A newly-built house in the Derbyshire countryside may have to be demolished for “flouting planning law so flagrantly”.
Sitwell Investments Ltd is the firm behind the project at Wallands Farm, Brassington, close to Carsington Water.
In 2015, the applicant, Noel Spiteri, a director at Sitwell, had been granted permission from Derbyshire Dales District Council to convert an historic barn on the site into a four-bed house.
Stringent restrictions were put in place with the permission, to ensure that the barn – which is thought to be 150 years old – was faithfully restored and upgraded.
The building, which is two-storeys with a one-storey offshoot, was then covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin for the full extent of construction, obscuring it entirely from view.
However, when council officers visited the site to assess a new application, to extend and erect a garage, they found that the now fully constructed home was far from what was approved – with key segments ‘obliterated’.
This included installing an extra floor in the main building, a complete replacement of the roof and a chimney for a wood-burning stove in the wooden-clad offshoot.
On October 2 last year, the authority served an enforcement notice on the site – this required the “permanent removal” of what was “considered to be erection of a new two storey building from the land and its reinstatement as grassland”.
This was because it felt ‘the development constituted an unjustified and unwarranted form of development in the countryside that was intrinsically harmful to its character and appearance’.
The developer appealed against the order and said that the building had not increased in size and that the works were a conversion not a rebuild.
It also said that the building would be completed and occupied as a house by January 26.
This enforcement order was temporarily withdrawn in December to allow the developer to submit a new planning application to be submitted – for the home which is now finished.
Council officers stated in a report: “The extent to which the original building has been altered, extended and rebuilt is such that the development is tantamount, in officer’s opinion, to the construction of a new dwelling on the site and its prestigious and precise appearance is such that it results in significant harm to the character, identity and context of this part of the Derbyshire Dales countryside.”
A report submitted by the applicant by Planning Design, states: “The works that have taken place during the conversion of the barn are no greater than those that would normally be associated with any traditional barn conversion.
“The most highly skilled contractors have been commissioned for the barn conversion project – the Stone Mason that undertook the work has recently worked on the restoration of the stone work on Chatsworth House.
“The resulting building is an outstanding barn conversion done with the highest quality of workmanship.”
Brassington Parish Council had commented: “To grant this application would reward Mr Spiteri for breaching the applicable regulations; encourage Mr Spiteri, as a developer, to repeat such behaviour on other developments in the future; and encourage others to build other than in compliance with what is allowed, on the basis that the council will do nothing about it.”
At a meeting on Tuesday, February 5, Derbyshire Dales councillors voted to refuse the fresh planning application by a vote of 11 for to two against.
This now means that the council will again seek to see the house either partly or entirely demolished.
On the night, an agent for the project said that the applicant had spent £20,000 defending the scheme.
He asked that the council ‘allow this matter to be put to bed” adding that it ‘contributes well to the area’.
The agent added that the application was erected ‘broadly’ in line with the permission it was granted.
Coun Sue Burfoot said that applications should be built exactly in line, not broadly in line, with what is agreed and allowed under national planning policies.
District council development manager Jon Bradbury said that the project had breached planning law, this would allow a notice to be served, but that the authority’s legal department would have to be consulted to oversee the next steps.
He said: “We do not think it is a building which can legally be built as permitted development.”
Coun Angus Jenkins said: “The bricks are in, it is now fully built and cannot be unbuilt.”
Coun Albert Catt, the authority’s deputy leader, said: “This is really difficult.
“This is a matter of principle and what would be the precedent going forward.
“If we follow officers advice and refuse this there will be an appeal and it could be costly.
“However, as a council we have to act when people have been flouting planning law so flagrantly, not to so do would not be sending the best message to the public.
“I think that officers have got this correct and that this should be refused.”
Coun Dermot Murphy said: “For me the photographs of the site tell it all, really. Quite a bit of the original character of the building has been lost.”
Coun Richard FitzHerbert said: “I talk about evolution a lot in this room.
“These buildings need to evolve in the countryside, redundant buildings should be used for something more positive, such as providing a house for a family.”
Coun Burfoot finished the debate, stating: “I don’t find this a difficult one at all, there are matters of principle here.
“We shouldn’t be worrying at this stage whether this will go to appeal and cost us money, it is not for planning to consider.
“We should not be allowing these developers to just build things without permission and get away with it.”
Neighbours near the site are supportive of the scheme.
A resident, who gave their name as Charlotte, stated: “I can see no reason why anyone would have a problem with the beautiful house that has been created there.
“The building is already there and it is a nice to see the full restoration of a historical barn.”
Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service