Planning Application 22/01623/FUL - The Swan Inn, Lower Street, Merriott, Somerset, TA16 5NN
Application Proposal: Change of use of Public House (Sui Generis use) to dwelling (Use Class C3)
The Planning Specialist corrected an error in the report and advised that the site was located to the eastern side of Lower Street and not the west as stated in the report. He also advised that there was a paragraph in the report that related to the provision of an ecology survey and that this should be discounted and was not relevant to this planning application.
The Planning Specialist advised that the application was solely to consider the change of use and no external alterations or other operational development was proposed as part of the application. With the aid of a powerpoint presentation, he outlined the application site and the surrounding area, the existing plans and proposed plans. Photographs of the site were also shown. He highlighted to members the key considerations which were principle of development, siting, design and visual/landscape impact, impact on residential amenity, access and highways safety and Ecology and Habitat Regulations.
In conclusion, the Planning Specialist advised that the loss of the existing public house and accommodation was considered to be acceptable as it should not affect the village's vitality and viability, or community vibrancy given there was alternative provision of equal or better quality. The proposal would make a limited contribution to housing supply in a broadly sustainable location. The proposal would not harm the significance of the listed building and the character and appearance of the conservation area, there were no undue concerns regarding residential amenity, highway safety and ecology or designated sites, therefore the application was recommended for approval subject to conditions.
In response to questions from members, the Planning Specialist advised that:
· The Swan Inn had been closed since 2016.
· The landlords were currently living at the premises.
· If the Committee were minded to grant permission and this was implemented, planning permission would be required for the premises to operate as a public house again.
· Local Plan Policy EP15 set out the criteria that needed to be met. Both did not need to be satisfied it was either or both. The claim from the applicant that the business was unviable was acknowledged but the information provided was out of date, therefore it could only be given limited weight.
· A material change of use still constituted development.
· The lawful use of the site was a public house so it could not be sold on the open market as a dwelling. The living accommodation above was ancillary to the use of the public house.
The Committee was addressed by the applicant. He advised that The Swan Inn was an historic and cherished building and referred to there being no recent evidence of re-investment, upkeeping or profitability. He said that the village was notified of his intention to sell the lease of the premises in June 2016 due to the business no longer being viable and explained the circumstances which led to the closure of the public house in September 2016 due to an unsubstantiated noise notice being served and the reasons for the public house being taken off the market in 2017. He referred to the social club and other public house operating within Merriott, both being better sited with superior capacity and accessibility.
The agent referred to Local Plan Policy EP15 and reiterated that applications were required to satisfy one or both of the criteria. In this case, she said that the proposal complied fully with the first requirement and detailed information had been provided in respect of the second requirement regarding viability. She said that since purchasing The Swan in 2011, the applicants had always been committed to running The Swan as a viable local pub, had undertaken extensive renovation and made improvements to the building and in their time had worked hard to try and revitalise the business. The applicants’ efforts in trying to restore the fortunes of The Swan were well documented in the business and marketing statement. Despite the applicants’ best efforts, the pub remained unviable and was forced to close in 2016. Since that time the applicants had continued to live in the flat upstairs but were not living in the rest of the pub which was closed and empty. She concluded that the application complied fully with the relevant policy but also noted that there were no adverse impacts associated with the change of use of the building as a single dwelling and the proposal also complied with other local and national planning policies.
Ward Member, Councillor Paul Maxwell said that he had lived in Merriott for over 25 years and during most of that time The Swan was a cherished local pub frequented and enjoyed by the village which also provided good food. He believed that the application did not accord with Policy E15 and disputed that the alternative provision was better. The Swan when open was by far the most superior pub in the village in terms of its ambience, food and general welcoming feeling. He felt that the village should be able to sustain two pubs. He was unable to support the officer’s recommendation and was of the view that The Swan should remain. He proposed that the application be refused, however the proposal was not seconded.
During the discussion on the item, members made several comments which included the following:
· It was always sad to see a village pub close but the pub had been shut since 2016 so the only thing that was cherished was a memory.
· If the pub was so cherished surely its customers would have rallied round to help and support the landlord to defeat the noise complaint.
· The trade had gone elsewhere and with the current climate would it come back again.
· The situation in 2016 should have been investigated including the trading position of the pub at that point and what attempts had been made to market it.
· The pub had been closed for six years. Since this time there had been covid and there were already a number of pubs up for sale in Somerset.
· In the current economic climate, it was felt that people would not be considering opening a pub.
· The application was supported by the Parish Council.
At the conclusion of the debate, it was proposed and seconded to approve the application as per the officer’s recommendation outlined in the agenda report. On being put to the vote the application was approved by 9 votes in favour and 1 against.
That Planning Application 22/01623/FUL be APPROVED as per the Planning Officer’s recommendation for the following reason:
01. The proposal, would not have any adverse affect on the village's vitality and viability, or community vibrancy. No adverse impact on visual amenity, the historic environment, residential amenity, highway safety, along with designated ecological sites is identified. As such, the proposal accord with policy SD1, SS1, TA5, EQ1, EQ2, EQ3 and EP15 of the South Somerset Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework (2021).
SUBJECT TO THE FOLLOWING:
01. The development hereby permitted shall be begun before the expiration of three years from the date of this permission.
Reason: To comply with Section 91(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1990 (As amended).
02. The development shall be carried out in strict accordance with the approved drawings (unnumbered site location plan, P100, unnumbered floorplans identifying existing use, unnumbered floorplans identifying proposed use - received 27 June 2022) unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority.
Reason: To define the consent and ensure a satisfactory development in accordance with Policies EQ2 and EP15 of the South Somerset Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework.
03. Notwithstanding the provisions of Schedule 2, Parts 1 and 2 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (or any order modifying, revoking or re-enacting that Order), no external alterations, extension, garage, car port, other building/structure, fence, wall, gate or hardstanding shall be erected, installed or provided on or around the site without a further express planning permission having first been obtained from the Local Planning Authority.
Reason: To help safeguard the settings of the listed buildings and the character and appearance of the Merriott Conservation Area, in accordance with Policies EQ2 and EQ3 of the South Somerset Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework.
01. This planning permission is for the change of use of the building to one residential dwelling. It does not authorise any external works or development (operational development) or internal works to the building. Separate planning permission or listed building consent may be required to facilitate any forthcoming residential use of the site. You are advised to discuss any future proposals or submissions with the Local Planning Authority.
(Voting: 9 in favour, 1 against)