Historic Planning Advice

Historic Planning

Against our best efforts and beliefs, the central barns at Ardgrain may soon be developed into a large and imposing house, totally and irreversibly changing the character and setting of this Grade A listed site, which has stood since 1629.

We hope these planning pages can offer help and guidance to others facing a similar situation.


Public Objections

Numerous public objections were submitted to the Aberdeenshire council planning department opposing the residential development of Ardgrain, including letters from MP's and MSP's. Many are understandably not impressed that an ancient and nationally important site is being plundered and turned into a residential cul-de-sac. The development comes with a hefty environmental cost too. Homes of both the local Barn Owl and bat population will be lost if the conversion goes ahead - both of which are endangered and protected species.

The future of Ardgrain

At Ardgrain we submitted a formal offer to purchase the remaining Ardgrain buildings and restore these, as was documented extensively by the media. This offer was rejected by the buildings owner.

To show that alternatives to residential development exist, we submitted alternative plans, to restore and repair the barns for the benefit of future generations. This restoration plan was granted by Historic Scotland and received Aberdeenshire Council approval in September 2007. Restoration looks unlikely to happen though, given the approval of the residential development planning application.

Planning Advice

In protecting Ardgrain we noticed that very little planning information exists on-line which is directly relevant to listed or historic sites. The Ardgrain planning pages are a collection of our experiences as we learned more about the planning process. The Ardgrain planning pages hopefully offer a basic template or pointers which you might use in objecting to a planning application at a listed or historic site.

Please note: The information provided on these pages is based solely on our own experiences, and does not replace professional advice. Whilst we hope you find our planning information very beneficial, we also strongly suggest you consult experts and professionals who can guide you in your case for the preservation of a listed site.

 

Respond - General advice

Respond to a planning application

What do you do when you receive a planning application notice? This section explains what a planning notice is, and the procedure you should follow to respond effectively.

Time is ticking, but don't panic

If you are served notice of a planning application it is important to get your written response (which is called a letter of representation) to the planning department within the alloted time period - usually 14 days. Be aware that the time is from when the application is validated, which may not be the same as the time you received the letter.

A quick call to the planning department is worthwhile to confirm the validation date - council planning websites are sometimes notoriously slow in validating applications. You may find that you are allowed more time than the stated minimum, or that the validation date is different. If so, you should ask for the new date in writing from the planning department rather than rely on anything verbal.

If you ignore the planning application notice then the council and planning department will be unaware of your views. You you must respond to make your views known.

What is in a Planning Application Notice?

The planning notice letter is issued to all neighbouring properties as part of the planning process, and usually contains the bare minimum of information. It is the applicants responsibility to ensure that the planning notice letters are sent. Most councils provide a template letter which the applicant fills in and sends. The actual letter requirements can vary between planning authorities, but most planning application notice letters usually contain:

Get more information

To better understand the proposed application, it is important to see the full plans and any supporting application documents. These should all be available on-line, but if not you collect a copy of the plans from the planning department. The council may charge you a few pounds to do this, usually to cover photocopy costs. This can be money well spent for you though if the council is slow in putting this information online.

What will be the impact?

Just because there is a planning application at the listed site, it does not by default mean the plans will have a negative impact. Consider carefully what the plans really represent for the historic site. Is the planning application going to be an improvement or a detriment? Some planning applications will undoubtedly aim to improve the site and genuinely try to protect our heritage, though many others won't.

General Grounds for Objections

Ok, so you have decided the plans will negatively impact on a historic site, and you've confirmed the deadline for letters. You now should think about what your grounds for objections are, and start listing these. Before we deal with the historic aspects, we can note any general reasons for objecting. Valid reasons on general planning applications might be:

There are many more, so note them all down.

It goes without saying that personal dislikes for the applicant are not valid reasons. "I haven't liked Mrs. Jones for the last 10 years, and my objection is a way to get back at her..." is not a constructive way to start a planning objection letter! Personal reasons have no planning relevance to the planners or the council and you run the risk that your letter will be ignored.

