A farm in a village to the south east of Witney has been given the go-ahead for three glamping wagons after an appeal – despite councillors initially rejecting the request.
The Lowlands planning committee at West Oxfordshire District Council turned down an application from Church Farm, Church End, South Leigh, for three glamping wagons, a bike storage shed and the creation of four parking spaces in March 2022.
Planning professionals at the authority had recommended approval, but district councillors backed their counterparts from South Leigh Parish Council who referred to its neighbourhood plan, arguing it would lead to a loss of character in a rural area, light pollution, noise and a risk of increased traffic.
However, the applicants made their case to the Planning Inspectorate – the national body that has the final say when applicants are unhappy with outcomes from councils – and successfully appealed, although a claim for the council to pay costs was refused.
Planning officer David Ditchett, whose report at the time had recommended approval, said: “Members found conflict with the South Leigh Neighbourhood Plan.
“Even though the inspector acknowledged that glamping would not accord with (the farm diversification) element of the South Leigh Neighbourhood Plan, he decided that the thrust of the policy had been met.”
It was one of three Lowlands appeals reported upon at the meeting, all of which had gone against the council.
A retrospective application for decking already put down at a house on Willowbank, Witney, and the conversion of a barn into a home at Sturt Farm Courtyard, Burford – both minor decisions taken by officers rather than councillors – also went against the authority.
Councillor Colin Dingwall (Con, Hailey, Minster Lovell & Leafield) questioned whether the decisions could have ramifications.
The government can intervene and take decision-making power away from the council if 10 per cent or more of its applications are successfully turned over at appeal.
Applications are divided into major and non-major sections, with the government’s ability to take over restricted to the one in which the council is underperforming.
Councillor Dingwall said: “Can I ask the age-old question of the totting-up process. We have lost a few appeals now. Are we still in the situation where (if) we lose seven, eight, or nine, we will lose our planning authority status?”
Mr Ditchett reassured councillors that “we are not underperforming by any stretch of the imagination”, insisting “we are doing very, very well”.
“If we get too many in a row and our performance is low in terms of major losses at appeal, then the government can step in, but we are nowhere near that,” he said.