A DEVELOPER who accepted a caution for demolishing an historic farmhouse without consent — in the wake of a failed planning application — has submitted revised housing plans.
Local residents were outraged when Westchurch Homes pulled down the two-storey stone farmhouse at Lostock House Farm on a December weekend following Bolton Council’s rejection of its scheme for 13 new homes.
The company said was the work necessary because the building was “structurally unsound” and was at “significant risk of collapse” but it pressed ahead with the demolition without council approval and ultimately accepted a caution for breaching planning laws.
Westchurch Homes has now submitted a revised plan that seeks to address the reasons for refusal: the harm to the setting of the adjacent Grade II* Listed development of Lostock Hall Gatehouse and the loss of the farmhouse as a heritage asset.
Opponent Andrew Roberts, who lives in the neighbouring gatehouse, said: “If the council approve this application they will be acting against the National Planning Policy Framework as there is no public benefit to outweigh the harm to heritage assets caused by this development.
“The council has already set a precedent in refusing the previous application.
“One of the reasons the original submission was rejected was the density of the development.
“They have applied for exactly the same number of houses in almost exactly the same locations on the site.
“They think that rendering one side of the plots adjacent to the Grade II* Listed gatehouse and moving them slightly will be OK despite everything around them being built of stone.
“Westchurch Homes’ behaviour and approach to such a sensitive development has been appalling.”
The developer still wants to build seven four-bedroom homes and six five-bedroom homes but has repositioned some of the proposed properties within the site.
The company’s planning statement says: “It is considered that the amendments reduce the bulk and massing on the boundary with the listed building, affording a greater sense of openness and improved views through and across the development.
“Furthermore the variation to the proposed materials, specifically the use of render on the rear elevations and the incorporation of stone heads and sills provide a softer elevational treatment which is more sympathetic to the character of the listed building.”
A heritage statement submitted as part of the rejected scheme considered the farmhouse was in a “very bad” state of repair and the new planning statement says: “Since the submission of the previous application the farmhouse has deteriorated further, becoming structurally unsound.
“In order to adhere to health and safety requirements, the building has now been demolished.
“Consequently the second reason for refusal is no longer relevant.”
Stones from the battlement of the farmhouse would be recycled to create a new wall along the northern boundary of the land.
A Bolton Council spokeswoman said: “Following our investigation into the unauthorised demolition that took place at Lostock Hall Farm, we have taken legal action and the developer has accepted a formal caution.
“While the developer did submit a Section 80 notice to inform us of their intention to demolish the building, they were required to wait for a Section 81 notice from us, which sets out conditions relating to the demolition.
“By not following the correct procedure the developer has contravened the requirements of The Building Act and we are disappointed that this unauthorised action was taken.”
Despite the planning refusal in December, the site benefits from planning permission for the refurbishment and extension of the now-demolished farmhouse, the demolition of the remaining buildings and the construction of seven houses.
Westchurch Homes was unavailable for comment.
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