Bridgham: Camp Farm, Roudham: Change of Use of Building 10 to Hemp Processing and Erection of Office Extension for Paul Rackham Ltd: Application References: 3TL/2010/0008, 0009, 0010/TL
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
Since the original 3 planning applications for the hemp factory had been approved the previous intended occupier had relocated to another site and a time limit extension was requested. The PPO (MP) advised that objections should be based on policies, or other material considerations which had changed significantly since the original grant.
The application met the requirements of the new farm policy (PPS4) & DC 20 relating to the economic use of buildings in the countryside and Policy DC21 supporting farm diversification. The requirement of Policy DC14 that 10% of the energy use be met by renewable sources could be met with an additional planning condition and the applicants had indicated that this would be acceptable.
The Parish Councils of Roudham & Larling and Harling had objected on the grounds of increased traffic and noise impact and that the intended occupier had moved out of the area. There had been an increase in the number of objections from local residents regarding increase in HGV traffic, harm to local amenity and loss of rural character.
Road improvements were included in the proposal and included the provision of passing bays where informal bays had existed which would have some impact on the local appearance. There would be no significant change to the buildings other than an additional office annex. There would be noise emissions from the plant and machinery used in the hemp processing. However, a scheme of noise control measures such as sound proofing and restrictions on operation and delivery times would be made planning conditions of the application.
The Solicitor and Standards Consultant advised that the Committee needed to consider whether there was a significant material change to the planning considerations when making their decision.
Mrs Jolly, Parish Council Representative, spoke against the application. She considered there were relevant material considerations for refusal; that the application was outside the Development Boundary in an area of outstanding natural beauty. There were concerns that 6 of the units on the same site were the subject of unauthorised industrial use and under enforcement action. The application was no longer supported by a specialist company as the original applicant had relocated. The Parish Council recommended that the planning application should be refused and the building should revert back to agricultural use.
Miss Matthews, Agent for the applicant, said that the application was to keep the change of use available if needed, and that the end user should not be a material consideration. The application was for gainful use of an existing building, and that as the Highways Authority had not raised any objection there was no objection on highways grounds.
Lady Fisher, Ward Representative, spoke against the proposed application. Although supporting additional employment in the area, the proposed opportunity to employ 14 people had not happened. Since that time the Local Development Framework had identified other development sites. She was concerned that no passing bays had been provided; other buildings on the site were subject to enforcement action; and another hemp factory had been set up locally. She felt the application should be challenged on the grounds of Policy DC20/21; there was now no evidence to support the potential ongoing success of a hemp factory on this site.
Members questioned the viability of having 2 hemp factories within the area and whether there would be enough hemp to supply the production requirements. Members would have preferred the building be used for agricultural purpose rather than industrial use. The Chairman pointed out that agriculture was considered an industry in the countryside and hemp processing was considered a diversion of agriculture.
The Solicitor advised that the change in applicant was not a material consideration as planning permission would not be personal to the applicant and that the committee should not make its decision based on production reasons. Following further debate the decision on the application was put to a vote.
RESOLVED, that all three applications be approved, subject to the re-imposition of previous conditions, relating to use restrictions, hours of operation, noise control measures, noise limits, external lighting, off-site highway improvements, access works, routing and drainage, plus an additional condition relating to renewable energy.