BCP Council (Christchurch area): Chris Miell has recently secured planning permission for alterations, extensions and a change of use of an office building to a detached house in the Bargates area of Christchurch in Dorset.
The application site is a backland plot situated to the rear of Christchurch high street, which is served via an existing vehicular access from Bargates. The plot is occupied by an existing single-storey building, which is in use as an office. The office building, which was constructed approximately 15 years ago, has a contemporary appearance with a render and cladding exterior under a flat roof.
In September 2020, prior approval was given by BCP Council to convert the office building into a dwellinghouse as permitted development. The works have not been implemented, but the permission remains extant, and it formed an important fallback position during the determination of the planning application, which helped us to justify the loss of employment function at the application site.
The proposed development, which was designed by ARC Architecture, will see the existing office extended upwards with a new first floor to provide a 2-bedroom dwellinghouse.
The application site has a detailed planning history, including a previous appeal decision, which we dealt with for the landowner. Whilst the appeal was dismissed, the Inspector’s decision paved the way for the recent approval.
In June 2021, the applicant submitted an application to extend the existing office to create a first floor and convert the building into a 2-bedroom house. Planning permission was refused by the local planning authority in August 2021 on three grounds.
The Council’s concerns related to (i) the effect of the development upon the living conditions of the neighbouring occupiers in respect of outlook; (ii) the effect of the development upon the character and appearance of the area; and (iii) whether the proposed development would provide satisfactory living conditions for future occupiers in respect of outdoor amenity space.
We challenged these matters at appeal and demonstrated within our appeal statement that the proposed development would have an acceptable effect upon the character and appearance of the area and the living conditions of occupiers of neighbouring occupiers, whilst providing satisfactory living conditions for future occupiers of the proposed development. Accordingly, we argued that the proposal was compliant with the development plan and the NPPF.
In determining the appeal, the Inspector agreed with our assessment of the proposal and agreed that the extant prior approval justified that limited amount of outdoor amenity space put forward with the revised scheme. However, they refused planning permission solely on nutrient neutrality grounds related to phosphate loading and the subsequent impact upon the River Avon Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This was a new issue introduced at appeal following the submission of representations from Natural England.
Issues related to nutrient neutrality in this area of Christchurch have now been resolved by BCP Council and Natural England. Accordingly, the habitat issues raised at appeal were no longer a reason to prevent the proposed development. On that basis, we submitted a duplicate application for the initial scheme from June 2021, which was subsequently approved by the local planning authority and full planning permission was granted for the works, which is extant until June 2026.
In assessing the proposal, the Planning Officer concluded “It is considered that, due to the potential f
all-back position from the approved Prior Notification application (ref: 8/20/0598/PNOD) which is still an extant application, in addition to the Planning Inspector’s detailed consideration of the scheme, the reasons for refusal have now been overcome.”.
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