RETENTION OF GLASS HOUSE EXTENSION TO EXISTING BARN.(APPLICATION 4) AT LAND SOUTH EAST OF MAHA SHAKTI TEMPLE, (FORMERLY PEN-Y-GARN), SKANDAVALE, LLANPUMSAINT, CARMS
THE COMMUNITY OF THE MANY NAMES OF GOD, SKANDA VALE , LLANPUMSAINT, CARMARTHENSHIRE, SA33 6JT
RPS PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT , PARK HOUSE, GREYFRIARS ROAD, CARDIFF, CF10 3AF
Date of Registration:
29 MAR 2007
Head of Transport - Has no observations to make on the application.
Head of Public Protection Social Care and Housing - No adverse comments to make in relation to the application
Llanpumsaint Community Council - No observations received to date.
Local Member - County Councillor Mrs F M Jones as a nominated substitute of the Planning Committee has not commented on the application to date.
Environment Agency - No objection to the proposal and provide standard advice notes
Neighbours/Public - A public notice was placed at the application site. Two letters of representation have been received, one showing concerns over a number of issues, the other an objection on behalf of a third party. The observations made are:
· There appear to have been a large number of unauthorised developments on this site without the knowledge of the local authority. Is this the full extent of them, or are there further developments not yet acknowledged?
· At the planning hearing in respect of the unauthorised coach park, reference was made to overnight accommodation for approximately 50 pilgrims, and breakfasts provided for 300 - 400 during busy period in summer. Are these uses included within the current batch of retrospective applications?
· Are there sufficient sanitary facilities available for this number of visitors?
· Does the local authority intend to limit the extent of development on this site, or are the applicants free to accept however many visitors present themselves?
The grounds of objection are:
· This application together with the other four applications relate to a development which is in the area of Llanpumsaint and Llanfihangel ar Arth communities. With claimed visitor numbers of around 100,000 persons it must be considered as a major development, particularly in its rural location.
· This point was made in an objection to a previous, and also retrospective, application made by the applicant. The planning authority made no response. Neither was there a response made to our request that the whole site be considered by the authority, so the ability of the public, and the planning committee, to look at the development as a single issue and form an opinion is prejudiced by tactics.
· The greater part of the increase in use has been in the last few years. Before that it was not a major development. A planning appeal decision confirmed the planning committee's refusal of permission for the coach park.
· In his decision the Inspector refers to the capacity of the local highway network as a major constraint on development of this site. He refers to highway safety. He refers to Planning Policy Wales and the need for the countryside to be conserved and where possible enhanced. He refers to nature conservation and harm caused to biodiversity of the area by the proposed development.
· There has been no application for change of use from low intensity farming to the present use of the land and buildings. The objector rejects the developer's sui generis argument advanced at the planning appeal. A monestary is by definition a residential religious use. Skandavale is not a class D1 use (under the Use Classes Order).
· These applications are for developments that are integrated with other general and particular developments of the site which have no planning approval or certificates of lawfulness and therefore cannot in isolation be given permission by the authority.
RELEVANT PLANNING HISTORY
There is no relevant planning history on the application site.
The application site is located on the holding of 'Pen y Garn' which together with an adjoining farm 'Cwm Creigiau Fawr' forms a single holding known as Skanda Vale. Pen y Garn, now known as the Maha Shakti Temple complex, is a small holding located along a farm track approximately 0.7 km south of the minor country lane leading from Alltwalis in the direction of Dolgran. The specific application site forms an extension to the existing hay barn which adjoins the Maha Shakti Temple complex. The structure is 15 metres long by 9 metres deep and is constructed using a timber frame and low painted block walls. The panels above the walls are infilled with double glazed units and the roof clad in translucent polycarbonate panels. The building is south facing and is heated entirely by solar gain.
The Community of the Many Names of God is a registered charity. It was founded as a monastic centre in June 1973, when the Community purchased Cwm Creigiau Fawr, which was then a small derelict farm of approximately 9 hectares. The property was renamed Skanda Vale and became registered as a place of meeting for religious worship in 1975. The Community purchased Penygarn in November 1978, the adjacent 29 hectare farm. Further land of 8 hectares was bought in the 1990's. Skanda Vale is held in trust for the purpose of fulfilling the objectives of the charity, including maintaining it as a place of public worship, advancing religious education and offering shelter, hospitality and spiritual refreshment.
