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Agenda item

Application No. and Parish: 21/01843/HOUSE Lake House, West Woodhay Road, West Woodhay


Section 73 variation/removal of condition 3 (approved plans) of approved 18/01441/HOUSE - Demolition of garden store. External alterations to the Eastern Pavilion including the provision of rooflights (Retrospective). Erection of new Western Pavilion to provide home office facilities at ground level, guest accommodation at first floor and a basement level garage.


Lake House (formerly Hayward Green Farm), West Woodhay Road, West Woodhay, Newbury, West Berkshire, RG20 0BU


Mr. C. Brown


To DELEGATE to the Service Director – Development and Regulation to make representations at appeal that planning permission should be granted subject to conditions together with the authority to negotiate or amend those conditions during the course of the appeal.



Councillor Dennis Benneyworth declared a personal interest in Agenda Item 4(2) by virtue of the fact that he was the local Ward Member. As his interest was personal and not prejudicial or a disclosable pecuniary interest, he determined to remain to take part in the debate and vote on the matter.

Councillors Carolyne Culver and Howard Woollaston declared that they had been lobbied on Agenda Item 4(2).

1.     The Committee considered a report (Agenda Item 4(2)) concerning Planning Application 21/01843/HOUSE for Lake House, West Woodhay Road, West Woodhay in respect of Section 73 variation/removal of condition 3 (approved plans) of approved 18/01441/HOUSE - Demolition of garden store, to amend the previously approved Eastern and Western pavilions and basement.

2.     Mr Jake Brown (Principal Planning Officer) introduced the report to Members, which took account of all the relevant policy considerations and other material planning considerations. In conclusion the report detailed that the proposal was acceptable in planning terms and officers recommended to delegate to the Service Director – Development and Regulation to make representations at appeal that planning permission should be granted subject to the conditions listed in the main and update reports, together with the authority to negotiate or amend those conditions during the course of the appeal.

3.     Mr Gareth Dowding (Principal Engineer – Traffic and Road Safety) had no observations relating to the application.

4.     In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, Mr Simon Hayes West Woodhay Parish Meeting, and Mr Steven Sensecall, agent, addressed the Committee on this application.

Parish Council Representation

5.     Mr Hayes in addressing the Committee raised the following points:

·         West Woodhay Parish Meeting and Inkpen, Kintbury, Hamstead Marshall and East Woodhay Parish Councils all opposed the original application.

·         The underground aspect of the application incorporated a wellness centre, a third swimming pool with five toilets, and a large car park as part of 1,500 sq.m development.

·         In 2019, permission was granted for a smaller underground car park, but the new application was for a development three times bigger than that previously approved and five times the footprint of the residence.

·         No thought had been given to the amount of spoil and traffic associated with taking this off site.

·         Prior to approval of the previous application, the agent, Area of North Wessex Downs AONB Team and the Planning Team had agreed to reduce the size of the basement and replace the ramp to the basement parking with a car lift to reduce the footprint and built form, which in turn would reduce the impact on the AONB. Given this previous negotiation, it was queried as to why the current application was being recommended for approval when it was three times the size. Also, there had been no consultation with the AONB Team on the current application.

·         Lake House was built on a bog and the effects of excavating to 7.5m were unclear. The applicant’s drainage reports related solely to the site and did not consider upstream properties. They made no mention of adjacent properties with boreholes. The AONB Team and the Council’s drainage engineer had both previously indicated that the effect on upstream properties was a concern, but these experts’ opinions were being ignored. Lessons needed to be learned from Victoria Park. The applicant had questioned as to why the village had not commissioned an independent report, but there was no reason why they should.

·         The applicant was seeking permission to replace garage doors with large French windows on both pavilions, but this had already been done. This amendment had been refused by the Planning Team and at appeal in order to preserve the remoteness, tranquillity and dark skies within the AONB. It was not clear why the current recommendation was going against these previous recommendations.

·         Minor amendments proposed to the size of the windows would make little difference and the application should be refused on the same grounds. The site could be seen from local roads and bridleways as well as from the Wayfarer’s Walk. No other house in the area was illuminated to this extent. While separate lighting reports had been prepared for individual buildings, the total accumulation of light pollution at the property was considered to be an issue.

·         The Committee was asked why they would support a project that was considered to be out of control, an environmental disaster,  and against the wishes of ordinary people.