Research Your Case

To present a valid case in objecting at a historic or listed site you need facts, figures and supporting information. Unfortunately this step requires a lot of effort, because much of the information you require is either not available on-line, or is buried within on-line documents hundreds of pages long. To make matters worse, the local governments often re-write or plagiarise national planning guidelines and policies, and sometimes this information is conflicting and inconsistent. This introduces a big problem - which of the two is the "real" policy that will be followed? (Being cynical, you might say it is whichever of the two is easier for the council...).

A good idea while researching is to keep notes of everything as you go along, and bookmark or copy relevant on-line texts for later use. Be sure to note where the information is taken from, because you should reference your sources in your objection letter.

As you search, you are looking for areas where the submitted application does not comply with planning policy. By quoting areas where the plans do not comply with policy you make it a lot harder for the applicant to gain planning approval.

Planning guidelines contain a wealth of information, so you might find you have general grounds to object because:

Planning policy is open to interpretation, so there may well be areas where the planning application has bent the rules, either deliberately or not. If you can spot these you can bring them to the attention of the planning department and council in your objection letter.

 

The next page explores the historic aspects of your letter of representation in more detail....

 

Respond - Historic Advice

Historic Grounds for Objection

Once you have addressed any general grounds for objection, you can now investigate the historic aspects. Historic sites are all protected in Scotland by the Scottish Executive planning guidelines. NPPG 18 is the Scottish Executives national guideline for listed or historic sites, and this document will undoubtedly form the basis of your local planning guideline. From these you can establish where the proposed plans for the listed site do not meet national or local planning policy. Although by no means an exhaustive list, some grounds for objection at historic or listed sites might be:

There are many more, and you should only include arguments that are relevant to your site. Some of these arguments are stronger than others. For example, NPPG 18 indicates that a development should not go ahead if it represents a significant loss of character or setting at a listed site. Of course you then have to demonstrate in your objection letter that the proposed plans does indeed represent a "significant" loss.

Listed sites, by their virtue, are less common. This means that the planning department and council may be unfamiliar with the historic aspects of the planning process. For this reason you should double check absolutely everything on the plans to ensure they meet the historic planning policies.

Although the most applicable, NPPG 18 is not the only resource at your disposal. For example, you should investigate why the site was listed in the first place (this information is on the Historic Scotland website). Ask yourself which parts of the listing will be affected by the proposed plans? For a growing list of resources to explore please see our Helpful Planning Links section.

Write Your Letter

Make sure to include the planning application number on all correspondences. Also include a statement to the effect of "I trust this letter will be presented when this application goes to committee". The planning department does not need to show your letter to the councillors, and this closing request may help to it does.

Summary

 

Generate Publicity

Generate publicity and encourage public interest

It is very difficult for planning applications to be just pushed through if a historic site is well known. The more people are aware of a site, the greater interest they have in the planning outcome. This can sometimes have an influence on the outcome of a planning decision.

A good example of publicity being used to influence a planning decision is the Donald Trump planning application at Balmeadie, just outside of Aberdeen. Donald Trump wishes to convert a huge area of protected and environmentally sensitive land into one of the Scotland's biggest golf resorts. With all the publicity generated by those either for or against the development, it became a hot topic of conversation throughout the North East. This made the Aberdeenshire Councillors acutely aware of the public scrutiny they faced as they undertook their planning decision.

Raising public awareness of historic planning issues is quite difficult though if the site or building is not already well known.

Contact your local history groups and societies, and bring the planning application to their attention. These local individuals share a passion in our heritage, and you may gain some valuable support from them. Also try searching online, because there are trusts which deal exclusively in the preservation and protection of listed buildings. A few national organisations worth trying include:

Sometimes it might take a bit of creativity to get the site under threat publicised, but here are a few ideas:

SUMMARY

Planning applications are often difficult to push through if the public are aware of the site and its importance. Publicise the historic site as much as possible. You may like to try:

 

Listed Building Consent

Submit a listed Building Consent Application - let other options be discussed

Consultees on planning applications are only allowed to comment on what is presented to them. They cannot make comment any other matters, even if there are alternatives which are preferable to unsympathetic development. A virtually unknown loophole round this, is to submit a listed building consent application to the council yourself. Unlike a planning application, there is no cost in submitting a listed building consent application. Legally you do not need to own the site to submit a listed building consent.

A listed building consent application could formally document the restoration of a site, or suggest an alternative use. This allows everyone involved to formally comment on the merits your alternative plans for the site, which they couldn't do previously.