According to the Community Skanda Vale has since 1973 become an established place of worship and pilgrimage for ethnic communities in the United Kingdom as well as many pilgrims from Europe. The Community welcomes all religions, nationalities and cultures and are treated equally. The number of pilgrims visiting Skanda Vale has risen steadily over the years. However the monastery does not advertise itself but the increase in numbers are due to the experience which is related by word of mouth. The Community is supported entirely by donations and by food grown at Skanda Vale. It also has a Day Care hospice in Saron, eight miles from the monastery, which provides free specialist day care for the terminally ill.
Skanda Vale covers an area of approximately 46 hectares comprising around 10 hectares of mixed woodland and 2 hectares of planted mature forest, with the remaining land consisting of grassland with some rough pasture. There are three main building complexes within Skanda Vale. The first complex is the Lodge (formerly known as Llwynderi Farm). The existing farmhouse here is used as a residence for the Community's sisterhood with the outbuildings used for housing the Community's herd of water buffalo and cattle.
The second complex of buildings is the Subramanium Temple, where there are also dining facilities and the minibus car park. Timber chalets are located next to the temple complex that are used as accommodation for some of the monks as well as some pilgrim accommodation.
Thirdly, there is the Maha Shakti Temple, which occupies the ground floor of the former farmhouse, with the spiritual head of the Community occupying the first floor. Monastic accommodation is provided in simple wooden chalets around the temple, together with barns, an agricultural implement shed, storage areas, a sawmill and a generator.
The proposal is a retrospective application that seeks full planning permission, in retrospect, for the erection of a glasshouse. The structure is 15 metres long by 9 metres deep and is constructed using a timber frame and low painted block walls. The panels above the walls are infilled with double glazed units and the roof clad in translucent polycarbonate panels. The building is south facing and is heated entirely by solar gain.
The Community indicates that one of their key beliefs is the importance of respecting and caring for nature in all its diversity. They indicate that this is why the Community keeps an elephant, water buffalo, various types of cattle, horses, birds and small mammals as well as an organic garden. The glasshouse is stated as being a means of providing for that diversity by allowing the community to keep plants and birds which would not otherwise thrive in the local climatic conditions. Some of the plants grown in the glasshouse are stated to supplement the monks' diet.
The glasshouse is indicated as being a typical agricultural type of building and has been sited and designed to form an extension to the existing hay barn. It is open to views from the south, from which direction it is seen against the backdrop of the larger barn structure. The overall complex of buildings in this location are well screened in the landscape, as it is surrounded by mature trees, hedgerows and plantation, although the plantation is outside the Community's control.
The relevant planning policies in this case are Policies GDC3, GDC8 & T3 of the Carmarthenshire Unitary Development Plan (CUDP).
Policy GDC3 provides that development in the countryside will not be permitted except for the purposes listed within the policy, where a countryside location is essential and the site is the only option available for the development.
Policy GDC8 encourages the design and siting of new development to have full regard to the physical character and topography of the site by conforming to a number of criteria.
Policy T3 provides that development proposals should consider the capacity of the existing highway network and access provided to an appropriate standard and where the capacity of the network is insufficient that improvements would be required.
The application site is located in open countryside outside the development limits of any settlement. The application site is located some distance from any of the nearest recognised settlements at Alltwalis, Dolgran and Pencader as well as Llanpumsaint. Policy GDC3 does not permit development in the countryside unless it conforms to the specific type of developments identified in paragraphs (i) - (ix) above. Whilst it appears that the development is required to be linked to the use of Skandavale as a religious monastic community, it does not conform to any of the specific development types included within the Policy. However, the applicants have argued that this is for an activity that is and has been pursued by the residents at the Community and not one that would create any separate uses on the site. It is therefore considered that this building is ancillary to the existing use at the site as a monastic community. There are a number of existing animal pens/paddocks containing traditional farm animals as well as other species such as deer, lama, elephant, rabbits and goats. The centre is strictly vegetarian and the animals are kept for life, with the keeping, maintenance and welfare of these animals seen effectively as a physical manifestation of the faith of the monastic centre. They are seen as essentially an integral part of monastic life and not as a visitor attraction in their own right.
