Luxury two storey, four bedroom, triple garaged farmhouse at Soham that planners fought to stop agreed by East Cambs councillors

The luxury farmhouse that Simon Smith can build in the countryside near Soham - despite fierce oppos

The luxury farmhouse that Simon Smith can build in the countryside near Soham - despite fierce opposition by planning officers - Credit: Archant

Farmer Simon Smith won permission to build to build a two-storey, four bedroom, triple garaged home in the open countryside that officials claimed would drive a coach and horses through council policies.

Mr Smith’s application– complete with a staff room and farm office- had been recommended for refusal by planners at East Cambs District Council.

But following the intervention of Mr Smith’s local councillor Dan Schumann the application was called before the planning committee where it met with approval by councillors.

Cllr Schumann said: “I believe that this application would add an extra house to our housing deficit and could also be considered an agricultural exception.”

His letter ‘calling in’ the application added: “It is because of these reasons and an understanding that the application is likely to be refused that I believe a wider consideration would be more appropriate”.

His colleagues agreed and overturned the refusal recommendation, claiming it was essential for Mr Smith to be able to live on the site adjacent Shamara, Northfield Road, Sutton, where he farms.

“Members do no not believe the house will be visually intrusive as there are other large properties in the area,” the committee concluded.

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Senior planner officer Barbara Greengrass outlined in detail how the application had broken planning policies.

She said the applicant had failed to prove a need for an extra house for a rural worker (a bungalow with agricultural usage restriction is already on site). The proposal also failed the functional test, i.e. it was not essential for the running of the business.

She argued the house would, effectively, be a blot on the landscape because of its size and was contrary to core planning principles.

Ms Greengrass also argued it was outside the development boundary of Soham where building was strictly controlled.

And she said that because of the agriculture linked usage it could not be counted in determining the area’s housing need.

Referring to a financial appraisal presented by Mr Smith’s agent, she said the 24 acre site, that also comprises a contracting business, did not require the numbers now proposed to be able to live on site.

“There is no essential need for an additional dwelling on the site to serve the needs of the farm enterprise,” she said.

Even if such a need could be justified the proposed farmhouse “is considered excessive in size and scale….and of a size larger than one would normally expected to be supported by an agricultural workers’ wage.”

She concluded by describe the house as “an unwelcome and unjustified intrusion in this open rural setting”.