‘Grand Designs-style’ home in Rotherfield turned down

Artist's impression of the proposed home at Yewtree Lakes
Artist's impression of the proposed home at Yewtree Lakes

Proposals to build a ‘Grand Designs-style’ home in Rotherfield have been turned down due to concerns about its impact on the AONB.

An application to redevelop Yewtree Trout Farm into a single large home, described by planning officers as being ‘of exceptional quality and design’, was refused by Wealden District Council’s planning Committee North on Wednesday (November 15).

While the application had been recommended for approval by officers and had the support of residents living nearby, committee members felt the design did not meet the standards required to build within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and refused it on these grounds.

Before making a decision the committee heard representations from planning agent Robert Hughes and architect Richard Hawkes – who both spoke in favour of the application.

During his representation, Mr Hawkes said: “Our clients – John and Gayle (Schumacher) – are passionate custodians of their land at Yewtree Lakes. Their connection with the land has come from a life spent creating the lake environment and the landscape setting that exists there today.

“The proposals before you today are the culmination of two years’ work, working closely with the landscape architect and client to understand in great detail the distinctive characteristics of the site.”

Mr Hawkes added the the design had been ‘uniquely-tailored’ to the site and would enhance the features of the landscape.

Meanwhile, Mr Hughes argued that the design would meet the high standards set out in Paragraph 79 if the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The guidelines within Paragraph 79 allows planning authorities to refuse building in the open countryside, unless a design is ‘truly outstanding/innovative’ or ‘would significantly enhance its immediate setting.’

The committee also heard how the council had received nine letters of support from neighbours, which praised both the design of home and the ‘stewardship’ of the applicants.

While no neighbours had raised objections to the scheme, the committee heard how objections had been raised by both the High Weald AONB Unit and Rotherfield Parish Council.

Objections were also raised at the meeting by ward councillor Phil Dixon (Conservative), who argued that he felt the designs did not meet the criteria of the Paragraph 79 rules.

He said: “It has to be exceptional, outstanding or innovative. It has to be ground-breaking or set some new example for rural housing. It has to have the highest architectural standards. It has to significantly enhance the immediate environment and it has to be consistent with the area that it is built.

“These are all ‘ands’. If it fails on one, it wont achieve the Paragraph 79 [standards] and you will therefore, I presume, almost certainly refuse it.”

Cllr Dixon added that he believed the design both failed to enhance the immediate environment and was not consistent with the surrounding area.

He said: “On that basis I do not think it meets the standards – the very, very high standards – of a Paragraph 79 house.

“There has been support from the local community but the parish council oppose that development and I think it is a reasonable position for them to take.”

Committee members had split opinions on whether the design met the Paragraph 79 guidelines, with some praising the designs while others criticised them.

However the critics won the argument, with the application being refused six votes to three.

Concerns were also raised about the loss of the commercial fishery by allowing the development to move ahead, although this did not form part of the reasons for refusal.