • Core Strategy Policy RA5 (Re-use of rural buildings) para 5 which only permits development where “the building is capable of accommodating the proposed new use without the need for substantial alteration or extension, ancillary buildings, areas of hard standing or (…) have a detrimental impact on its surroundings and landscape setting.”
  • Core Strategy Policy RA6 (Rural Economy) which permits applications where they: “ensure that the development is of a scale which would be commensurate with its location and setting”; “do not cause unacceptable adverse impacts to the amenity of nearby residents”; “do not generate traffic movements that cannot safely be accommodated within the local road network.” (See also under ‘Transport and Highways’ below)

Environmental sustainability

The Design & Access Statement claims sustainable development principles for the application. However, councillors see little evidence of these: there is no provision (eg covered shelter for cyclists, and no mention of solar panels or sustainable waste facilities, and no proposals for drainage from the site, reedbed sewage system or “connection to a package sewage system treatment works” (stated as required in preference to septic tanks by Core Strategy Policy SD4), or flood mitigation.

The proposed use of hard surfacing and paviours (paving stones) instead of more permeable materials would only further exacerbate the many existing drainage problems, including regular pluvial runoff onto highways, at various other locations on the farm.

Despite Herefordshire Council’s Environmental Health & Trading Standards officer’s response of no objections “from a noise and nuisance perspective” there is no mention in the application or in the EHO’s response, of food safety issues that would arise by siting the proposed shop and café in relatively close proximity to the slurry pit to the west of the sheds. Cross contamination by flies, vermin, etc from the livestock buildings and their associated waste does not appear to have been considered as part of the application.

British Standard Summaries BS5502: Part 82: 1997 Building and Structures for Agriculture.

Design of Amenity Buildings states “Amenity buildings and farm shops should be sited away from fuel and flammable liquid stores, livestock waste stores and pits,  farm stores and, preferably, away from noisy plant and equipment.” []

Since there is no mains/public sewer at the site the applicant proposes a septic tank facility, and we await comments from Natural Resources Wales, as requested by Welsh Water in its response to the application. With the expectation, in parking provision, of 60 vehicles – up to 150 people or more on site at any one time – as well as other visitors (on foot or cycle) such a scale of proposed development should necessitate connection to the public sewerage system. Which, as Welsh Water states in its representation “is preferred.” Given the land gradients, any overflow would potentially lead to pollution of surface water or groundwater with a consequent impact on the nearby River Wye SAC to the south of the site.

The impact upon existing trees is unclear since the plans, application form and Design & Access statement are not consistent. It appears that up to four trees could be removed potentially reducing local amenity.

The proposed development falls short in all sustainability respects of the recent (2019) declarations in recognition of Climate Emergency by Herefordshire Council and Breinton Parish Council, whose policies must now reflect this new reality.

The application fails to comply with the following Breinton NDP and Core Strategy policies:

  • NDP Policy B13, which provides for “the re-use or conversion of existing buildings for uses appropriate to the tranquil and unpolluted open countryside.”
  • Core Strategy Policy SS5, which states: “The diversification of the business base, through the development of (…) business hubs (…) will be facilitated where they do not have an adverse impact on the community or local environment.”  It is manifestly clear that this application “is not appropriate to the tranquil and unpolluted open countryside” and would have “an adverse impact on the community and the local environment” of Breinton.
  • Core Strategy Policy RA5 (para 4.8.38) which states: “Many rural buildings, particularly those previously used for agricultural purposes, provide valuable wildlife habitats including for legally protected species such as bats and barn owls. Applications for planning permission for the re-use of these buildings will need to demonstrate that an appropriate wildlife survey has been carried out and will be required to make adequate provision for wildlife mitigation and enhancement measures within their design and setting.”  No such wildlife survey has been undertaken as part of this application.
  • Core Strategy Policy RA6  permits applications only where they: “ensure that the development is of a scale which would be commensurate with its location and setting”; “do not cause unacceptable adverse impacts to the amenity of nearby residents.”
  • Core Strategy Policy SD3/5 requires that “development includes appropriate sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) to manage surface water appropriate to the hydrological setting of the site. Development should not result in an increase in runoff and should aim to achieve a reduction in the existing runoff rate and volumes.” SD3/10 states that “in particular, proposals do not adversely affect water quality (…) through unacceptable pollution of surface water or groundwater.”

Transport and Highways

The scale of this proposed development, and the increase in traffic movements consequent to approval of such a car-based application – including as it does 60 car park spaces at a small rural farm – are entirely unsuited to the local road network of Breinton. Any approach by road to Warham Court Farm entails use of this constrained network which consists entirely of narrow, twisting single-track, U and C class lanes with an extremely limited number of metalled passing places and numerous blind bends. The Design and Access statement says that the ‘existing residential amenity and character of the surrounding area will be safeguarded’. Warham is rural not residential, such housing as exists being scattered. There are no heights given in any of the elevations provided so it is impossible to accurately assess what if any visual intrusion might result, or what the impact of the roof lines, pitch or mass of the new buildings might be on local character.