Member Questions to the Parish/Town Council

6.     There was a question about the French windows on the pavilions. It was confirmed that all of the windows for which permission was being sought had already been installed.

7.     Members asked if there had been any impact on upstream houses to date. It was noted that works had not commenced, and no issues had been raised so far.

Agent Representation

8.     Mr Sensecall in addressing the Committee raised the following points:

·         An appeal had been submitted for non-determination. The application had been submitted in July 2021 and there had been extensive and positive negotiations with officers. Concerns about the original drainage reports had been addressed, and detailed lighting reports had been produced, but it had not been possible to get the application to Committee.

·         The officer’s report was produced after the applicant had submitted their appeal. This had recommended approval and officers had recommended that this should be the Council’s position at the appeal.

·         It was noted that Mr Hayes had made reference to matters that did not relate to the current proposal. The existing house was lawful and had planning permission. Consent had been granted for the two pavilions, but the applicant was seeking changes to make both pavilions symmetrical and more consistent with the house.

·         It was acknowledged that the proposal sought to increase the size of the basement would significantly, but this would involve underground works with no visual impact on the AONB.

·         Spoil removal would during construction only and officers were happy that this was a temporary issue.

·         It was hoped that the Committee could accept officer’s recommendation.

Member Questions to the Applicant/Agent

9.     Members noted that the application had been on the agenda for a previous meeting but had been pulled at the last minute, since permission had not been granted for a site visit. It was highlighted that the appeal had already been submitted by that point.

Ward Member Representation

10.  Prior to addressing the Committee, Councillor James Cole made the following declaration:

·         He was the owner of land around half the site. The development could potentially be to his financial advantage. However, he considered that he was comfortably within all of the Nolan Principles and was happy to provide further detail upon request.

11.  Prior to addressing the Committee, Councillor Claire Rowles made the following statement:

·         She was awaiting clarification on a technical point related to voting at committees, before rejoining and voting on committees.

12.  Councillor Claire Rowles in addressing the Committee raised the following points:

·         There was a great deal of interest in the application and five parish councils had objected on the grounds of over-development within the AONB.

·         It was surprising that officers were happy to use photographs rather than defer the application to allow a site visit, particularly given the parish councils’ objections and the scale of the proposal. Only by visiting the site was it possible to appreciate the scale and impact of the overall development.

·         The proposed alterations, which included additional windows, were contrary to preserving the remoteness, tranquillity and dark night skies of the AONB, which were the basis for dismissing the previous application at appeal.

·         It was questioned why there had not been an up-to-date ecology report and why it was considered that the proposal would not have significant effects on the environment. The proposal would do enormous additional damage to a natural bog in the AONB and an environmental impact assessment should have been required.

·         It was noted that there were elements in this application for which retrospective permission was being sought - it was not the first time this had been done at this property. When another retrospective application had been determined by the Committee recently, the Leader had suggested that this was not how planning was done in West Berkshire. 

13.  Councillor James Cole in addressing the Committee raised the following points:

·         A reasonable request for additional photos had been refused, which he considered to be grounds for judicial review should the application be recommended for approval at appeal.

·         It was questioned why a gigantic additional basement area was considered minor and could be covered under a Section 73 application.

·         It was questioned how changes to fenestration proposed to both pavilions could be considered to not detrimentally impact on the AONB dark night skies. The existing development already lit up the night sky, but additional photos showing this had not been permitted. The development was already visible from the Wayfarer’s Walk when partly illuminated and this application would have an even greater impact.

·         The report implied that it was not known whether groundwater would be affected by excavations, yet it was considered OK for these to go ahead.

·         The report suggested that construction would not impact on neighbours. However, piling works for the previous development had gone on for a very long time, which Councillor Cole could hear from his property some distance away.

·         It was questioned what volume of spoil removal would be considered unacceptable. Also, it was requested that gates that had been opened illegally for haul routes for the previous development should not be used if the proposed development was approved.

·         It was suggested that there may be long-term plans to create a spa hotel at this site. While conditions would stop that from happening this time, the application was considered to be a stepping stone towards it.

·         Overall, it was considered that the proposal was not protecting the AONB.

