Tuesday, 07 April 2020

Your house is too big

Your house is too big

A BUSINESSMAN may have to tear down his new home because it is too big.

Davy Snowdon, a former weightlifting world champion, has built the property in Harpsden 41 per cent bigger than he was allowed to.

The rebuilt house

Now he has been told to comply with his planning permission, which means either reconstructing the house or demolishing it and starting again.

Mr Snowdon, 55, is the founder and owner of Henley manual training firm Pristine Condition who was awarded an MBE in 2014 for services to health and safety at work and his charity work.

He was granted permission to knock down and enlarge the size of his home in Harpsden Bottom almost three years ago.

But he did not follow the agreed plans and also constructed an over-sized outbuilding said to resemble a second house and created an underground store without permission.

Now he and his wife Jessica have been refused retrospective permission by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, to make the development lawful. He can appeal against the decision.

Part of the 0.31-hectare site is in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The original house, tennis court, swimming pool and outbuilding were in a poor state of repair. In July 2015, the council granted Mr Snowdon permission for a two-storey extension to the house.

Five months later, it approved the construction of the new, larger property and an outbuilding with a quadruple garage, gym and home office. The plans showed the building would have a volume of 1,033 cubic metres (m3) compared with the 560m3 of the original house.

The council’s planning officers said the extra volume would not have a visually greater impact than the extension previously approved.

However, the completed building has a volume of 1,457m3, which is 160 per cent bigger than the original house. The new footprint is 219 sq m compared with the 198 sq m that the council approved.

In a report, planning officer Rob Cramp says: “All of this has resulted in a considerably larger, taller, bulkier and ornate building that sits considerably closer to the front boundary with a principal elevation that no longer addresses the highway.”

The outbuilding was built with a footprint 14 per cent larger than agreed and 31 per cent more floor space.

Mr Cramp said: “The simple and elegant barn-like appearance of the building approved by planning permission has been replaced with a building that appears more like a dwelling in its own right.

“In this regard the building contains all the elements necessary for day-to-day living and, in my opinion, is tantamount to the creation of a separate dwelling.

“Indeed, much of the garaging function of the previously approved outbuilding appears to have been transferred to an ‘underground store’ building for which planning permission was not granted.”

In the application, planning consultant Jake Collinge said parts of the site had been a dumping ground with asbestos, concrete blocks, gas bottles and general building materials left there.

He said: “The character and condition of the site was one that intruded negatively on the special landscape qualities of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the visual amenities of the area more generally.”

Some neighbours opposed Mr Snowdon’s latest application.

Duncan McClure-Fisher, of Gillotts Lane, said: “We feel that this site has been completely overdeveloped. There used to be a small cottage on a green site. Now the whole site is a concrete jungle.

“The house is enormous but we could live with that. What is out of order are all the extra buildings in what should be the garden.

“There is, in effect, almost no green space at all left on the site and every inch is built on.

“We have done development on our property and aren’t averse to development but this is way over the top,”

Henricus Sypkens, of Harpsden Bottom, said: “The buildings as built, largely due to measures taken to increase floorspace and volume, are not as attractive or appropriate as those that were approved.

“In all the circumstances, I would ask the council to refuse this application and take measures to reduce the development on site to the scale previously approved.”

Catherine Rubinstein, from Harpsden, said: “If you now grant retrospective permission for issues that are so far from trivial, that makes a nonsense of the planning process and the district council’s control over it.

“Any claims that the former site was derelict are nonsense: it was shabby and needed smartening up, but the development site he has turned it into is a worse eyesore in comparison.

“Where there was a tennis court and a garden, there are now garages and outbuildings. This is not appropriate in a very visible part of the AONB.”

Other neighbours supported Mr Snowdon.

David and Linda Potter, of Harpsden Bottom, said: “We think that Mr and Mrs Snowdon have done a wonderful job of transforming a once derelict eyesore into a wonderful country house.

“The garden landscaping is very tasteful with imaginative planting.

“This has made a huge improvement to the area.”

Jane Burtt, of Harpsden, said: “This house is in no way detrimental to the landscape and will weather into the countryside.”

Adrian Duffield, head of planning at the district council, said: “The development significantly diminishes the landscape quality of the site and its surroundings and is therefore harmful to the landscape and scenic beauty of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

A district council spokesman said: “We have refused the developer’s application to retain this unauthorised development. Therefore, as built, it does not have planning permission.

“The developer has the right to appeal this decision. However, if the unauthorised structure remains in place, we are able to take formal enforcement action.”

Pristine Condition, which is based in Centenary Business Park, off Station Road, specialises in manual handling training.

Mr Snowdon founded the company in 1996 to provide training for manual handling. It now covers a wide range of health and safety and has more than 2,000 clients, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Nestlé, Argos, Jewson, the Health and Safety Executive and London Underground.

Mr Snowdon was the Team GB conditioning expert for all sports at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. He He also competed in the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 in weightlifting.

He did not respond to requests for comment.

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