Dragons Head Application

At a meeting of the City Council Planning Committee on 09 January 2017 the Planning Department Officials presented a ten page report on the Planning Application made by Simon Nutter in respect of the Dragons Head.

You can read all ten pages at this link: Planning Report

In a preamble to the report the following comment is made: This form of development would normally be dealt with under the Scheme of Delegation. However, a request has been made by Councillor Peter Williamson for the application to be reported to the Planning Committee. The reasons for the request relates to: the proximity to recently approved dwellings; the access has been used for many years by the public house; and issues raised by the Authority in relation to design.”  The “Scheme of Delegation” referred to is one in which the Planning Committee do not consider the Application themselves but leave it to the Officers of the Council to make the decision for them.  Peter’s timely intervention has brought the matter before Committee who, I understand are planning to make a site visit.  In fact 7 members of the Committee voted against the site visit and 7 in favour.  The motion was carried by the Chairmans casting vote.

 In my view, there are a number of dubious observations made in the Departments report.  I list a few below and would be interested in any observations which villagers would like to comment upon.

  1. The site is located within a small rural settlement with very limited services and as such is not considered to be sustainable in terms of its location. It is not considered that a sufficient and robust justification has been put forward to justify four new dwellings in this unsustainable location and it is likely that the proposal could have a detrimental impact on the viability and vitality of the pub business which it proposes to support.
  2. As a result of increased traffic movements and poor visibility at the site’s entrance, the application has failed to demonstrate that it will benefit from a safe access point onto the public highway.
  3. County Highways – Oppose: The proposal will result in an increase in peak hour traffic movements and the development has not demonstrated that it will benefit from a safe access point onto the public highway.
  4. Neighbour Representations:
    1. No evidence that the works will contribute to the re-opening of the public house and post office;
      • The following representation was made by Patricia Barber: “I am sure the majority of people in the village really want the pub to be renovated, as do I as the site has been an eyesore for a number of years. However, taking that plans for the pub are not included in this application, is there any guarantee that this will take place?”
      • The following representation was made by Rob Mackereth: “I feel the village has been held to ransom by the pub being closed until the planning has been approved and agreed. The pub is an essential ‘heart’ to the village, this is even more crucial now with the lack of any public transport outside of school hours. The village needs reassurance that the pub will reopen.”
    2. Impact on neighbouring property from existing smoking shelter; (There is no documentary evidence that any representation was made on this aspect of the application [JK])
  5. Principle of the development
    • Core Strategy Policy SC1 requires new development to be as sustainable as possible, in particular it should be convenient to walk, cycle and travel by public transport and homes, workplaces shops, schools, health centres, recreation, leisure and community facilities.
    • DM20 sets out that proposals should minimise the need to travel, particularly by private car, and maximise the opportunities for the use of walking, cycling and public transport.
    • DM42 lists settlements where new housing will be supported and indicates that proposals for new homes in isolated locations will not be supported unless clear benefits of development outweigh the dis-benefits. The application is not located within one of the settlements, the nearest of these being Arkholme
    • DM42 also speaks on when rural developments will be supported. The report observes: Whittington is a small and relatively linear settlement, with development predominantly following the main roads through the village. It has a church and village hall and a public house, which is currently closed. There has previously been a more frequent bus service through the village, however there currently only appears to be one bus service from Kirkby Lonsdale to Whittington, continuing through to Lancaster, which is only on school days. Therefore someone living in this location would be wholly reliant on private transport. There are also currently no shops in the village, although one has been proposed as part of another housing scheme to redevelop a farm complex within the village. The submission sets out that one would be proposed in the re-opened public house, although it does not form part of the current scheme. The site is therefore not in a location where new residential development would usually be supported as it is not considered to be sustainable.
    • The submission explains that the proposal will help to maintain the existing vitality of the local community through the refurbishment and reopening of the Dragon’s Head. There have been no details provided with the submission in how it would enable the public house to be reopened (for example the need for and costs of any refurbishment required that the dwellings might contribute towards). It would need to be fully demonstrated through robust evidence that the level of development proposed was required to bring the public house back into use. There are also no assurances that the development would lead to the reopening of the pub and, if anything, it is likely to lead to the business being less viable with the loss of the beer garden. It would normally be expected that this would be maintained, and possibly enhanced, as it would be a key attraction to a rural village pub.
    • The submission sets out that the applicant’s expertise in the leisure industry, having owned and managed a number of cafes and licenced facilities, and illustrates that serious intention to bring the pub business back into use. It also states that the proposals clearly include the construction of a car park for the pub and the applicant would accept a condition that the car park is completed prior to the occupation of the houses and that bringing the car park closer to the pub will make it more usable, particularly for disabled customers. A statement has also been provided by the applicant to show how he would run the public house. In addition to setting out that it is the intention to operate a bed and breakfast, this sets out that the sitting-out area would be moved to the front and that he never used the rear garden when he visited the pub many years ago. The plans do not show this, and it is still considered that an enhanced area at the rear would benefit the business and provide an area away from the road, which would be particularly beneficial for families. The application does not give any certainty that the development would lead to the re-opening of the public house, even if the car park is extended, or is required to allow for this.
    • In addition, within the preapplication advice, it was set out that the need for housing in Whittington should be justified with a robust, well evidenced local housing need assessment. The resubmission refers to the one carried out for a development which was approved in the village earlier in the year at Whittington Farm for 18 houses, although does not go into this in detail. It is not clear that this development would meet an identified housing need, particularly in conjunction with the approved development. This decision has also been referred to by the agent. However, each application must be determined on its own merits. The approved scheme provided some very clear benefits which weighed in favour of the development. These were: the provision of a village shop and tea room within a converted barn; delivery of market and affordable housing; enhancements to the Conservation Area; utilisation of brownfield land and the provision of open space.
    • Highways Authority recommend that the application be refused on the grounds that the development has not demonstrated that it will benefit from a safe access point onto the public highway, and that the development will result in an increase in peak hour traffic movements.
  6. Conclusions
    1. The site is located within a location which is considered to be unsustainable. Although the reopening of the public house would help to maintain the vitality of the settlement, this is not actually provided through the proposal. There is no certainty that the scheme will result in this and it also removes the associated beer garden which could adversely impact on the viability and vitality of the public house. In addition, no evidence has been provided to demonstrate that the development is required to bring the public house back into use and there has been no robust justification put forward as to how the proposal would provide for local housing needs. Part of the scheme does propose the conversion of a traditional building however, it is not considered that it would improve the setting of the building and would likely result in harm to the non-designated heritage asset and potentially the Conservation Area. It is not therefore, considered that the benefits of the proposal outweigh the harm. It is noted that a recent scheme for residential units has been granted in Whittington. However, this proposed to replace agricultural buildings and there were other clear benefits of the scheme which outweighed the unsustainable location. In addition to the above, it is not considered that the proposal provides a safe means of access or delivers high quality design.