Member Questions to the Ward Members

14.  Views were sought as to potential impacts upon upstream properties. It was noted that tests had not been carried out, so there was no way to tell. The village was on a range of different water supplies and borehole owners were concerned.

15.  Members asked about possible grounds for refusal. It was suggested that the application was not consistent with the Council’s AONB policy. It was noted that the previous application had been dismissed at appeal on the grounds that it was contrary to the remoteness, tranquillity and dark skies of the AONB, and it was not clear why that did not apply this time.

Member Questions to Officers

16.  Members noted that there were two other applications for the same property and asked why the applications were not being considered together. It was stated that the other applications were not yet ready to be brought to committee for determination and this application had to be brought to committee as soon as possible due to the fact that a non-determination appeal had been lodged and the Council needed to agree its position.

17.  Members asked if a Tree Officer had visited the site. It was confirmed that they had visited the site on at least one occasion.

18.  A question was asked about the difference between CIL payments for a hotel and a private residence. It was indicated that CIL would not be applicable for a hotel, but S106 contributions might be.

19.  It was noted that light pollution was a major issue at the previous appeal and officers were asked how any increase could be considered acceptable when it was previously a reason for refusal. Also, given that the windows had already been installed, officers were asked if actual light measurements had been taken. Officers highlighted that at the previous appeal, no technical information with respect to future light spill had been put forward by the appellant or how this could be mitigated. However, an assessment by a qualified lighting specialist had been provided for this application which concluded that any impact on the AONB dark skies would be negligible. Given the lack of evidence to the contrary, it would be difficult to refuse the application on the grounds of the impact on the AONB dark skies.

20.  Members asked about what lighting standard was considered acceptable. It was explained that the Institute of Lighting Engineers referred to dark sky zones and large parts of the AONB were within Zone E1. Officers did not have details available at the meeting. The lighting assessment had assessed the baseline for the current development, which was in Zone E2 (i.e. not total dark skies) and the proposal would not increase the lighting zone impact of the development.

21.  Members suggested that a night-time site visit would have been appropriate to see the impacts of the changes already introduced. Officers noted that not all of the proposed fenestration works had been implemented and the western pavilion had not been built. The lighting assessment used advanced computer modelling to assess the impacts. This had been done for a worst-case scenario of no curtains or window coverings. It was noted that no lights were proposed on the outside of the building and a condition would prevent further lighting without accompanying assessments.

22.  Clarification was sought about the type of lighting proposed and if assessments had been carried out for a range of different bulb types and wattages. Officers did not have the details but confirmed that standard domestic lighting would have been assessed.

23.  There was further discussion about lighting and the previous appeal decision. It was reiterated that the Inspector’s concern had been around the lack of a lighting assessment, but this had been provided as part of the current application. It was suggested that it members had concerns about the level of technical detail provided in the lighting assessment, then that could be put forward as a potential reason for refusal. However, officers considered the assessment to be acceptable. Members reiterated concerns at the lack of detail around what lights were used in the assessment.

24.  It was asked if the light assessment had been undertaken with the garage doors in place or with the current French windows. Officers confirmed that the assessment had been for the baseline as approved, and included the lighting scheme approved for the replacement dwelling.

25.  Members asked about the fact that the proposal was considered minor development. It was explained that this was a S73 application for a minor material amendment to a previously approved scheme. Officers felt that the proposed changes fell within the description of the previous development and represented a minor material (rather than non-material) amendment.

26.  Members asked what conditions would be imposed on the transport of soil from the site. Officers stated that the spoil condition had been modified. This would allow for assessment of haul routes and for officers to agree with the developer the most routes and vehicles.

27.  Members felt that this was a major undertaking in terms of materials, but because much of it was below ground, it appeared to comply with policies. Officers were asked if there was any reason why such an extraordinary development might fall foul of planning law. Officers stated that their recommendation was for approval and their assessment was set out in the report. However, if Members were concerned about the cumulative impact of the development, then the visual assessment would define the impact on the AONB. It was noted that the underground element of the development was within the envelope of developed land, so there were no grounds on which to object in terms of visual impact on the AONB.

28.  The issue of biodiversity net gain was highlighted. Officers indicated that the application was seeking an amendment to a previous permission that had been granted. The policy on biodiversity net gain had been in place at that time and the previous application had been considered acceptable. The proposed landscaping scheme was considered acceptable by officers and the enlarged basement had not been raised by the Ecologist as an issue that required additional biodiversity net gain measures.

