20th Sep, 2019

MP Spelman's daughter's green belt house plans in Solihull borough set for council rejection

Felix Nobes 12th Jun, 2019 Updated: 12th Jun, 2019

MERIDEN MP Dame Caroline Spelman’s daughter is set to see her controversial plans for a house on greenbelt land in Solihull rejected for a second time.

Elizabeth Spelman has applied to turn the site of a demolished barn in Dorridge into a four-bedroom detached house.

Her previous attempt was rejected after it was deemed an ‘inappropriate development’ on the green belt.

She is claiming that ‘very special circumstances’ exist that would satisfy overriding national and local green belt protection policies.

The barn, part of the former Packwood Nurseries, is on open farmland in Windmill Lane, Dorridge.

It is close to the Spelmans’ long-time constituency mansion for which former environment secretary Dame Caroline has claimed expenses from the taxpayer.

The application form to the council, available on the council’s website, states: “The applicant is Elizabeth Spelman, daughter to Dame Caroline Spelman MP.

“Dame Caroline Spelman is an elected member but not of the Solihull MBC (Metropolitan Borough Council) authority, however, in the interests of transparency we are happy to have this on record.”

Hampton Architecture, on behalf of Miss Spelman, submitted slightly altered proposals but they were still recommended for refusal at a Solihull Council planning committee meeting tonight (June 12).

If refused, it is not yet known whether there will be an appeal to the government.

In a council officer’s report prepared for the meeting, the plan is still deemed ‘inappropriate’ despite its reduced size and its supposed faithfulness to the original design of the barn.

Miss Spelman sought the advice of Hubbard Conservation, a consultant firm that provides advice on preserving the character of historic built environments.

The firm compiled a report which claims the required ‘very special circumstances’ to override green belt protections include the restoration of the historic Packwood estate, improving the attractiveness of the area and reducing anti-social behaviour.

The applicants have also removed features that would have contributed to the ‘domestication’ of the site, in line with planners’ previous objections.

Six letters of objection have been lodged while the council’s own planning team.

The council’s heritage and conservation officers have formally opposed the plans.

The council officer’s agenda report concludes: “The proposal represents inappropriate development in the green belt, which by definition causes harm to the openness of the green belt.

“The adverse impacts (harm) arising from this development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh any benefits identified in the planning balance exercise in this report and the VSCs as set out by the applicant.

“This is further compounded by the fact the existing barn has been historically demolished and cannot therefore be converted.”

There were also four letters of support for the application, citing reasons such as the need for housing and deterring anti-social behaviour.

The developers would also be expected to pay nearly £50,000 in a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – which makes developers pay the council a sum to invest in new local services.

The Observer has invited comment from Miss Spelman and Dame Caroline.

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