You will need to submit plans of the site, which may mean you require the services of an architect. At Nether Ardgrain we drafted our own plans and there is no reason why you can't submit your own plans either provided they meet the minimum planning department guidelines. It is our intention to do the repairs we have documented. You may not wish to do so on your own listed building consent application - there is no obligation to do the repairs yourself if you submit a listed building consent application.

The full details of our listed building consent application at the Ardgrain site can be viewed as a helpful guide to show what is required.

SUMMARY

 

Media Support

Media support can help raise public awareness

Planning applications at listed sites can generate a lot of public interest, and at a planning committee there is often a press table, where the press have been issued with a full copy of the public letters etc. You might decide that with a planning application being public knowledge, you might be as well talking to the press.

To dicover the benefits in raising public awareness, see our Generate Publicity section.

At Nether Ardgrain, we didn't approach the press, they contacted us after the planning decision was deferred to a site visit. We might have strengthened our argument further by talking to the local paper much earlier, because we received letters of support from the public which were a real encouragement and helped our cause.

If an article appears early enough, public letters of objection might also be sent to the planning department. The downside is that the press may slant your intentions, mis-quote, or similar. It is a risk you have to carefully consider.

Thankfully with Nether Ardgrain, historic details were slightly incorrect, but the main stories were accurate and unbiased.

The Nether Ardgrain press articles, which appeared in the Press and Journal, are provided for easy reference.

SUMMARY

 

MP and MSP Support

Bring the historic planning application to the attention of your MSP and MP

MP's and MSP's often have a strong determination to protecting our built and cultural heritage, but they won't know about the planning application at a historic site until you bring it to their attention.

You can find contact details for your MP's and MSP's from local government websites (a few can be found in our Helpful Planning Links section), allowing you to write or e-mail them directly.

When writing to your MP or MSP, state the facts, note your own objections, and give them a link to the planning application so they can review the plans themselves. Politely ask them to write to the planning department if they would like to comment. Bear in mind, your MP or MSP might actually agree with the planning application, so could write a letter of support. If your MP or MSP does write a letter of objection it can greatly strengthen the argument to refuse an application, and it makes it a lot more difficult for the planning department to rush an application through.

SUMMARY

 

Planning Aid

Planning Aid Can Help

Planning Aid for Scotland was established in 1993 to provide people across Scotland with information and support to engage in the planning system. Planning Aid for Scotland is a Scottish charity, whose role is to:

Planning Aid for Scotland won't actively become involved in planning applications, but can provide helpful advice, especially on the planning process. For example, council planning departments are often overworked and swamped with work. They may overlook or ignore important facts or procedures. You can describe the planning application progress to planning aid, and they might indicate that the council planning department is doing something incorrectly. This information allows you to confidently question the council planning department, ensuring that the planning procedure is followed correctly.

www.planning-aid-scotland.org.uk

SUMMARY

 

Support - Chartered Architects

Chartered Architects

You may find yourself suddenly thrown in the midst of a planning application, and though you know the importance of the historic site, you may not feel you have the necessary expertise to object yourself. After all, not everyone's background is in planning...

This is when the professional services of an architect comes in. As with Planning Consultants, architects can help both in general advice, and pick up specific details on a planning application which you yourself may not be aware of. For example, you might not know that there is a minimum distance between windows on adjacent properties. If the adjacent plans show a window closer (as at Ardgrain...), then you have valid grounds to object.

We'd suggest you employ the best you can afford, and it is always worth asking around to see if anyone you know can recommend a particularly good firm of chartered architects.

Bear in mind that there is a difference between architectural designers and professionally recognised chartered architects in terms of expertise and knowledge. Although the chartered architects will no doubt be slightly more expensive, the level of professional support available from chartered architects will be far greater (just as with chartered engineers, chartered accountants etc etc).

Once your architects have reviewed the plans and proposals, they may be able to suggest objections which will help you to protect the listed site. You may ask your architects to note all the architectural issues with the plans and submit an objection letter on your behalf. Or you may wish to discuss the planning applications and ask for their input and advice, before you yourself submit an objection noting these issues. The second method is the cheaper in our experience.

