Agenda item



Diversification of Sandon Bury Farm to provide an events venue and guest accommodation, comprising demolition of existing modern buildings within the Sandon Bury Farm complex, change of use of existing buildings from agricultural uses to an events venue, guest accommodation and alterations to listed and non-listed buildings (Black Barn, grain store and hay barn).


Audio Recording of Meeting – Session 2 – Start of Item - 6 seconds


RESOLVED: That application 17/04393/RM be DEFERRED to enable the full and thorough assessment of the suitability and safety of all routes to the development and that this be presented to the Committee.


REASON FOR DECISION: In the interests of highway safety.


Audio Recording of Meeting – Session 2 – Start of Item - 6 seconds


Diversification of Sandon Bury Farm to provide an events venue and guest accommodation, comprising demolition of existing modern buildings within the Sandon Bury Farm complex, change of use of existing buildings from agricultural uses to an events venue, guest accommodation and alterations to listed and non-listed buildings (Black Barn, grain store and hay barn).


The Planning Officer advised Members that a number of further representations had been received since the publication of the report as follows:


·                From a neighbour concerning issues about noise;

·                From Pegasus Group, representing the Sandon Action Group, in relation to noise.


These representations had been sent to the NHDC Senior Environmental Health Officer whose comments, dated 11 September 2018, had been circulated to Members.


Following this memo, the applicant’s consultants had commented on the representations made.


A peer review of noise impact assessment was then received from Cass Allen on behalf of Pegasus Group.


A further memo was received from the applicant’s consultants on 19 September 2018.


The NHDC Senior Environmental Health Officer had reviewed all of the representations.


The Senior Environmental Health Officer advised that his comments sought to discuss the peer review noise assessment review by Cass Allen dated 14 September 2018 and the subsequent memo from SLR dated 19 September 2018.


In terms of base line noise assessment, the original base line levels were originally deemed as acceptable and his view regarding this remained unchanged. He did not dispute the data gathered, however he had concerns that the data relied on related to only one day and therefore could be less representative of the existing noise climate.


In respect of entertainment noise, there was some disagreement between consultants regarding the methodology and guidance used to assess and predict entertainment noise. He had previously advised that he was satisfied with the approach used by SLR and, whilst noting that there were many different noise assessment methodologies, it did not automatically mean that a particular method was incorrect.


He was satisfied that the entertainment noise was unlikely to adversely affect residential amenity, providing the recommended conditions were imposed. The inclusion of the noise enclosure was vital to protect residential amenity.


It had been proposed that, Condition 7 be amended to include proprietary noise limiters, he had already deemed that the noise enclosure would be sufficient, but agreed that a noise limiting device would provide an additional guarantee regarding the overall noise levels emitted from the venue. This would normally be deregulated, under Licensing, until 11pm, therefore it may be worthwhile including it at the planning stage as an additional safeguard, with levels to be determined by an Environmental Health Officer whilst on site.


In light of the comments of the Senior Environmental Health Office, the Planning Officer recommended changes to some conditions as follows:


Condition 8 to read:


Prior to the installation of any fixed plant, a noise survey following the guidelines set out by BS4142:2014 shall be undertaken. This survey shall take into account all proposed fixed plant as part of the development and shall include noise control measures which should be submitted for written approval by the Local Planning Authority (LPA). No fixed plant shall be installed and operated at the site until the noise survey has been approved by the LPA. Noise mitigation measures shall be such as to achieve 5dB below existing background noise levels. The fixed plant, as approved, shall therefore be maintained in accordance with the approved noise control measures.


Reason: to protect the amenities of existing residents.


Condition 9 to read:


Goods vehicle deliveries and refuse vehicles shall only be permitted between 08.00hrs and 20.00hrs Monday to Friday, 08.00hrs and 18.00hrs Saturdays and no deliveries or collections shall take place at all on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Reason: to protect the amenities of existing residents.


Condition 11 to read:


A maximum of seventy-five (75) event days (one event not exceeding 24 hrs) shall take place per calendar year with no more than three (3) event days taking place per calendar week.


Reason: to protect the amenities of existing residents.


Condition 12 to read:


Live and recorded music shall not be permitted to take place in the outside areas (in the open air) of the venue at any time, except for music accompanying a ceremony and shall last no longer than one hour between the hours of 10.00 and 20.00 on any event day.


Reason: to protect the amenities of existing residents.


The Planning Officer presented the report of the Development and Conservation Manager in respect of planning application 18/00584/FP.supported by a visual presentation consisting of plans, drawings and photographs of the site.


Ms Kate Wood (Sandon Action Group), Ms Bridget Wheeler (Parish Council) and Mr Sam Bryant thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee in objection to application 18/00584/FP.


Ms Wood informed Members that she was the planning consultant for Sandon Action Group and that she had sent a summary to all Councillors.


Her professional advice to Sandon Action Group was that the proposed venue was contrary to the Council’s adopted planning policies, was unsustainable and detrimental to amenity.


It was for good reason that NHDC Policy 39 stated that leisure uses in rural villages should be to serve rural community needs only.


The main concern was that the proposal would cause unacceptable noise and disturbance to residential amenity, both through the use of the venue and significant traffic convening on the village.


There were some missing conditions that had been requested being:


·                The requirement for a management plan;

·                The prevention of fireworks;

·                The requirement to keep windows closed.


They had also sent in comments about the wording of conditions, particularly that of Condition 7.


Some conditions were unenforceable, particularly those relating to finishing times of events, those preventing certain activities outdoors and the assumption that doors would be kept shut.


It was impossible for NHDC to prevent cars taxis and coaches from parking and waiting in the narrow village streets and prevent people from causing late night disturbance, following a wedding of up to 150 guests.


There was a compelling case to effuse the application on noise grounds or at least defer it to require a reappraisal of the noise assessment and the unsustainability of the location.


Mr Sam Bryant, Associate Director, Cass Allen, advised that Cass Allen carried out a peer review of the assessment and it was their view that, based on the noise assessment prepared by SLR on behalf of the applicant, the proposed site operations were highly likely to result in significant adverse effects in terms of noise, as defined in the Noise Impact Statement for 2010 and the Noise Planning Practice Guidance 2014.


These documents stated that, where such effects were anticipated, it was likely that the nearby residents’ quality of life would likely diminish due to forced changes in behaviour, such as having to keep windows closed during summer and the potential for sleep disturbance.


Having reviewed the SLR Noise Impact Assessment, it was clear that they had not only used incorrect assessment criteria, but did not adequately take into account the nature of the noise itself. The criteria applied would be appropriate for a constant source, such as road traffic, but instead was applied to noise with a very clear and distinctive characteristic, in this case music or amplified speech.


Additionally the report attempted to assess the impact of low frequency noise by applying internal noise criteria, more typically applied to mechanical services, not designed to assess music noise and residences.


More appropriate criteria, provided in the Institute of Acoustics Good Practice Guide on the Noise from Pubs and Clubs 2003, stated that premises where entertainment takes place on a regular basis, music and associated noise sources should not be audible inside noise sensitive property at any time. The SLR assessment reproduced this guidance but did not apply it at any point in the assessment.


Given the existing noise environment was relatively quiet and dominated by low level road traffic and natural noises, the significant event noise, predicted in the SLR report would be clearly audible and therefore fall a long way short of this design target, even with the proposed acoustic upgrades to the building.


This was particularly true of the low frequency base beat, this type of noise had not been demonstrated to be sufficiently mitigated within the design of the Black Barn and would be easily distinguishable from the background noise environment at the levels predicted in the SLR report.


It was his view that, if the development was approved as proposed, then complaints to the Council’s Environmental Health Department were almost inevitable due to the perceived impact of operational noise. This would lead to an investigation by the Council and, based on the SLR predicted noise levels, the complaints would likely be upheld. It would then be the responsibility of the venue to make costly alterations to their operations or building fabric, neither of which would be guaranteed to reduce the noise impact of operations to an acceptable level.


On this basis he recommended that the development as proposed not be granted planning permission. Further more the amendments to Condition 7 were not considered sufficient to fully mitigate the noise impact and would require further rewording for this site to receive permission.


Ms Wheeler advised that Sandon Parish Council was a statutory consultee. The relevant Policy 7 and Policy 20, applied to this village as a village beyond the Green Belt and a conservation site. This required the development to respect the visual character of the area and maintain and enhance it. It was necessary to know the existing characteristics of the village to appreciate this and no-one was better placed to do this than the people who lived there.


130 villagers and the Parish Council had written to oppose this application for a number of vey compelling reasons.


In response to a question Mr Bryant advised that he had studied the SLR noise assessment in detail and determined that the wrong criteria were used and therefore incorrect conclusions were drawn.


The Chairman thankedMs Wood, Ms Wheeler and Mr Bryant for their presentation.


Councillor Steve Jarvis, Member Advocate, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee in objection to application 18/00584/FP.


Councillor Jarvis advised that he originally understood that the application would be considered by the Committee as a result of the size of the site, subsequently this was changed, therefore he had requested that it be considered on the basis of local interest and he noted that approximately 10 percent of the population of Sandon was present at the meeting, which demonstrated the level of local interest.


There were a number of significant issues regarding the application.


One related to listed buildings and valuable heritage assets and the application dealt with this aspect perfectly satisfactorily and he had no concern about the physical nature of the proposals.


There were issues regarding noise, on which representations had been made, and the impact of traffic.


In respect of traffic there was an assessment by Herts County Council that the road outside of the venue was capable of dealing with the volume of traffic and he agreed that part of the road was. The problem regarding traffic was that, whilst the road in the middle of Sandon was a two lane road, the road leading to Sandon was not and it led to an unsatisfactory junction on the A505


There were issues in terms of the impact this would have and he had thought very carefully about whether the impact that this would have on the village would be offset by the benefits. He had come to the conclusion that the impact on one of the quietest and most rural areas in North Hertfordshire, of potentially three events with 150 people per week, was not acceptable.


He did not think it would be unacceptable to have any type of event venue, but the proposed level of activity would have an unsatisfactory impact on the village and for this reason he had concluded that the application should not be granted permission.


A Member queried whether Councillor Jarvis felt that the Herts County Council assessment was not robust and whether, in his assessment of cost and benefits, whether he had considered the benefit of preserving the buildings and employment.


Councillor Jarvis advised that his view was that the assessment had been undertaken regarding the highway in the immediate vicinity and this assessment was accurate but they had failed to take into account the roads that led to Sandon.


In respect of costs and benefits, Councillor Jarvis advised that it was clear that the listed barns should be preserved, but this was not the only way to achieve that and acknowledged that there would be employment benefits, although this was not the only way to provide this.


The Chairman thanked Councillor Jarvis for his presentation.


Mr Mark Faure Walker, Applicant, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee in support of application 18/00584/FP.


Mr Faure Walker advised that the application had to address two needs. The first was to find a sympathetic use for the historic buildings of the farm yard and the second was to ensure that the farm had a steady stream of income to support the business during the expensive transition to more natural systems of crop production.


Over the last 4 years they had undertaken detailed pre-application consultations with the Council, Natural England and Historic England who all looked favourably on the proposal.


Last year they had submitted an application for an events venue but, based on responses from the community and consultees, the application was withdrawn in order to make necessary modifications.


The current application was based on a thorough pre-application and design review process, with detailed input from a range of independent technical consultants and the local community.


The scheme had been revised from the original application with the maximum number of events being halved from 150 to 75, the maximum number of guests reduced from 200 to 150 and a revised access and parking arrangement reducing the landscape impact.


The business would create 6 permanent positions and up to 25 temporary positions per event. In addition the proposal would support local businesses both during construction and when it was running.


These jobs would support a sizeable number of local residents, who had written to the Council in support of the scheme. The position of the Council and National policy was clear to support people who live and work in the local area.


He thanked Council Officers and consultees for the positive input into the scheme and pointed out that the recommendation was clear in stating there were no sustainable planning objections to the application and that planning permission should be granted, subject to the safeguards set out in the planning conditions.


The Council provided clear professional guidance to the Committee and qualified that there were no objections raised by key specialist consultees regarding planning matters of noise, highways, heritage and ecology.


On the matter of principle and scale of development the proposal met all local and National policy. On landscape and heritage, officers stated that the proposal would represent a sustainable use and a significant improvement on the appearance of the existing listed buildings.


On ecology, Natural England and the Wildlife Trust concurred that satisfactory information had been provided, as part of the application, to ensure ecology interests were safeguarded


On Highways, the County Council raised no objection to the proposal.


On the very important matter of noise, the Council’s independent advisor had reviewed all evidence presented and had raised no objections to the proposals, subject to relevant planning conditions.


The objectors raised a comparison with other venues when stating why this application should be refused, when looking in depth at those venues, one of them attracted complaints about wedding receptions held in a marquee. He asked that Committee contrast this with the measures being put in place. All amplified music would be controlled and contained within a purpose built acoustic enclosure, which would be placed within an acoustically insulated barn. The barn would be fitted with mechanical ventilation and air cooling to ensure that all windows and doors would remain shut.


They had taken the matter of noise very seriously and this was reflected in the design of the scheme, which mitigated the impacts from noise.


The report concluded by stating that there were no sustainable planning objections to the application and recommended that planning permission be granted.


Mr Faure Walker concluded by asking the Committee to support the proposal to diversify their business and secure a sustainable future for the farm and farm yard and the local people who live and wok in the area.



Members queried whether the accommodation in the main house would become a hotel in the future and asked how many vehicles would likely attend the weddings.


They queried what other options had been considered for the farm yard and why this was the venture chosen.


Members asked for confirmation that the ceremonies would take place within the barn and asked for more clarification regarding the acoustic shell and enclosure.


Mr Faure Walker advised that there were no plans for a hotel and the accommodation was purely for weddings, although it could be used for other people to let out if not being used for weddings.


In respect of the number of vehicles, they had 89 spaces available at any one time, in addition there would be a number of service vehicles.


They had considered various options for the farm yard and a number of them could have been achieved, but this was the least risky option and the one that they were most comfortable with.


Mr Faure Walker could not confirm that all ceremonies would be inside, but the building was purpose built for a wedding ceremony. If someone wanted a blessing outside with a small number of witnesses, this may be allowed.


Mr Faure Walker described in detail the acoustic enclosure and soundproofing measures for the barn.


The Chairman thanked Mr Faure Walker for his presentation.


Members queried whether there were other similar facilities in the District.


The Senior Planning Officer advised that a similar venue in a village to that proposed was Offley Place. There was also Priory Barns, Redcoats and Hexton Manor in the District.


Members asked for confirmation as to whether an additional condition was required to install and noise limiter and asked how these devices worked.


The Senior Environmental Health Officer advised that the installation of a noise limiter would be an additional safeguard, however it should be noted that the provision of an acoustic enclosure was unusual and was above and beyond what would be expected. There were different types of noise limiter and these were recommended on a regular basis for licensed premises.


Members referred to Paragraph 3.3 of the report and expressed concern that the comments were limited and were particularly concerned that Highways had only made reference to Rushden Road. They believed that most traffic would not travel down Rushden Road to get to this facility, but would travel in from the A505.


The road from the A505 was narrow and dangerous and, with 75 – 100 cars travelling down that road, some safety measures, such as passing places, should be put in place.


The Senior Planning Officer advised that the Highway comments were that they had undertaken a traffic survey over 7 days on the Rushden Road and concluded that they were satisfied.


A Member commented that the Committee relied upon assessments from Highways to help them make a decision and in this case they could not rely on the information as most of the traffic would approach from a different direction from that assessed by Highways.


In the interests of safety and the ability of the Committee to make an informed decision it was proposed that the application be deferred pending receipt of an assessment on all of the access roads and a safety audit.


The proposal was seconded and having been put to the vote, it was


RESOLVED: That application 17/04393/RM be DEFERRED to enable the full and thorough assessment of the suitability and safety of all routes to the development and that this be presented to the Committee.


REASON FOR DECISION: In the interests of highway safety.

Supporting documents: