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Country house proposed on green belt land

The 20-acre field
The 20-acre field looking towards Brookmans Park. It's claimed the house will be visible from very few, if any, public places.
Camera courtesy of Fujifilm

Plans to build a ‘modern country house’ on local green belt land, with a floor area of 1,190 square metres, have been submitted to Welwyn Hatfield District Council's Planning Department.

The honorary secretary of the North Mymms District Green Belt Society, Bob Horrocks, is encouraging local residents to examine the plans for the site, known locally as the 20-acre field, but shown on old maps as Friday Grove.

Bob Horrocks has written a report about the planning application (below).

The plans for the site are available for inspection by visiting the reception area at Welwyn Hatfield Council, Campus West, Welwyn Garden City.

The public has until Friday 16 January, to lodge any objections.

The Planning Department's phone number is 01707-357532.

The land was sold two years ago, and speculation over the future use of the land has since been discussed in this site's forum.

Note: Bob Horrocks emphasises that only written submissions to Welwyn Hatfield Council's Planning Department will have any bearing on the local authority's decision.

Friday Grove, Hawkshead Rd, Brookmans Park

By Bob Horrocks, Honorary Secretary
North Mymms District Green Belt Society

The 20-acre field
The brochure says the house would be built into a grassy mound.
Camera courtesy of Fujifilm

A mystery has been resolved relating to the 21-acre site at the junction of Hawkshead Rd and Bluebridge Road, facing Hawkshead Lane.

Welwyn Hatfield Council's Planning Department has now received a planning application to erect a new country house on the land.

If you would like to comment on the proposal, the council must receive your comments by 16 January 2004. Address them to the Chief Planning Officer, Welwyn Hatfield Council, Campus West, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, AL8 6AE, quoting their reference S6/2003/1701/FP (Mrs Reynolds).

The application can be seen at the council offices during normal business hours, but it is very lengthy. Below are the main points of the application. The picture (above) shows how the development might look.

At its next meeting, on Monday 12 January, the North Mymms District Green Belt Society will consider the reasons listed at the end of this report, and decide whether or not to object.

Until that decision is taken I cannot predict the outcome, but I urge all local residents to give their views to Welwyn Hatfield Council by Friday 16 January 2004.

The proposal

The proposal is to build a very modern (revolutionary?), environmentally efficient, five-bedroom house in a grassed mound with just the first floor and roof projecting above the crescent shaped mound.

The application stresses the associated activities on the site, proposing rare breeds of cattle or sheep and poultry, improved management of the landscape with better hedges and trees, a new public footpath along the eastern edge of the site (giving a new access from Hawkshead Road to Gobions Wood), and a new roadside footpath.

The owner has commissioned numerous reports to justify the proposals. The only significant historical fact discovered was a farmhouse on this site from about 1760 to 1860. The land is low grade, being over-grazed by sheep, with poor hedges and trees, and two silted-up ponds.

A farm management plan concludes that the rare breeds of cattle/sheep and free-range hens "will provide a self-contained and self-sufficient, sustainable farming system, providing high quality food for domestic use, with surplus sales generating a small income."

The plan continues, "It is unlikely that this farming system can succeed unless the owner is living on the property. Livestock living and breeding out of doors will require constant supervision, particularly when birthing and this degree of attention requires 24/7 management availability."

The applicant’s farming skills are not stated.

The supporting documents acknowledge the green belt location, but set out "very special circumstances" to justify planning permission.

They claim that the openness of the green belt will be preserved, because the house will be visible from very few, if any, public places, due to the topography and the design, which sculptures the house into the landscape.

Other factors:

  • the outstanding quality of the design of the house
  • the previous farmhouse on the site creating a link with the land through the introduction of rare breeds
  • the ecologically efficient construction and operation of the house using solar power and water recycling
  • a new footpath along the eastern boundary
  • the reversal of the current over-grazing and poor management of the land.
Much play is made of the house conforming to Planning Policy Guidance Note 7 (PPG7) – countryside environmental quality. PPG7 states that there has been a decline in the number of county houses built in recent years, and this house will be of the highest quality.

Points for you to consider

Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 (PPG2) – Green Belts Click here to read PPG2

Para 3.2 - the Secretary of State will attach substantial weight to the harm to the Green Belt when considering any planning application or appeals.

Para 3.4 - new buildings in the green belt are inappropriate unless …. for agricultural purposes…. and other uses which preserve the openness of the green belt, and do not conflict with the purposes of including land in the green belt.

Para 3.5 - essential facilities (defined in 3.4) should be genuinely required for the use of land which should preserve the openness of the green belt.

Comments - Is the prime objective to niche-farm this 21-acre site profitably, or to build something out of the ordinary, a futuristic house? Also, PPG2 makes no mention of the quality of the land – land in the green belt can be poor or wonderful – it does not matter.

Planning Policy Guidance Note 7 (PPG7) – Countryside Click here to read PPG7

4.11 Policy on Green Belts is set out in PPG2, and is not modified by this PPG. Click here to read this point.

By Bob Horrocks, Honorary Secretary
North Mymms District Green Belt Society

29 December 2003

Bob's article is also produced in full on the North Mymms District Green Belt Society website. Please feel free to discuss this issue in this site's forum, but remember, only written submissions to Welwyn Hatfield Council's Planning Department will have any bearing on the local authority's decision.

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