Traffic safety fears over office conversion plan near Tiverton

Traffic fears have led to plans for a farm building near Tiverton to be converted into office space to be refused.

At June’s Mid Devon District Council (MDDC) planning meeting, the application to turn Bradford Farm, on Uplowman Road, into office space was once again discussed following a site visit.

The applicant, Mr and Mrs A Fields hope to change the use of a range of existing barns to form six units of flexible commercial space, as well as retrospective planning permission for the retention of external works already carried out in association with the proposed change of use, the retention of the car park area, and the retention and refurbishment of a portable cabin for the storage of beekeeping equipment.

Councillors were minded to refuse the application and therefore wished to defer the application for an implications report to consider the proposed reasons for refusal. Members felt that it was not a conversion of redundant buildings, and there was no evidence of insufficient alternative sites in the area. They also felt the construction of the car park was not in accordance with policy, and the conversion would not be policy compliant.

(Image: Lewis Clarke)

They added that there would be a harmful effect on the amenity to the neighbour, Mike Blackmore, due to dust from the chippings in the car park, and the height of the proposed fence which would block out light to their windows.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Blackmore said he strongly believed that the proposals are not appropriate for the location.

He said: “A very experienced highway officer, Mr Ian Sorenson, at the time of the application, changed his advice. He did this when he was made aware of the lack of control the applicant had on the visibility splay, both physically, and visually, because of our land ownership. This is still the case.

“This advice was also very clearly and verbally agreed by John Miller – the planning officer – during the site visit. He also agreed that I have the legal right and legal permission and permitted development rights to erect a fence.

“The erection of this fence gave me no pleasure, but my family and I feel we have to protect our privacy and amenity in this rural location.”

He added that vehicles were recorded travelling at up to 50mph and that the units would equate to the equivalent of 50 daily trips.

“Does this not surely present a massive safety concern?” he asked. 

“The working party would have also seen the proposed car park to have a detrimental effect on our privacy, and any conditions proposed are uncontrollable. Previous matters are still breached, and we are some two and a half years waiting for the enforcement action to be served.

“The applicant has never shown proven need for office accommodation. Given the likely effect COVID-19 has had, there will be even less of a need. Surely it would be more sustainable to occupy the empty office accommodation now available.”

(Image: Lewis Clarke)

Ward member, Councillor Colin Slade (Lowman, Conservative) called for the planning committee to refuse the application.

He said: “We have been through a number of these issues quite a few times in the last couple of years.

“I am concerned about the car park, which was unlawfully put there and has caused a great deal of concern. I’m also apprehensive by highway issues. We have a conflict where one Devon Highways officer has one opinion, his successor has an entirely different opinion, and the independent report has yet another opinion.

“As I regularly travel to Uplowman, past Bradford Farm, I know the road personally. On one occasion a large black pick-up truck pulled straight out in front of me from Bradford Farm. I assume they did not see me or assumed they could beat me, but I had to put my brakes on. It is indisputable there will be a lot more vehicle movements.”

However, speaking on behalf of the applicant, Mr Firth warned that refusal would see them take MDDC to appeal.

“This application has been placed under extraordinary levels of scrutiny and has been tested repeatedly for months,” he said. “Due to repeated challenges, all of which have been met, the position for approval from this committee is now more robust than ever. Despite repeated efforts by the objector to obstruct our application, the proposal has maintained no objection from either Environmental Health or County Highways.

“The proposal is actively supported by Tiverton Town Council and maintains officer’s recommendation for approval despite all attempts to stop it.”

He said the application needed to be based per MDDC officer’s recommendation and not the popularity of an individual. 

“I’m sure you know, Mr Blackmore erected a two-metre high fence adjacent to the highway,” he said.

“Despite his assertions, that fence has been placed deliberately and maliciously to block a well-established access on my client’s property, intended solely to create a dangerous hazard at the entrance to Bradford Farm. The fence is not on his ownership. It has been put there without landowner’s permission and is in breach of permitted development rights.

“The issue has been passed to the enforcement team and highways for action, and it’s also in my client’s lawyer’s hands as well.

“Despite the appearance of the fence, it is not relevant to the application. County Highways have specifically advised that the proposal will not have a severe impact on the highway, even with a fence in that location.

“It’s been clearly stated there will be no defensible highways argument at appeal.”

Devon Live