We personally approached two architects, the first group submitted a letter on our behalf. When we showed the plans to the second architects they were so horrified at the plans, and what it meant to such an important historic site, that they asked to submit a letter of objection themselves!

A letter from chartered architects on your behalf can greatly help your case; the letter carries weight behind it. A planning department may choose to overlook a public objection, but if the same objection comes from recognised professionals, it becomes a lot harder to ignore.

SUMMARY

 

Support - Chartered Planners

Chartered Planners

As with Chartered Architects, Planning Consultants can help both in general advice, and pick up specific details on a planning application which you yourself may not be aware of. The distinction between Architects and Planning Consultants overlap, but in my experiences, Architects can advise on specifics, such as distances between buildings and stylistic features to name but a few. Planning Consultants more often deal with the bigger picture, and the development as a whole. Planning Consultants deal with 'big' issues, such as supermarket developments or sites which will have a big public impact.

If you think the historic site merits it, the first thing to do is approach a firm of planning consultants. At Nether Ardgrain, they approached us, having heard about the proposed steading developments. Their advice comes at a cost (thousands of pounds typically), but can be money well spent.

The Planning Consultants on our behalf took an impartial view of the proposed steading development at Nether Ardgrain and wrote a full report on the site, addressing historic issues, site impact, and the impact it would have on our adjacent house. Their report is similar in content to a council planning recommendation, and takes an objective view on development, and what it means being adjacent to a listed building.

A copy of the Nether Ardgrain Planners Report report shows what can be expected.

As with a letter from a Chartered Architect, A letter from Planning Consultants on your behalf can greatly help your case; the letter carries weight behind it. A planning department may choose to overlook a public objection, but if the same objection comes from recognised professionals, it becomes a lot harder to ignore. Councilors see the objections, and will see the Planning Consultants report. The Planning Consultants report may highlight issues which have been overlooked or ignored by the planning department- think of the Planning Consultants report as a benchmark to which the planning department report may be checked.

SUMMARY

 

Helpful Planning Links

Planning Links

Below is a list of historic planning related links, which you may find useful (each opens in a new window):

www.writetothem.com - A great site for looking up your MP, MSP and councilor names. Use this in conjunction with the Scottish Parliament link below to research contact details.

www.scottish.parliament.uk/msp/index.htm - The Scottish Parliament MSP lists, which are searchable by postcode.

www.planning-aid-scotland.org.uk - Planning Aid are a charity organisation, who can give support in all planning issues. Their unbiased advice is free, and volunteer planners assist the public both in planning approvals, appeals and objections.

www.historic-scotland.gov.uk - Historic Scotland are consulted on all planning applications at listed sites throughout Scotland, so it is worthwhile phoning them to discuss the planning application at your site.

www.spab.org.uk - The Society of Ancient Buildings are not always consulted on planning applications, but may wish to comment. Phone or e-mail them to make them aware of the planning application. SPAB have a dedicated Scottish office (SPABiS).

www.nts.org.uk - The National Trust for Scotland. Doesn't actively participate in domestic planning issues, but may be able to provide support, advice or assistance.

www.savebritainsheritage.org - It is worth contacting SAVE, who are very helpful and supportive. Phone them as soon as you are made aware of an application, to give SAVE sufficient time to respond. The SAVE website also provides links to a huge number of historic preservation bodies.

www.scottishcivictrust.org.uk The Scottish Civic Trust maintain the buildings at risk register for Scotland. The Scottish Civic Trust works to promote and improve Scotland's built environment. They seek to decisions affecting the equality of the places we live and work.  The Scottish Civic Trust support, through a network of civic societies across Scotland, local interest in architecture, planning, heritage and other environmental issues.

www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/1999/04/nppg18 - National Planning and Policy Guideline 18 is the official policy on planning where historic buildings are invlolved. This lengthy document can provide support where the proposed plans represent a threat to a listed building, and sections taken from this document can be referenced and included in your letter of representation.

Planning advice documents

Planning Advice Documents

This section contains a collection of historic planning application documents, which you can freely download. These documents all apply to the planning applications at the historic Grade A listed site of Nether Ardgrain, and are provided as a template for you to use.

