Agenda item

21/02755/FUL Brecon House, Charlton Hill


The case officer gave a detailed introduction to the application for the construction of a single dwelling, in the AONB but meeting the requirements of Paragraph 80 of the NPPF. She highlighted the landscaping, design, and reduction in size of the management building, and drew Members’ attention to the lack of objection from neighbours, highways and the LLFA.  Other consultees considered the proposal to be acceptable, a number of measures were included to improve the ecology of the site, as well as a range of sustainable technology, including solar panels and ground source heat pumps.  Taking all economic, social and environmental aspects into consideration, officers were satisfied that the scheme should be supported on balance, for the reasons set out in the report.


She invited Members to take a close look at a scale model on display in the Council Chamber.

Public Speaking

The agent, speaking in support, apologised for the deferral of this application, which had been requested to ensure the best possible scheme was presented.  Following consideration of questions raised, the decision had been taken to omit the home office element of the estate management building.  He said the applicants bought the site 20 years ago, appreciated its beauty and were keen to continue their passionate stewardship of the land with a ‘forever house’, designed collaboratively by a design team specialist expertise and experience in the design and delivery of Paragraph 80 houses.  The scheme delivered a truly exceptional design, providing the opportunity for significant biodiversity gains, including landscaping, forestry and ecology improvements of the site. The architect is highly respected and renowned, and the scheme proposes an energy strategy which significantly exceeds not only current buildings regulation standards but also RIBA energy targets for 2030.  The Design Review Panel fully supports the proposal, which meets in full the policy requirements set out in Paragraph 80 of the NPPF.  He hoped that Members would permit the proposal, in line with the officer recommendation. 

Member questions

In response to Members’ questions, the officers confirmed that:

-       the applicant had made no revisions to the woodland planting proposal, in response to the ecologist report suggestion that the scheme could include less woodland planting in favour of more grassland, but this could be secured as part of the detailed landscaping plan should Members wish;

-       regarding the impact of the foundation design, the agent has carried out a full site investigation, and confirmed that no special foundations need to be incorporated – the scheme was designed to meet the highest standards regarding carbon;

-       when designing Paragraph 80 houses, the architect always seeks to use a high percentage of cement-replacement concrete to further reduce unwanted carbon;

-       foundation design and detail is usually considered as part of building regulations at construction stage, but a condition regarding foundation detail could be included if the applicant was agreeable;

-       the climate emergency SPD to be considered at Council on Monday would serve as guidance rather than policy if agreed, and could only be taken into account once it had been adopted;

-       the management building had to be considered as part of the application as submitted, and Members needed to consider the combined impact of the house and management building;

-       the number of EV points could be secured through a condition;

-       Paragraph 80 houses can be permitted in special circumstances and if they are of exceptional quality and likely to raise design standards in rural areas which would potentially translate to other local buildings.  Building in the AONB wouldn’t normally be permitted.

Member debate

In debate, Members made the following comments:

-       flooding was on ongoing issue for Charlton Kings residents, with the culvert fitted 10 years ago now inadequate, and this proposal, covering 7.5h of the escarpment, not likely to improve the current situation, despite the drainage strategy.  Flood risk is highlighted in the new climate change SPD, which states that any new development should not increase flood risk on a site, but should work with the natural landscape to reduce the risk of flooding.  Natural flood management on the escarpment is the only way to reduce the flood risk in Cheltenham;

-       could a condition regarding flood risk be included?