The applicant in the submitted planning statement explains the use and need for each of the application proposals. It is indicated that none will increase the capacity of the Monastery to accommodate visitors, nor are they aimed at stimulating visitor demand. It is reinforced that the proposal will help serve pre-existing needs in more appropriate accommodation. The applicant also indicates that none of the application proposals will generate additional off site traffic movements. The applicants indicate that this proposal serves either day to day needs of resident monks and nuns, or improve facilities for pilgrims who would visit Skanda Vale in any event.
The final policy that is relevant in the consideration of this application is Policy T3. This relates to the effect of a development upon the safety of road users. The Head of Transport has been consulted on the application to consider the highway implications of the development. The response is that he has no observations to make on the proposal.
THIRD PARTY REPRESENTATIONS
There are many issues that are raised by the third party representations that have been received, some of which refer to the lack of a planning permission for the use of the property as a monastery or monastic centre. The objector indicates that the use is not a sui generis use, i.e. in a class of its own. From the evidence available it is clear that a monastery or monastic centre has been established at Skanda Vale for a considerable number of years, and in planning terms this is clearly the primary lawful use of the site. This use is generally considered to be a 'sui generis' use as a stand alone use, not identified by the Use Classes Order to be contained in any of the prescribed Use Classes. As is the case with all lawful uses, activities that may be described as 'reasonably ancillary' to this lawful use may be carried out without the need for planning permission. A further point raised is whether these individual applications collectively should be considered as a whole entity and therefore a major development. It is clear from the type of development that is being applied that each element refers to services that are already being provided at the site and that they would not in themselves be creating a greater visitor numbers. It is for this reason that the applications should be considered individually on their own merits. In this application the building provides a basic and essential service for existing visitors as a health and safety function.
The other main group of issues relate to highway matters, which have been discussed in preceding paragraphs, with the conclusion from the Head of Transport that there is no objection to the proposal.
Having considered all the above mentioned issues, the fact that the application is retrospective, supporting evidence that has been provided by the applicants, the policy considerations, and the third party representations that have been received, it is considered that there is insufficient grounds for refusal and that the proposal therefore must be approved. It is therefore recommended that the application be approved subject to the imposition of the following appropriate conditions.
RECOMMENDATION - APPROVAL
1 The development hereby permitted shall be commenced before the expiration of five years from the date of this permission.
2 The development hereby permitted shall be carried out strictly in accordance with the 1:1000, 1:500, 1:250 & 1:50 scale plans, received on 29th March 2007', unless amended by any following conditions.
3 The development hereby permitted shall only be used as an ancillary structure to the use of Skanda Vale as a monastic centre and for no other purposes whatsoever.
1 Required to be imposed pursuant to Section 91 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
2 In the interest of visual amenities.
3 To ensure that the building is used for the purposes intended.
1 Further advice and guidance from the Environment Agency is contained in their 'Standard Advice Note', appended to this planning permission.
SUMMARY REASONS FOR APPROVAL
In accordance with Article 3 of the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2004, the Council hereby certify that the proposal as hereby approved conforms with the relevant policies of the Development Plan (comprising the Carmarthenshire Unitary Development Plan (CUDP) and material considerations do not indicate otherwise. The policies which refer are as follows:-
· The proposal accords with Policy GDC3 of the Carmarthenshire Unitary Development Plan in that the proposal permits uses which cannot be provided in a nearby settlement. The building is considered to be an ancillary use within an existing established use that is located in open countryside which is considered to fall within this criteria.
· The proposal accords with Policy GDC 8 of the CUDP in that the application building is located amongst an existing complex of buildings that form part of Skanda Vale.
· The proposal accords with Policy T3 of the CUDP in that the Head of Transport has considered the matter and has indicated that from a highway point of view there are no objections.