Chartered Planners Report

Chartered Planning Consultants Report - Nether Ardgrain

This report was commissioned to outline the reasons why Nether Ardgrain should be protected from unnecessary residential development, and is now in the public domain. A PDF version of the report was submitted to Aberdeenshire Council can be downloaded from the below link, or is available from the Aberdeenshire Council website.

Nether Ardgrain Chartered Planning Consultants Report (F/APP/2007/1261 and F/APP/2007/1262) (PDF: 112k)

 

NETHER ARDGRAIN, ELLON

OBJECTION TO PROPOSED STEADING CONVERSION

INTRODUCTION

This objection has been prepared by Halliday Fraser Munro Planning, Chartered Town Planning Consultants and Chartered Architects of Aberdeen, Belfast, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is submitted on behalf of our Client, Mr & Mrs Younger who reside at Nether Ardgrain, in objection to both an application for Full Planning Permission for the conversion of the existing steading into a dwellinghouse (ref F/APP/2007/1261) and an application for Listed Building Consent for the part demolition and conversion of the steading into a dwellinghouse (ref F/APP/2007/1262) at Nether Ardgrain, Ellon, Aberdeenshire, by Mr A Low, per Taylor Design Services.

THE SITE

Nether Ardgrain lies approximately two miles north of Ellon, accessed from a private track leading from an unclassified public road. The site occupies an elevated and highly visible hillside position set in rolling agricultural land with extensive views to the south. A range of buildings are present on site, the most important being the Category ‘A’ Listed Nether Ardgrain farmhouse. A number of vernacular outbuildings lie to the sides and rear of the farmhouse. Immediately North West of the farmhouse is an ‘L’ shaped vernacular stone and slate steading building and a further steading east of these, creating a ‘U’ shaped courtyard arrangement. Athough not listed in their own right, all the buildings within the curtilage of the farmhouse are deemed to be part of the ‘A’ Listed status and have an important physical and visual relationship with the farmhouse. The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 advises that any object or structure within the curtilage of the building which, though not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before 1st July 1948 shall be treated as part of a listed building. (Section 1 (4)). These steading buildings are the subject of planning applications to convert the ‘L’ shaped buildings to a single dwellinghouse. Access to the site is to be along the private track shared with the farmhouse.

DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL

Full planning permission and listed building consent is sought for the conversion of the steadings to the rear of Nether Ardgrain Farmhouse into one 4/5 bedroom dwellinghouse on two levels. The dwellinghouse is to be contained within the ‘L’ shaped building, the remaining steading retained as an outbuilding. A garden area is to be created in the steading courtyard opposite the farmhouse.

ISSUES

There are a number of issues pertaining to the development currently proposed at Nether Ardgrain. These issues are the basis for our grounds for objection to the development.

IMPACT ON LISTED BUILDING

Historic Scotland define a Category ‘A’ Listed building as a: “Building of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little altered examples of some particular period, style or building type.” Nether Ardgrain farmhouse and curtilage buildings were listed on 16th April 1971.

In his book ‘Gordon: An Illustrated Architectural Guide’, Ian Shepherd describes Nether Ardgrain as "one of the crispest, sparest and most truly Scots houses in the north-east". The property has retained the character of its 17thcentury origins through the sympathetic restoration and maintenance by the current and previous owners. In addition, the steading buildings remain little altered since their construction, except for the easily removed modern agricultural additions.

The Development Plan contains a number of policies and objectives that aim to protect listed buildings from development that would have a detrimental impact on their fabric or setting. The purpose of these policies is to promote and protect the built and cultural heritage of the North East. Objective 5 of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Structure Plan 2001 – 2016 ‘North East Scotland Together’ is “To protect, enhance and promote the natural, built and cultural heritage of the North East.”

Policy 20 of the Structure Plan encourages the enhancement, active use, conservation and access to our built heritage, while protecting the integrity and setting of listed buildings.

Policy Env\18 of the Aberdeenshire Local Plan (2006) states that:

“All listed buildings or structures contained on the statutory list of Buildings of Special or Architectural or Historic Interest for Aberdeenshire shall be protected against any works which would have a detrimental effect on their listed character, integrity or setting.”

“New developments within their curtilage must be of the highest quality, respect the original structure in terms of setting, scale, design and materials and conform to Appendix 4”

Aberdeenshire Local Plan Appendix 4 provides further guidance on development affecting listed buildings, stating that new development should: “be of a scale and proportion which is sympathetic to the character of the particular building and the surrounding area.”