-       this application causes a great number of challenges and confusion.  There is no doubt that the applicant has put huge resource into the application.  The key requirement for a Paragraph 80 dwelling is that it is of exemplary architectural merit, but there don’t appear to be any criteria by which to judge this.  The building is designed to fit into a space in a valley, and as a consequence, there is compromise.  As the Architects Panel points out, there are quite a few unresolved issues in the design. The grainy black and white images don’t help, but it doesn’t appear to be an exemplar building – it looks very utilitarian, on three unconnected levels which don’t flow together;

-       hundreds of tons of concrete will be used in this building – this will have a negative environmental impact;

-       a Paragraph 80 dwelling is supposed to be a building of exemplar quality, but for this, it would need to be seen.  This is hidden – no-one will see it – which makes it contrary to the NPPF;

-       the key to this application is balance – this is one dwelling on a huge site, with several EV points to mitigate the lack of sustainability.  Highway safety is always a concern, but is not an issue here.  Neither the parish council or local residents have objected.  The design is subjective, but it is important to remember that the dwelling is both sustainable, designed with climate change in mind;

-       the building looks alright and will be hidden from view, but will involve a lot of concrete and bricks which will harm the environment.  Measures proposed to mitigate this – such as tree-planting – and the inclusion of solar panels and ground source heat pumps is welcomed, but the physical harm the building does to the AONB is not outweighed by the minimal improvements it makes to the environment;

-       this is very much an on-balance recommendation from the officer – there are a lot of positives with this proposal, but also lots of negatives on this biodiverse site which has not changed for hundreds of years.  AONB is the highest designation for countryside – nature is under massive threat, and the council can be proud of its good record protecting the AONB.  The question is whether this proposal ticks all the boxes for a Paragraph 80 dwelling, and it doesn’t appear to:  other schemes won’t be able to afford similar design and materials to allow it to be called exemplar, and  this dwelling will not enhance the beauty and peace of the setting.  There are strong policy reasons not to support it, starting with SP6 and SP7;

-       no architecture can beat the beautiful sights, sounds and smells of nature in terms of well-being for hikers, for example, and although the applicants have clearly done their homework and proposed some sensible mitigation, this proposal falls into the carbuncle arena, and cannot be described as outstanding design quality;

-       the field is not actually open to the public, and the dwelling is designed at a low level in the hollow, with landscaping all around.  The architect has done a good job of making this ‘forever home’ as sympathetic to the existing landscape as possible. 

The Head of Planning reminded Members that building in the AONB can be permitted, depending on the impacts of the proposed development on the qualities of the AONB.  Each application must be considered on its own merits and being in an AONB is not in itself a good reason to refuse planning permission; this scheme has been thoroughly appraised, and designed to take account of the site and reduce the building’s impact through increased planting.  He understood the concerns about the amount of concrete being introduced to the site, but pointed out that this could be a proposal for an agricultural building of the same scale. Officers looked at the proposal carefully, considered the policy position, and concluded that it is acceptable.

In response to a further question, whether a condition could be included to look at natural flood management to limit the risk of flooding to Cheltenham, he said the local flood authority had no objection to the scheme, and it would be difficult to justify the condition.

After further discussion, and in view of several Members’ concerns about the additional concrete on site and the proposed landscaping scheme, the case officer confirmed that additional conditions could be added:

-       the scope of the landscaping condition could be amended to allow a stronger landscaping scheme, requiring details of all planting and being quite specific about what Members wanted to see;

-       a condition requiring whole foundation detail, including the use of materials, in order to provide for the most sustainable form of construction material, to be submitted and agreed.

It was agreed that the Chair and Vice-Chair could liaise with officers and bring back to Committee if necessary.   

Vote on officer recommendation to permit with two additional conditions as outlined, regarding landscaping and foundation details:

2 in support

7 in objection

1 abstention


The Head of Planning asked Members to specify their reasons for refusal. The Chair proposed refusal reasons based on the impact on the AONB, failure to enhance the landscape or setting, not meeting the conditions of NPPF paragraph 80 or 176, and conflicted with JCS policies SD6 and SD7, and possibly policies SD10 and INF1.  After further discussion, and in view of no highways objection, INF1 was not taken forward.

Vote on move to refuse on NPPF 80 and 176, and JCS SD6, SD7 and SD10

8 in support

2 in objection




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