Bid to alter design of new Northiam housing turned down

A developer’s bid to alter the design of a housing scheme in Northiam has been refused by council planners. 

Friday, 21st May 2021, 3:50 pm

On Thursday (May 20), Rother District Council’s planning committee turned down an application to amend plans for a four-home development in Dixter Lane,  which was granted planning permission in 2018.

However, the developer had sought permission to change the approved plans and install dormer windows to the rear roof of several properties. The work to install these dormers had already begun, the committee heard. 

According to planning officers (who had recommended the application be approved), the dormers would allow the roof space to be used as an additional bedroom – making the properties into five-bedroom three-storey houses instead of four-bedroom two-storey houses as approved. 

Altered design for the Northiam housing
Altered design for the Northiam housing

This did not sit well with ward councillor Martin Mooney (Con), who called on the committee to refuse planning permission for the changes. He said: “It is visually intrusive,  because you can see it miles away. 

“It is 25 metres away from the nearest house, but look at the carbuncle that you have. It is not in-keeping at all.”

Similar views were raised by Cllr Howard Norton, who said: “It seems to me that the issues are quite clear. You have an obviously greedy developer who is breaking the rules and should not be allowed to get away from it. 

“You can see the advantage from his point of view because dormer windows will give an extra couple of bedrooms, but dormer windows are a snare for us the reason they are so popular is not just extra bedrooms but also the views they give. 

“Those views are going to be very nice for the people who live there, but they are going to be very intrusive for the people who live down in Newlands, because they are going to be visible from a distance.”

Several committee members raised the point that a previous scheme to build five bedrooms was refused some years ago. Officers cautioned against this argument, however, as that scheme had been refused on wider grounds than the number of bedrooms.

Officers reiterated that they did not consider the dormers to be of poor design or out-of-keeping, as they are “not uncommon features on dwellings within the High Weald AONB”. 

Officers also pointed out that an alternative form of windows (such as rooflights) could be installed under permitted development rights, creating additional bedrooms without needing formal planning permission. 

This appeared not to convince committee members, however.

Cllr Susan Prochak (Lib Dem) said: “I think the [rooflights] would probably be acceptable. It would still have five bedrooms okay, but the big thing for me was it was out of character and this top heavy appearance. The design I thought was really inappropriate. 

“I am [also] concerned about the plots being too small for a five bedroom home and the car parking the fact it is a five-bedroom house does affect car parking, it does affect how much washing you put out, so it does affect the amenity area.

“But for me the main things are it is out-of-keeping with the surrounding area, there are no other properties like that at all around that area, and the top heavy appearance in terms of design.”

Following further discussion the committee opted to refuse the application on design grounds.

For further details of the application, see planning reference RR/2021/161/P on the Rother District Council website.