The conversion of the steadings to the rear of Nether Ardgrain farmhouse into residential accommodation would have an unacceptable detrimental impact on both Nether Ardgrain farmhouse and the fabric of the steadings themselves. Although under separate ownership since 1982, the steadings, outbuildings and farmhouse which make up Nether Ardgrain must be seen as a single A listed entity, whether the site is viewed from a distance or from the courtyard of the site, and also in respect of their listed status. The intensification of residential use on the site would detrimentally alter the setting and character of Nether Ardgrain forever.

The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 provides statutory guidance on the determination of planning applications affecting listed buildings for local authorities and the Scottish Ministers. Section 59 states that:

  • In considering whether to grant planning permission for development which affects a listed building or its setting, a planning authority or the Secretary of State, as the case may be, shall have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses;
  • Without prejudice to section 64, in the exercise of the powers of disposal and development conferred by the provisions of sections 191 and 193 of the principal Act, a planning authority shall have regard to the desirability of preserving features of special architectural or historic interest and, in particular, listed buildings;
  • In this section, "preserving", in relation to a building, means preserving it either in its existing state or subject only to such alterations or extensions as can be carried out without serious detriment to its character.

Historic Scotland’s Memorandum of Guidance on Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas (1998) (para 2.10) advises that any new use for a site comprising a listed building should positively enhance both the environment and the setting of other listed buildings in the area. The proposed development clearly does not achieve this.

National Planning Policy Guideline (NPPG) 18: Planning and the Historic Environment (1999) advises that when considering development that impacts upon a listed building, the “aim should be to identify the best viable use that is compatible with the fabric, setting and character of the historic environment.” (Para 22).

Our client has submitted a planning application for listed building consent for the restoration of the steadings and bothy and the removal of an asbestos lean to and Dutch barn (ref F/APP/2007/0580). That application includes the sympathetic repair and restoration of the vernacular steadings back to their original form. Our client is willing to lease the buildings for agricultural purposes following restoration. Aberdeenshire Council’s Built and Cultural Heritage Officer described these proposals as “to be welcomed as positive development in securing the long term future of these agricultural buildings.” This proposal presents the most viable use that is compatible with the listed status of the steadings and Nether Ardgrain, in terms of the impact on their fabric, setting and character.

Section 25 of the Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 states that planning applications must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Paragraph 42 of NPPG 18 advises that:

“Where a proposal affects a listed building or its setting, an important material consideration is the desirability of preserving the building or its setting, and any features of special architectural or historic interest. Development plan policies that relate to listed buildings, along with supplementary guidance, should still be taken into account when determining applications for listed building consent but should not be afforded as much weight as the statutory requirement.

This effectively means that national policy guidance overrides that of the development plan. The principle aim therefore is that development which provides the best viable and compatible use should be approved, while any proposal that may harm the setting of a listed building should be refused. Aberdeenshire Council has a real choice here. Full restoration to original form or significant alterations to the steading and negative impact on the A listed farmhouse. The former should be considered as being the most appropriate development form.

IMPACT ON RESIDENTIAL AMENITY

The proposed conversion of an agricultural steading building into a five bedroom dwellinghouse would introduce a considerable number of additional residents and vehicles to Nether Ardgrain. The steadings lie a mere five metres from the farmhouse, a narrow path for any vehicle to negotiate, resulting in the high likelihood of damage to the A listed building from vehicles, in addition to damage that has already been sustained. The steadings occupy an elevated position behind the farmhouse, and windows proposed on the east courtyard elevation of the steading will directly overlook the conservatory on the western elevation of Nether Ardgrain farmhouse, resulting in the loss of privacy and general amenity of the farmhouse.

The proposed development makes no provision for passing places on the narrow access track, which is unsuitable for an increase in traffic. Insufficient turning space exists within the application site, and it is highly likely that in practice, our clients’ gravelled courtyard area would be encroached upon for vehicle manoeuvres, severely impacting on their privacy and amenity enjoyed by use of their conservatory.

In addition, the steading could comfortably accommodate a further dwellinghouse through sub division, as demonstrated by the previous applications. This would result in the further intensification of the residential use of the site, confirming the Formartine Area Committee’s concerns about Nether Ardgrain turning into an urban cul de sac.

