Draft Core Strategy January 2011

Draft Core Strategy January 2011 - interactive online version

6 Use of Existing Buildings

Non-residential Buildings

6.1 There are many existing buildings, such as barns, mills, schools and chapels, throughout West Oxfordshire built in the vernacular style (using local building styles and materials). Such buildings are a key part of the character and history of settlements and of the wider landscape and many are listed for their architectural or historic interest. Many are no longer needed for their original purpose due to changing farming techniques, school and church closures. The best way to secure the upkeep of such buildings and their contribution to the character of the area is to keep them in active use. Re-using buildings also reduces the need for new build and creates the opportunity to provide unobtrusive economic activities, community facilities and housing, particularly in the rural areas.

6.2 In accordance with the spatial strategy for new development, conversion to residential use is more appropriate within towns and villages with services and facilities. Outside of the service centres and villages, priority will be given to re-use for employment, tourism or community uses where non-residential uses would be viable and suitable for the location.

6.3 Suitable buildings for re-use will generally be of substantial and permanent construction and the Council may require structural surveys to demonstrate buildings are capable of conversion. Ecological surveys are also likely to be required as many redundant buildings provide habitats for protected species such as Barn Owls or bats.

6.4 It is not the objective to prolong the life of buildings which are harmful to the high visual quality of the area or facilitate the excessive dispersal of development which could have an adverse impact on the character and tranquillity of rural areas. The visual impacts of a proposed building conversion (including light pollution at night), accessibility and traffic impacts, will need to be weighed alongside the contribution of the building to the character and architectural history of the area, or the potential for the building to meet local economic or social needs. In some cases a building may be so isolated and inaccessible, or harmful to the character of the surrounding area, that re-use is not appropriate, particularly in the Cotswolds AONB.

6.5 There are a large number of modern, mainly agricultural, buildings scattered throughout the District. Whilst necessary for modern agriculture, many detract from the visual quality of the countryside and their general re-use, particularly for business and employment use, could lead to a very dispersed pattern of development contrary to the spatial strategy. Opportunities for the re-use of non-vernacular buildings, particularly modern farm buildings, will therefore be limited to more sustainable locations and where they contribute to farm diversification.

6.6 If the principle of conversion is accepted it is important that detailed proposals respect or improve the original character of the building and its setting. Further guidance is available in the West Oxfordshire Design Guide SPD.

Existing Housing

6.7 Opportunities to provide sustainable new housing can be constrained, especially outside the towns, so it is important to protect the existing housing stock and its character at the same time as accommodating sympathetic change to meet residents' needs. Loss of dwellings will only be supported where there is an overriding community benefit and/or the existing living accommodation is unsatisfactory.

6.8 Given the attraction of a rural home within commuting distance of London and more restrictive planning policies on new housing in small villages, hamlets and open countryside in particular, existing modest properties are invariably the subject of proposals for substantial extension or rebuild. A large country house is a traditional feature of our countryside however it is essential that the addition of substantial new buildings and associated activity creates a positive addition to the landscape and meets sustainability objectives in order to outweigh the loss of existing smaller homes. Replacement dwellings in small villages, hamlets or open countryside should be on a one for one basis only.

The West Oxfordshire Design Guide elaborates upon the achievement of good design in the local context:

Policy CS13 – Re-use of Existing Buildings
The re-use of existing non-residential buildings will be supported where:
  • the form and design of the building(s) are in keeping with the surroundings prior to conversion.
  • the building(s) are capable of conversion to the proposed use without excessive alteration or extension and without removing features of architectural or nature conservation interest.
  • the building(s) are suitably located for the scale and type of the proposed use, having regard to the level of accessibility to settlements, facilities and services and impact on the character and amenity of the area.

The re-use of non-vernacular buildings, including modern farm buildings, will only be allowed within or adjoining service centres or villages*or where it forms part of a farm diversification scheme unless the proposed re-use will address a specific local need which would not otherwise be met.

The conversion of a building to residential use will only be allowed in a small village* or in the open countryside where the building is not suitable or reasonably capable of re-use for employment, recreational or community uses, tourist accommodation or visitor facilities.

* as defined in Policy CS1

Policy CS14 – Existing Housing

Changes to existing housing will be managed to help maintain sustainable communities within a high quality environment in accordance with the following principles:

  • the loss of existing dwellings to other uses will only be permitted where the dwelling does not provide satisfactory living accommodation or the proposed use will make a positive contribution to local services and facilities;
  • alterations, extensions or sub-division of existing dwellings will respect the scale and character of the surrounding area and will not unacceptably affect the environment of people living in or visiting that area. Sub-division of existing dwellings in the open countryside and small villages will be limited to large properties where continued existence in residential use cannot be secured in any other way;
  • new self-contained units of accommodation will be ancillary to the main dwelling where they are proposed to remain within the curtilage of an existing dwelling.

A new dwelling to replace an existing permanent dwelling which is not of historical or architectural value will be permitted provided the character and appearance of the surrounding area is not eroded. In open countryside any replacement dwelling should make a positive contribution to the area, particularly where more substantial new building(s) are proposed.




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