Councillors hit out at ‘antiquated’ 20th century planning rules blocking eco-friendly home

By Belinda Ryan - Local Democracy Reporter

11th Apr 2024 | Local News

Bosley view from the south east. Image credit: LDRS / Eco Design Consultant.
Bosley view from the south east. Image credit: LDRS / Eco Design Consultant.

Frustrated councillors hit out at 'antiquated' 20th century planning rules which prevented them approving a 'brilliant' 21st century eco-friendly 'passivhaus plus' house which would produce more energy than it used.

Eco Design Consultants wants to bulldoze the existing farmhouse and agricultural buildings at Dawson Farm off Buxton Road at Bosley and build a partially subterranean 'passivhaus plus' home, with associated renewables and landscaping.

The proposed house, which would be set into the hillside, would include nine ensuite bedrooms, guest suite and living accommodation at ground and first floor, with vehicle and cycle parking and plant at second floor level.

The scheme also includes 760 ground-mounted solar panels

Cheshire East's planning officers had recommended the scheme be refused.

Planning officer Rob Law told today's (Wednesday) meeting: "Unfortunately, officers have found it is materially larger than the dwelling it replaces… as a result, the proposals would result in harm to the rural character of the countryside by virtue of its scale, siting, size and design."

He said the loss of some buildings would also impact on bats.

The applicant's agent, John Scott, told the meeting the proposal was for a multi-generational family home which would respond to climate change, in particular extreme weather, be carbon neutral and help improve the environment, including biodiversity.

He said an existing large barn was being retained for storage and the bats.

Image credit: LDRS / Eco Design Consultant.

Nine members of the 11-strong northern planning committee wanted to approve the application.

But they were told by the council's lawyer if they were minded to approve an application recommended for refusal and considered to be a significant breach of policy, then it would have to be referred up to the strategic planning board – meaning they couldn't approve it outright today.

Several councillors were clearly frustrated, arguing the size of the scheme wasn't as relevant because much of the new build would not be above ground level.

Knutsford councillor Tony Dean (Con) said: "We appear to be in a situation now where we're looking at a 21st century planning application but we're applying 20thcentury rules to it."

He suggested the head of planning feedback nationally, saying these rules don't work with passivhaus houses and modern design.

Cllr Dean said the definition of what is considered innovative and exceptional design is out of date 'because this to me is the most innovative and exceptional design I've ever seen'.

He added: "We're in that situation where poor old Mr Law has got to use antiquated tests and rules to have a look at something as brilliant as this."

Bollington councillor Ken Edwards (Lab) proposed the committee accept the application.

"It contributes to amelioration of climate change. It's green," he said.

"There has been some debate about size… but it does seem to me, if we can ensure it is multi-generational and energy efficient, that's practically exactly what we want as a domestic dwelling development."

Cllr Anthony Harrison (Chelford, Con) seconded the move to approve.

But Wilmslow councillor Michael Gorman (Ind) said: "It does offend the local plan and I do know that residents rely on us, as politicians, to defend these local plans when they're drawn up."

He said the proposal 'would be highly suited to another location, but not to this one'.

Cllr Thelma Jackson (Prestbury, Con) agreed with Cllr Gorman.

The committee voted by nine to two to approve the application against officer recommendations, listing numerous reasons why they were in favour.

These included considerable environmental benefits, the proposal is not visually intrusive and bats can be mitigated.

The application will now be referred to the council's strategic planning board for a final decision.


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