APPLICATION NO. 10/2021/1173/ PF - LAND AT NANT Y GAU, BRYNEGLWYS, CORWEN
To consider an application for the erection of an agricultural workers dwelling, installation of a sewage treatment plant and associated works at land at Nant Y Gau, Bryneglwys, Corwen, LL21 9LF (copy attached).
An application was submitted for the erection of an agricultural workers dwelling, installation of a sewage treatment plant and associated works at land at Nant Y Gau, Bryneglwys, Corwen.
Public Speaker –
Arwen Davies (For) – Mr Davies was eager to keep the family farm going and hoped to be a fourth generation farmer who worked with closely with his parents and had learnt the best ways of farming. He gave an outline of the farming he carried out and eventually hoped to take over the farm with his family. Mr Davies stated farming needed to change due to climate change, costs and new NBZ rules. With the knowledge which had been passed down through generations and the ongoing support from his parents and partner, Grace, he was confident the farm could flourish. However, he needed to be on the premises. He had looked at properties in the village and surrounding areas but these were not only unaffordable, but not practical due to his sheepdogs, lambing and calving. The wellbeing of the animals required Mr Davies to be on site particularly as he would soon be running the business. It was hoped the children would grow up on the farm and go to the local primary school as this was vital to the future of the farm and with the Planning Committee’s help, he could aspire to be the fourth generation farmer of Nant Y Gau, taking a leading role in the business and preparing the farm for the next generation.
General Debate –
Councillor Hugh Evans (Local Member) thanked Mr Arwyn Davies for putting forward his statement. It was clear a lot of work had taken place between the applicant and officers and it was re-assuring to see that a majority of the material planning considerations had been met. There were no objections from the AONB, Community Council, residents or Natural Resource Wales (NRW). There was no visual negativity around the proposal and the application supports the carbon emissions target. The reason the application had been brought before Planning Committee was concerns between professional opinion of Reading University and Kite Consultants and Councillor Evans was also concerned that officers had taken notice of the Reading element of the advice as opposed to the Kite Consultants advice.
Councillor Evans explained how he found it difficult to understand why Reading University did not appreciate the funding availabilities in the farming business. The salary of the spouse had not been considered, or the external works the applicant puts in. Councillor Evans felt the officers had not seen the complete financial picture when making their recommendations and requested Planning Committee delve more into the Reading University element of the advice. He stated he personally felt people in the rural areas were disadvantaged.
Information from Business Wales had been obtained which stated 40% of farms in Wales had now diversified which equated to 19% of the total income. Reading University had not considered this.
Reference 4.4 this application covers everything within that section.
Reference 4.5 – promoted diversification on established farms which this applicant does and 4.5.3 succession is critical.
Referring to the financial test he stated there was a grey area as it did state “should have good prospects of remaining economically sustainable for the reasonable period of time”. Reading University did not seem to accept that, based on pure financial figures, not on the history of the farm. In Councillor Evans’ view, he did not think there was any correlation between what information Reading University had provided and what TAN6 required. He did accept it was difficult for officers having to decide between Reading University and Kite Consultants.
In conclusion this was a genuine application by a hard working couple who wanted to stay on the farm. There was no other option for them as there were no other opportunities in the area. Councillor Evans did not think Reading University and TAN 6 were aligned. He did not think Reading University understand how Welsh family farms thrived and survived and it came down to flexibility, adaptability and serious hard work. This was the last hope for the applicants and hoped Planning Committee would show their support.
Planning officers confirmed independent consultants had been appointed on their behalf to assess all the information provided. The application was for a dwelling in the open countryside. In those locations normal rural constraints apply unless there was an exception. One of those exceptions was that the dwelling was required to support a rural enterprise and clearly the applicant had shown that this was required. There was a functional need for Mr Davies to be there and for succession. There was also shown there was no visual or harmful impact so the only issue was the financial test. They have to show that it would be profitable and it had a sustainable future. The consultants looked at the previous figures and came to the conclusion that the projected profits were not sufficient to pay a minimum wage for both the father and son and cover the mortgage costs. The consultants advise that this would undermine the business which proved a risk for the future. Another risk was if the application was not approved here, the business could disappear anyway preventing succession.
Reading University had applied TAN6 correctly. They found conflict with one element of the tests. TAN6 stated the business had to support itself, the building was there to support the enterprise. The tests were about the business which could not rely on the income of a spouse or sideline work.
During discussions the following points were raised –
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Members agreed it was a difficult decision as the material planning conditions had been met, the only issue was the financial aspect. A number of members agreed with the statement by the Local Member, Councillor Hugh Evans.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>If the building were to be approved, it would be for an agricultural workers building and not be able to be sold on the open market, it would be purely for the business. It was important to look at the business and the ability to maintain the building. It was also felt that Mr Davies and his partner would produce additional income and the farm would be a long term business. Officers responded by emphasising that the application was extremely borderline on how the assessment had been made.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>In future, need to reassess these types of cases and officers possibly needed to challenge Consultants more in terms of the information they provide. It was confirmed that officers were also dealing with Welsh Government Technical Advice Notes. Work would need to take place with the Welsh Government to amend the wording in some of their documents.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The property would be a rural enterprise project and if members were to go against officer recommendation reasons would need to be formalised prior to going to the vote.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Planning conditions would need to be imposed to ensure that the property itself was retained in perpetuity in connection with the rural enterprise. The conditions would normally be agreed with the local member and a set of draft conditions would be drawn up and the wording agreed with the Local Member.
Proposal - Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts proposed to grant the planning application against officer recommendations. The reasons to grant the application - Committee having considered all the information placed before it, what they had heard from the applicant and the late representations they are satisfied that the business does meet the financial test, seconded by Councillor Merfyn Parry.
For (against officer recommendation) – (9 votes cast in the Chamber 10 votes cast via zoom) – 19
Abstain – 0
Refuse – 0
RESOLVED that permission be GRANTED against officer recommendation.