Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Blackmore: Bull Planning Applications. Parish Council Voice Objection

The Bull, Blackmore (photographed just before it closed in 2010).
Owner has grand designs which do not meet public approval.

Blackmore, Hook End and Wyatts Green Parish Council has made what appears to be an unprecedented objection to a planning application which locals believe will close The Bull Public House in the centre of the village forever and see its garden built over.  The campaign to 'Save The Bull' is massive, and gaining momentum.  Letters to the planning authority must be received by them by 9 May 2013. 

See also http://blackmorehistory.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/blackmore-bull-planning-application.html

The Parish Council Strongly Objects to this planning application

This proposal for two dwellings in the garden of The Bull Public House is unacceptable due to the detrimental effect on the visual amenity of the area. The garden area, in terms of visuality, is an extension of the village Green for which Blackmore is famous. Blackmore attracts many visitors (many of whom ask when the Bull will be re opening) and building two more houses would be an unacceptable development.

The proposed development falls within the conservation area of Blackmore and again the development would go against the basic principles of CP1 – which states that any planning proposal would ‘not have an unacceptable detrimental impact on visual amenity, or character and appearance of the surrounding area’. The Design and Access Statement refers to it as ‘being located on the edge of an urban area’ – a little misleading to say the least.

CP1 also refers to the need to conserve and enhance the character and appearance and historical heritage of the site and surrounding area. Again, this development would fly in the face of this requirement.

The erection of the buildings, the 6 foot high wall and car lodge will reduce the view of the listed building of The Bull from the Green. Any suggested visual improvements made to the rear of the Bull will not be visible from the Green.

The Blackmore Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan issued by Essex County Council 2008 (to which I contributed as a resident and amateur local historian, is on the Brentwood Borough Council website (http://www.brentwood.gov.uk/pdf/06022009144347u.pdf ) also endorses the need to keep the open green spaces of the conservation area and the significance of the original building line as an outline of the original boundary to the historic green – see page 14 para 4. There is also much mention of historic Bull Alley and its significance with its views onto The Green – see page 32 para 10.5. The applicant keeps referring to this as Blacksmiths Alley (which is the other side of Church Street) and could be misleading to you when viewing this application.

A most significant comment is within - 12 Management Proposals – Public Open Space, which states ‘It is recommended that these strong open areas, the established trees and shrubs within the greens, and the very strong mature tree and hedge boundary to the Conservation area should be preserved and not eroded by any new development that might take place’.

We understand that you will now have a petition – organized by Judy Wood, a Blackmore Parishioner, of over 350 names objecting to this proposed development. This petition is ongoing and will no doubt increase significantly in number now that the Parish is more aware of this application.

The Parish Council feel the Planning Department and Brentwood Borough Council should be aware, if they are not already, of some of the background.
  • There appears to have been no meaningful attempt to run the pub or restaurant since the applicant bought the property in 2010.
  • The reverse might be true in as much as the original bar has been ripped out since the property was acquired.
  • The upstairs has been converted into two flats without planning consent. If you refer to your files you will see the BBC Enforcement department checking on what had been done to the original beams upstairs – sandblasting etc – without any permission to work on a grade II listed property.
  • The property was bought for £425,000 approx.
  • The property is now on the market for in excess of £850,000 – an unrealistic price for a public house and a huge increase on what was paid.
  • We understand an offer has been made by a local person prepared to run the pub/restaurant for £525,000– but has been turned down. This would appear to be quite a reasonable offer to acquire the Bull and run as a business and also leave the applicant with a profit.
  • The track record would appear to signal the applicant as a property developer rather than a restaurateur or publican with probably no intention of running a business.

Comments on the application.
The garden is not a ‘brownfield’ site as might be suggested in the opening of the Design and Access Statement.

The application refers to one existing apartment. When originally purchased by the present owner there was living accommodation above the pub. Since the acquisition the owner has converted this into two self contained flats with their own kitchens as advertised when trying to sell. We believe this has been done without BBC approval.

The planning application refers to 5 full time and 3 part time employees existing – this is incorrect as the property has remained closed since purchase. Re opening The Bull as a PH would of course create some employment.

The application refers to the cellar as being under used. This would be because the pub is not operational and no business being run at present.

The loss of the garden would, we feel, greatly reduce the amenity of the pub and thus reduce its customer appeal.

With the demolition of the storage and cellar we cannot see how this will not detract from the ability to run a public house or reduce the appeal to a potential buyer for so doing.

With the removal of the storage and cellar facilities it would appear that the applicant is slowly but surely positioning The Bull for a change of use to a private dwelling. 

Given the seriousness of this situation the Chief Surveyor for the National English Heritage has been contacted and he has registered his interest in what has happened to the Grade II listed building already and what may happen in the future. Due to the pressure of time to get this report to you we are unable to include his findings. We will however continue to forward salient points as they arise or come to light and any comments or action that English Heritage may take.

The PC has had many contacts from parishioners complaining about this potential development and it is obvious that feelings run high within the village over the potential loss of this amenity. At our Parish Council meeting on Thursday 18th April over 50 local residents arrived at the meeting to register their concerns over this planning application and the Brentwood Gazette were also present to record the meeting.

Given our comments and observations we have made in this report, the petition that is ongoing and the many objections being registered by our Parishioners we strongly recommend that you resist this application totally.

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