Plans for a brand-new farmhouse in the Northumberland countryside, said to be needed to enable the development of the business, have been thrown out.
The bid for a four-bedroom, traditional stone property on land at Ashtree Farm, north of Heddon on the Wall and south of Medburn, was unanimously refused by members of the Castle Morpeth Local Area Council on Monday (May 13).
The site, about two-and-a-half miles from Ponteland, is in the open countryside and the green belt, meaning new housing would not normally be allowed.
It was claimed in this case that the property was needed as a rural worker’s dwelling, which is one of the special circumstances that can overcome the usual stance of development being inappropriate in the green belt.
However, there are strict criteria which must be met and the county council had the proposal independently assessed before recommending refusal in this case.
The report to councillors said: ‘At the present time, as the land at Ashtree Farm is growing arable crops under a contract farming agreement with no livestock on the farm, there is very little, if any, in the way of functional need for a worker/s to be resident on the farm’.
There is a proposal to return the arable land to grassland and introduce a 35-head suckler cow enterprise and a 16,000-bird free-range egg business.
The agricultural consultant concluded that ‘if and when these two enterprises are introduced, there will be a functional need’ for a worker to be resident, but ‘these are proposals and may or may not come to fruition’.
When the applicant, George F White, bought the holding back in 2011, there was a farmhouse, with permission granted to demolish it plus some adjacent buildings in poor repair and construct a replacement.
That has now been built and occupied by the applicant’s daughter and son-in-law, the report notes, although it says they are not involved in the farm business and the applicant ‘has no control over the dwelling now’, meaning it is not a viable alternative.
The agent, Craig Ross, of the applicant’s namesake company, told the meeting that this was a chicken-and-egg situation as there is a need for the property if the business is developed as proposed, but the council will not allow it as there is no need for a worker as it stands.
He called on the councillors to use their planning judgement in this case and approve a scheme which would enable an investment of £500,000 in the rural economy and the creation of two full-time jobs.
However, referring to the planning history, which shows another unsuccessful attempt to build a new dwelling, Coun Richard Dodd, a farmer himself, was dubious of the motivation.
“I just get the impression that this is the last piece of the jigsaw to try,” he said.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service