John Keegan

3 thoughts on “Dragons Head Application”

  1. 1). The 19 Dwellings proposed for Whittington Farm require a new access road, to what will remain as the farming side of the business. I am given to believe that this will be down the lane adjoining Low Hall. No consideration has been given to the problems of this lane and requirements made for a solution to form part of the Application. But it is felt desirable to put restrictions on the Dragons Head Application – why?
    2). In response to the 2015 Application for 19 Dwellings etc. at Whittington Farm Andrew Dobson, (Chief Officer Regeneration & Planning) observed “Whilst the provision of the village shop is supported and would assist in enhancing the vitality of the local community officers are concerned about the feasibility of this proposal. It is noted that the planning statement suggests that this would be subsidised for 5 years. Confirmation of this commitment would be required.” Who in Whittington believes that the shop is viable and will still be open after five years, added to which no such assurance has been confirmed to the best of my knowledge.
    3). Much is made of the proposed play area. Who wants their kids accessing the farm down our current pavements?
    4). Simon Nutter’s shop proposal is viable because he can use the perishable stock in the B&B and restaurant side of his business.
    5). The pub provided more passengers for Stagecoach than any other single source in the area. And would be a driving force in getting the buses back.
    6). Putting the car park at the back of the pub stops visitors from reversing onto the main road, which they always did. A sitting out area at the front would be ideal because the beer garden was very rarely used, there being more sun at the front.

  2. Many thanks John for the supportive comments, as you are aware the site visit will be on Monday 30th between 10 and 11 am if at all possible I would like the front to be free of any cars parked ( if you know anyone who does park there) to show the area we are planning on having as a sitting out area. The actual planning meeting (which is open to the public) will be at Lancaster Town Hall at 10.30 the following Monday 6th February, any villagers who wish to support our application could easily sway the committee’s decision by writing/emailing to both Peter Williamson and Eleanor Fawcett at Lancaster planning dept…….

  3. In addition to posting this comment on the Blog, I am also sending it as an email to all those who provided their email address when they signed the petition in 2014 supporting the retention of the Dragons Head as a public house.

    The Planning Committee of Lancaster City Council will be visiting the Dragons Head on Monday 30th between 10 and 11 am, in order to view the site as part of their considerations of the Planning Application. The Officers of the Planning Department have recommended against the application and half of the Committee didn’t feel it necessary to visit the site, the matter was carried by the Chairmans casting vote.

    Simon would like people to ensure that on the day they do not park their vehicles in front of the pub, as this is the area that is intended to be a sitting out area rather than for parking and it is desirable that the visitors see it as it is intended to be.
    The actual planning meeting (which is open to the public) will be at Lancaster Town Hall at 10.30 the following Monday 6th February, any villagers who wish to support the application could easily sway the committee’s decision by writing/emailing to both Councillor Peter Williamson (pwilliamson@lancaster.gov.uk) and Eleanor Fawcett (efawcett@lancaster.gov.uk) at Lancaster planning dept.

    Some key comparison points with the 19 properties at Whittington Farm, which has been approved, and the Dragons Head are relevant:

    1. The sight lines at the exit from the farm are no better than at the pub but have not been considered.
    2. There are no pavements at the farm.
    3. The shop at the farm is not sustainable and is only guaranteed to be there for five years. At the pub, the perishable goods can be used in the B&B and restaurant side of the business making it much more sustainable.
    4. There is a play area at the farm but no pavements to get to it.
    5. The pub was always the biggest single source of passengers for Stagecoach and would help in the quest to get the busses back.
    6. Using the front of the pub as a sitting out area means that there would be no cars reversing onto the main road. The so-called beer garden at the rear of the pub was very rarely used.
    7. The pub was always the venue for the weekly pensioner’s lunches, an important community event.
    8. BT are planning to remove the village phone kiosk because of lack of use. It was users of the pub who traditionally made the greatest use of it.

    Can I encourage anyone who misses the amenity provided by our pub and would welcome its early reopening, to let their views be known?

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