A MAJOR planning application for a scenic spot in the Moorlands is up for approval. Applicant Ben Reeves has submitted the plans for Consall Hall & Gardens, near Wetley Rocks. He is seeking permission for the proposed “change of use and redevelopment of Consall Hall, private house, gardens and wedding venue to form a hospitality venue, wellbeing hotel and lodges comprising the installation of 15 holiday lodges, 10 shepherds huts, demolition of existing outbuildings and construction of new wedding venue buildings, works to the existing walled garden, installation of 21 accommodation pods to serve the wedding venue, access and parking works, demolition and replacement of existing hall to provide new restaurant/hub building (amended design) and refurbishment of the existing swimming pool and changing rooms to form new spa facilities.”
The plans are set to be decided upon at a planning committee meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council today – Wednesday, December 18.
SMDC Planning officer Chris Johnston has recommended the plans for approval “subject to no objection from the Coal Authority ”.
The site is in the countryside a short distance to the east of the small village of Consall and is also within the Green Belt. It comprises a large part of a residential property with extensive gardens and wedding venue and the application site has an area of 22.36 hectares.
Consall Hall was first built in 1810 by an industrialist but has been substantially modified throughout since, including since 1958 when the site was inherited by the previous owner, William Podmore OBE, who spent the next 50 years creating the gardens with lakes, follies and summer houses.
There were historical industrial and mining workings in the vicinity of the hall although an 1880 OS map also shows extensive landscaped gardens, two ponds, a walled garden, coach house and outbuildings within the current site. The gardens were extended southwards in the late 1950’s onto former open cast coal mining quarries.
In his report to councillors, Mr Johnston said of the new proposals for the historic site: “This is a full planning application for the proposed development which has two main components, firstly a redeveloped wedding/hospitality venue with the introduction of guest accommodation in the form of 21 “pods” and secondly, a separate hotel operation with 15 lodges/chalets spread around the gardens, 10 “shepherd huts” and a contemporary-designed “hub” building (with restaurant and spa facilities) to replace the current Consall Hall dwelling.”
With regards to public comments which have been submitted to SMDC surrounding the proposals, Mr Johnston stated in his report: “58 letters of objection were received in response to the original proposal.
“A further 42 letters of objection were received in response to the proposal amended in September 2019.
“A further seven letters were received neither objecting or supporting the application.
“The main planning-related points raised in those letters relate mostly to the impact on the local roads and increased traffic creation with the narrow rural nature of the roads not considered to be able to support the proposal and compromising highway safety.
“Other main concerns raised include the impact on wildlife and trees, noise creation and disturbance from vehicles and the use of the wedding venue, increase in visitors causing increased litter and harm to surrounding farmland and livestock, impact on the rural and historical character of the area and new modern design of hub building being out of keeping with the area.
“The council also received 32 letters of support for the proposal.”
Within his conclusion in the report, Mr Johnston said: “The site is in the Green Belt and whilst the redevelopment of the wedding venue, replacement of Consall Hall and the provision of shepherd hut style accommodation would not amount to inappropriate development in the Green Belt, the provision of 15 lodge buildings and 21 wedding accommodation pods would be deemed to be inappropriate development in the NPPF and thus by definition would be harmful to the Green Belt.
“These can be allowed if very special circumstances are demonstrated.
“It is considered that as the scheme would deliver the development strategy for the Consall Hall & Gardens site, achieving the aims of sustainable tourist development for the Churnet Valley in the interests of the local economy and employment, in compliance with the Churnet Valley Masterplan, this would amount to considerable weight in the planning balance, outweighing the particular level of harm to the openness of this part of the Green Belt.”
He also added: “Overall, the scheme would constitute sustainable development in line with the overarching aims of the NPPF despite the conflict with Green Belt policy and would comply with the council’s Core Strategy as well as achieving the aims of the Churnet Valley Masterplan and accordingly, having regard to all other matters raised, the application is recommended for approval.”
The final decision on these plans is set to be made by SMDC councillors who sit on the authority’s planning committee, who are set to meet today (Wednesday, December 18) at 2pm at Moorlands House in Leek.
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