29.  Members noted the proposed large, underground extension and suggested that it could be considered overdevelopment of the site if it were above ground. 

30.  It was noted that the Committee was not being asked to determine the application, but only to give their recommendation to the Planning Inspector. The Planning Authority would be asked to comment on planning conditions regardless of the Committee’s decision. If Members chose to recommend refusal, then the grounds for refusal would need to be provided to the Inspector. Otherwise the officer’s report and recommendations would be presented to the Inspector with any additional conditions that the Committee chose to impose.


31.  Councillor Tony Vickers opened the debate. He noted that sustainability included social sustainability. Little was known about the applicant and the potential contribution to West Berkshire society if the development were to be approved. He also wondered what would happen to the property and how it would be maintained if the developer ran out of money. He recognised that it would be difficult to develop a stately home above ground in the modern era, but it had not been foreseen that someone would go below ground to get around planning policy. Given that much of the application was retrospective, he suggested that a night-time site visit would be appropriate and could be recommended to the Planning Inspector as something that they should consider. He noted that even with the professional report, there were lots of factors related to lighting that were difficult to assess and suggested. In terms of drainage, he noted that the proposal was three times the size of the previous proposal and would have three times the impact on underground water flows.

32.  The Chairman highlighted that drainage impacts would be mitigated through provision of a porous material around the basement and the strata beyond would then slow down the flow.

33.  Councillor Carolyne Culver expressed concerns about the additional glazing proposed. She also raised concerns about the lack of evidence about potential drainage impacts and the fact that the design was based on opinion. She suggested that the Committee needed additional evidence to be able to make an informed decision. She was concerned about biodiversity net gain, since a lot of soil would be lost from the site and a lot of trees had already been lost, and she considered that the condition to provide one barn owl box was insufficient. She noted that the biodiversity net gain baseline was January 2020 and suggested that the Tree Officer should be asked what trees were on the site at that time and how that information should be used to work out appropriate levels of biodiversity net gain. In addition, she noted that there was a pond on site that had been filled in with gravel. Given all these unanswered questions, she was not satisfied that she had sufficient evidence to support the application.

34.  Councillor Adrian Abbs indicated that the lack of a site visit left him uneasy. He noted that every time a proposal for this site came before the Committee, there was always a matter that required enforcement, and he expressed his irritation that retrospective permission was being sought for some elements. He disputed that this was a minor amendment to a previous approval and suggested that if this scheme had been put forward as part of the original proposal, it would have been rejected. There had been multiple applications over time which had made the development progressively bigger, with many retrospective elements.  He suggested that there were many reasons to refuse the development (i.e. overdevelopment, light pollution, and the impact on the AONB) and these should be presented to the Planning Inspector.

35.  Councillor Jeff Cant felt that there was insufficient evidence available to be able to make an assessment of the total cumulative impact of the lighting and support a recommendation of approval to the Planning Inspector.

36.  Councillor Dennis Benneyworth agreed with Councillor Cant’s comments.

37.  Councillor Cant proposed to reject the officer’s recommendation and refuse planning permission on the grounds of: insufficient evidence to be able to assess the cumulative effect of proposed lighting on the AONB dark skies; insufficient evidence on biodiversity net gain; insufficient information on drainage; concerns regarding overdevelopment; and the potential impacts on the tranquillity of the AONB. This was seconded by Councillor Culver.

38.  Clarification was sought as to relevant policies under which harm could be demonstrated as a result of overdevelopment. It was confirmed that the proposed additional development would lead to an intensification of activity would fundamentally change the character of the site within the AONB.

39.  The Chairman invited Members of the Committee to vote on the proposal by Councillor Cant, seconded by Councillor Culver to refuse planning permission. At the vote the motion was carried.

RESOLVED that the Service Director for Development and Regulation be delegated to make representations at appeal to REFUSE planning permission for the following reasons:


·         Insufficient evidence to be able to assess the cumulative effect of proposed lighting on the AONB dark skies

·         Insufficient evidence provided on biodiversity net gain

·         Insufficient information provided on drainage

·         Concerns regarding overdevelopment, whereby the proposed additional development would lead to intensification of activity would fundamentally change the character of the site within the AONB

Supporting documents: