Change of use from high way to private garden (amended ownership certificate received 1 September 2022).
The committee considered planning application P22/V1851/FUL for the change of use from high way to private garden (amended ownership certificate received 1 Sept 2022), on land at Wrens Hobbit, Betty Lane, Oxford.
Consultations, representations, policy and guidance, and the site’s planning history were detailed in the officer’s report, which formed part of the agenda pack for the meeting.
The planning officer introduced the report and highlighted that the application was brought to committee by the request of the planning manager. The planning officer then informed the committee that the application was for the change of use from a highway to a private garden enclosed by a timber fence. The site itself was within the Oxford Green Belt, adjacent to the applicant’s dwelling, and separated from the A34 by land of unknown ownership – although that land was not materially relevant to the application.
The planning officer noted that despite being designated as a highway, Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, did not have the title for the site and had no objection to the application.
Although the parish council believed that the application would harm linkages from Betty Lane to the garden centre to the north, the path through the land was not a recognised public right of way in the definitive map. In addition, the planning officer presented the definitive map to the committee and showed members the existing bridleway that linked Hinksey Hill to the garden centre and did not consider the route to be inappropriate or inaccessible.
The planning officer also noted the key planning consideration for the application about the longer-term implications its approval would have on sustainable transport aspirations. However, as the route was not a formally recognised right of way, there were no proposals or initiatives to create a route, and the existing informal route was not considered safe or accessible for pedestrians and cyclists, officers believed there were no reasonable right of way or sustainable transport reasons for refusal.
Furthermore, the planning officer believed that through approving the application, conditions could also be placed on the land to limit hard surfacing, inappropriate boundary treatment, and to prevent outbuildings, and so meet the green belt requirements.
Overall, as the highways authority did not object and the application would not interfere with the sustainable transport requirements in the local plan, officers recommended that the application be approved subject to conditions.
Paul Barney, the applicant, spoke in support of the application.
Councillor Debby Hallett, a local ward councillor, spoke objecting to the application.
The committee noted that the site was currently considered a public highway, but also that there was no objection from the highway’s authority about its change of use into a private garden. In addition, members recognised that there was currently no known owner of the site as Oxfordshire County Council possessed no title and the land was not registered with the land registry. The planning officer also informed the committee that it was the applicant’s intent to take possession of the land over time if an owner did not come forward.
Members then asked about access for utilities and the planning officer confirmed that, as part of the stopping up process, the applicant had to consult with utilities to ask if they had any objections, but none had come forward. In addition, the planning officer confirmed that if the change of use was granted it would not prevent access for those utilities.
At this stage, members considered adding an additional condition onto the approval about requiring the applicant to provide land for the use of a footpath if a future plan for one was made and funded, however the committee considered this condition would not meet the necessary planning tests and so was not included.
A question was raised about the application being part retrospective. Although the planning officer confirmed that this should have no material impact on the decision about the application, a highways officer had seen a chain and some garden pots being placed across a part of the highway. As the stopping up process required that the highway had not already been fenced off, the chain and pots were requested to be removed, which the applicant had since done. The Oxfordshire County Council highways officer had also indicated that the chain and pots had not precluded public access as it did not extend the full width of the site.
Finally, the planning officer clarified a point about the condition involving the removal of permitted development rights and confirmed that all outbuildings would not be permitted, and the provision of hard surfacing and a garden shed would also need planning permission.
Overall, members believed that as the highways authority had no objection, and the land was going to be controlled through conditions, the application was acceptable.
A motion, moved and seconded, to approve the application was carried on being put to the vote.
RESOLVED: to approve planning application P22/V1851/FUL, subject to the
1. Commencement 3 years
2. Approved plans
3. External lighting
4. Gates shall be inward opening only
5. Permitted development restriction on outbuildings and boundary treatments
6. Works within the Highway
7. Highway markers