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Local Planning Guidance Note No 13 - Housing in the Countryside

This guidance note explains the approach which the Council takes towards dealing with proposals for housing development in the countryside. It amplifies Unitary Development Plan (UDP) policies detailed below and will be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications. This guidance note was revised by the Council in July 2011, subject to external consultation in August 2011 and was formally adopted for used by the Executive Board in October 2011.

Housing development in the countryside relates to the following proposals:

Planning Policy Context

National Planning Policy in relation to housing in the Countryside is contained in chapter 9 of Planning Policy Wales and Technical Advice Note (TAN) 6: Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities. Advice in TAN2: Planning and Affordable Housing, TAN5: Nature Conservation and Planning, TAN12: Design and TAN22: Sustainable Buildings is also relevant.

National policy imposes strict controls on the amount of new housing development in the open countryside. These policies apply to formally designated areas including green barriers, special landscape areas, sites of biodiversity interest and to other land which is not specifically protected but lies outside of defined settlement limits. The aim is to protect open countryside for its importance as part of landscape heritage, a natural habitat and to ensure the best agricultural land is retained as a national resource for the future.

The Wrexham Unitary Development Plan (UDP) (1996 - 2011) adopted February 2005 sets out the local circumstances, based on national policy, where housing in the countryside will be considered. The following UDP policies are relevant:

Detailed Considerations

a) Rural Enterprise Dwellings

Dwellings required to accommodate staff employed by rural enterprises may be granted planning permission where it can be demonstrated that there is an essential requirement for someone to be present on site at most times. Policy H5 of the Wrexham UDP allows for the erection of dwellings outside defined settlement limits where an essential need to house a full time agricultural or forestry worker can be established.

(TAN) 6 Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities provides national guidance on rural development. It allows for dwellings to be built in the countryside to accommodate workers for a wide range of rural enterprises in addition to farming or forestry businesses provided an essential need for those workers to live close to the enterprise can be demonstrated.

In submitting any such proposals, applicants will need to submit a detailed appraisal to justify the need for a dwelling. The essential need must relate to the needs of the enterprise not the individual circumstances of the applicants. The appraisal will need to consider the following:

The granting of planning permission for rural enterprise dwellings will be subject to a condition restricting occupancy of the dwelling to someone employed in a rural enterprise in the locality and has an essential requirement to live close to their place of work. In addition a section 106 legal agreement may be used to prevent the sale of the dwelling independently of the land and buildings owned and used by the rural enterprise.

Rural enterprise dwellings also fall within the definition of affordable housing. Therefore, if there is no longer a need for the dwelling to house someone or a dependent of someone formerly employed in rural enterprise, the dwelling can be offered to persons eligible for affordable housing, i.e. those on the Council's and/or relevant Registered Social Landlords' waiting lists.

b) Conversion of Rural Buildings

There is a varied range of buildings in the countryside which are no longer suitable for their original purpose. Conversion to other uses may be acceptable in principle only where the building makes a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the area. Provided the building is structurally sound and capable of conversion without extensive rebuilding tantamount to the erection of a new building, it is recognised that conversion to other use(s) such as residential, employment, community or visitor accommodation, can safeguard the building's future.

Even though this guidance note relates to housing in the countryside many of the detailed considerations relating to roofs, walls, windows and doors, drainage, heating and ventilation, the curtilage, landscape, parking, access and wildlife etc are applicable regardless of the end use of the building. In this respect therefore, proposals for conversion of buildings for employment, leisure or tourist use in the open countryside will also be assessed under this guidance.

There are some buildings which are not suitable for conversion, including those which are:

Further detailed guidance on the conversion of rural buildings is contained within Local Planning Guidance Note No. 3 - Converting Rural Buildings.

Policy H3 of the UDP requires that proposals for conversion of agricultural buildings to dwellings demonstrate that there is no longer an agricultural need for the building and that alternative non-residential uses have proved inappropriate. Where it appears that a building is suitable for non-residential use, applicants will be expected to provide details of marketing attempts made for sale or lease for non-residential purposes, for at least 12 months prior to submitting a planning application.

In addition applicants will also need to provide a full structural survey of the building to demonstrate that it is structurally sound and capable of conversion without extensive rebuilding tantamount to the erection of a new dwelling.

c) Affordable Housing Rural Exceptions

There is a demand in rural areas of the County Borough for affordable housing (as defined in TAN2) provision. Where this need cannot be met within settlement limits, the development plan sets out circumstances where affordable housing exception sites may be acceptable in rural areas.

Sites on the edge of settlements capable of accommodating up to a maximum of 5 affordable homes are considered suitable under UDP policy H8 for affordable housing purposes. However, this need must be balanced against the requirement to conserve and protect the countryside. In proposing affordable housing exception sites, developers will need to submit a strong justification for their choice of development site. They will need to consider any existing or pending development proposals within the settlement limit and demonstrate that there is no suitable or alternative site within the settlement that could provide, or contribute towards the identified number of units specified in the policy.

Given the potential impacts on the character, form and layout of some of the rural settlements, as well as landscape implications, it may be prudent for one or more sites on the edge of settlements to be developed for affordable housing need rather than one site to accommodate all 5 units (subject to the satisfaction of other policies in the Plan).

The management and affordability of the dwellings in perpetuity will be secured through a section 106 legal agreement. Further guidance on this can be found in Local Planning Guidance Note No. 28 - Affordable Housing.

d) Infill development

There are isolated groups of dwellings in the countryside, some (but not all) of which form a clearly defined built frontage to a highway. A small gap within such a frontage can normally be infilled by one, or at most two, dwellings without adversely affecting the character and appearance of the area.

Policy H5 states that 'outside defined settlement limits new dwellings will only be permitted where proposals comprise infilling'. Infill proposals are defined as 'the development of one or two residential units in a small gap along a continuously developed highway frontage within a clearly identifiable group of buildings.'

Proposals for infill development will be carefully considered in relation to the following elements:

e) House Extensions

Extensions to dwellings in the countryside will be permitted in appropriate cases. Detailed advice on the matters which the Council will take into account when considering extension proposals is contained in Local Planning Guidance Note No. 20 'House Extensions'.

However, in view of their potential visual impact, the scale of dwelling extensions in the countryside will be an especially significant consideration. The following guidelines will therefore apply:-

f) Permitted Development

Householders are normally allowed to carry out various minor building works and/or other alterations to their dwellings without needing to obtain planning permission. However, in a countryside location, even minor works can have a significant visual impact. If permission is granted for residential development (whether it is for a new dwelling or converting or extending an existing building) some permitted development rights may therefore be removed. The intention is to control the accumulation of garden clutter, unnecessary lighting and other domestic structures. These are generally suburban in character and are therefore not appropriate in a countryside location. Minor works may still subsequently be permitted but these will need to be the subject of a planning application.

g) Replacement Dwellings

Dwellings in the countryside can, in principle, be replaced by new dwellings. Policy H10 sets out the circumstances where replacement dwellings in the open countryside may be acceptable subject to the following restrictions:

h) Garden Extensions in the Countryside

Planning permission is required to extend the garden of a dwelling on to land which is used for another purpose. In rural areas, this typically involves the change of use of agricultural land which, if not controlled, can change the character of the rural landscape by introducing urban features into the countryside. A garden extension will therefore only be permitted where the overall character and appearance of the rural landscape is not harmed. The following will be considered when garden extensions are proposed:

In order to mitigate the visual impact of a garden extension, conditions will be attached to a planning permission and may include:

Adopted March 2006, Updated October 2011