To the delight of the parish council these lanes are used every day by an ever-increasing number of walkers, joggers, horse riders and cyclists from the local area, including many from the city for whom Breinton has always been the nearest and most accessible unspoiled countryside within easy walking distance. The Design and Access statement is incorrect: the amenity value for both local residents and our many visitors will be significantly damaged by heavy traffic to and from the farm. There will be increased danger and risk to personal safety across the parish road network.   

The limited traffic capacity of the local network is already stretched as a result both of other recent housing developments in the area and its regular use by large agricultural vehicles: In addition to visitor traffic all supplies to the proposed café and shop – except the farm’s own produce, currently limited to beef and potatoes – would need to ‘trucked in’ for delivery. Waste will also need to be collected. The impact of all these numerous extra vehicle movements that would inevitably arise from the development render this application totally unsuited to its location. Given the location, most of the proposed employees would need to travel by car and commercial office workers are unlikely to walk to work. Such vehicles will occupy parking spaces as well as add to the shopping traffic. There are very few locations in Breinton where the highways network could accommodate such a development: Warham Court Farm is certainly not one of them.

The application fails to comply with the following Breinton NDP and Core Strategy policies:

  • NDP Policy B10 requires that “The quiet and rural character of the existing routes (shown on Fig 1 of the Plan)…will be protected. Development proposals affecting these routes will be expected to demonstrate the following: a) the needs of route users have been taken in to account in the design of the development.”
  • Core Strategy Policy SS4 states that “new developments should be designed and located to minimise the impacts on the transport network; ensuring that journey times and the safe operation of the network are not detrimentally impacted. (…) Developments will be required to demonstrate that they can be made sustainable by reducing unsustainable transport patterns and promoting travel by walking, cycling and public transport.”
  • Core Strategy Policy MT1 requires development proposals to “demonstrate that the strategic and local highway network can absorb the traffic impacts of the development or that traffic impacts can be managed to acceptable levels to reduce and mitigate any adverse impacts from the development;” and to “encourage active trael behaviour to reduce numbers of short distance car journeys through the use of travel plans and other promotional and awareness-raising activities.”
  •   permits applications only where they: “ensure that the development is of a scale which would be commensurate with its location and setting”; “do not cause unacceptable adverse impacts to the amenity of nearby residents”; “do not generate traffic movements that cannot safely be accommodated within the local road network”.

Councillors also have concerns on the following more general matters:

Planning History: P163943 (2017) & P161280 (2016)  

There can be absolutely no ‘read-across’ from these previous applications at the same site, which were approved in 2016/7 but not fully undertaken. The council contests any assumptions that earlier approval – for a quite different proposed development – could apply to the current application. Specific material planning and highways differences between then and now include the following:

  • Parking spaces which were previously 4 (by the proposed farm shop) and 19 (in the car park, including 6 for disabled users) represented no business-induced increase: 60 are now proposed.
  • The Farm Shop was approved in 2016/7, under Condition 3, as exclusively ancillary to the Community Farm’s activities. This is now no longer the case.
  • Two barns that were subject to 2016/7 change of use approval are now to be demolished.
  • A different barn (west and to the rear of now-proposed shop) was to have been demolished and replaced by a small shop. This barn, outside the current application, will remain.
  • The cowshed, now proposed for conversion into commercial offices, was not part of either earlier application.

Hereford Community Farm

Councillors were dismayed to learn that the applicant’s tenant, the much-valued charitable Hereford Community Farm, which has been active since 2013 at Warham Court Farm providing therapeutic support for vulnerable and disabled people, was not notified of any impending application and has not been consulted by the applicant. The retrospective change of use for some, previously redundant agricultural, buildings is the only part of the previous applications which was actually implemented. The Community Farm has always been supported by the Parish Council, but approval of this application would inevitably entail its closure, with an immeasurable loss to its clients and their families. 

Misleading inconsistencies in the application

The documents submitted show a tendency towards a casual attention to detail:

  • Application Form #20 states that the “existing gross internal floorspace” of the shop, café and restaurant is 519m2.  In fact, none of these exist. Despite the Design and Access Statement asserting there will be “little if any increase in footprint” the Application Form states the new floorspace will be 621m2 – an increase of 20%. Design and Access Statement 5.0 and 7.0 also both state ‘no change’ in scale of proposals compared to existing footprint.
  • Application Form #23 asks “Does this proposal involve the carrying out of industrial or commercial activities and processes?”. The answer given is ‘no’: in which case what are the business units/office accommodation and shop?
  • Design and Access Statement 2.2 cites charitable endeavours: these endeavours would no longer  exist or be able to function if the proposals for car parking on the current Community Farm classroom site were to be approved and delivered.

In summary, this application is not sustainable, is not appropriate for its location, and is not of a scale commensurate with the constraints of the local road network. The economic benefits claimed by the applicant are at best sketchy. There are however many clear disbenefits: it is not possible to claim an economic benefit, in the ‘planning balance’ over the negative social and environmental impacts of this application.

The application does not comply with the following nine planning policies:

Breinton Neighbourhood Development Plan: B4, B10 and B13

Local Plan Core Strategy: SS4, SS5, RA5, RA6, MT1 and SD3

Breinton Parish Council therefore OBJECTS to this application.

Kind regards

Emily Godsall

Clerk, Breinton Parish Council