The proposed development is therefore contrary to Aberdeenshire Local Plan Policy Gen\2: The Layout, Siting and Design of New Development, which requires that all new development respects the character and amenity of the surrounding area.

CONVERSION DESIGN

The proposed steading conversion contains a number of design elements that are not appropriate for the site’s A listed status. Historic Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council’s Built and Cultural Heritage Officer and the Planning Service requested that the design and materials be revisited under the previous planning applications, ref F/APP/2006/3491 & 3841. We do not feel that the current applications take account of these requests. To comply with Aberdeenshire Local Policy on design affecting listed buildings and guidance on steading conversions, existing openings should be retained and reused, while alterations to building should be kept to a minimum. Due to the sites listed status, appropriately high quality materials are also required.

The design of the steading conversion also brings a modern residential building character to Nether Ardgrain that is entirely alien to the site, due to elements of the conversion design and the use of the steading courtyard as a modern dwellinghouse garden and recreational area.

The western and eastern elevations of the west wing contain a number of new window and full height door openings that display an overly horizontal emphasis that is detrimental to the vernacular character of the steadings. Furthermore, its appears that as many new openings and rooflights as possible have been squeezed onto the west elevation in order to allow the building to accommodate a dwellinghouse.

In addition, the southern gable opening treatment appears to be contradictory between lodged plans and elevations, and it is not clear if a window or door is proposed here. If it is a window as shown on the plan (and is likely due to the form of the room it serves) then this too will impact hugely on the amenity of the farmhouse and introduce another non-traditional element within the same visual envelope as the A listed farmhouse. The incorporation of full height glazed openings in the steading would share an incongruous and contradictory relationship with the very small ground and first floor windows found on the northern elevation of the farmhouse. The small farmhouse window openings are an integral part of the listed building’s form, therefore such development would have a detrimental impact on its character.

The proposed conversion also involves the construction of a boundary wall along the southern elevation of the steading courtyard area. This would effectively divide the A listed site and have an unacceptable impact on its overall character.

IMPACT ON NATURAL HERITAGE

Bats and their roosts are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994. All Scottish bat species are protected as European Protected Species. This means that it is an offence to damage or destroy the breeding sites or resting places of such animals. SNH advise that bats tend to use buildings for maternity roosts from late May to early June. A survey report of bats and barn owls at Nether Ardgrain by Alba Ecology Ltd. has been submitted as part of the current applications. This survey does not conclusively demonstrate that the proposed development will not have an unacceptable impact on protected species. The survey states the following:

(It was) “carried out in December when bats in the area are not active and barn owls are not breeding;

older buildings have potential roost sites (and) may be suitable as temporary roosts at certain times of year;

the local population of barn owls is strong … the habitat surrounding Nether Ardgrain is ideal for this species;

the possibility remains that although undetected during this survey, bats may still be found. It is also possible that barn owls use the buildings to roost.”

The survey concludes by recommending that a further check for signs of barn owls or bats is undertaken. Scottish Executive guidance ‘European Protected Species, Development sites and the Planning System – Interim guidance for local authorities on licensing arrangements’ (2001) advises the planning authority on how to deal with planning applications that may affect protected species. It states that every decision taken by every planning authority must be reached in a manner which ensures that the provisions of the habitats directive are taken into account. This duty is a matter of Community law. The planning authority must be satisfied that the development will not impact adversely on any European protected species, or that the three tests required for a grant of licence to permit works affecting such species are satisfied. The three tests broadly permit development where:

  1. the development’s purpose is to preserve public health or safety or other imperative reasons of overriding public interest;
  2. there is no satisfactory alternative to granting a licence;
  3. the authorised action would not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the European protected species

The guidance advises that the erroneous action of the planning authority may present the real danger of the developer being unable to develop the site for the use planning permission had been granted for. This is in the interest of no party involved.

The presence and status of bats and barn owls at Nether Ardgrain is therefore a matter that requires clarification prior to the granting of any planning permission. It is not acceptable for Aberdeenshire Council to simply condition that a bat survey is undertaken and mitigation measures implemented prior to the commencement of development, as was the case with the previous application. A comprehensive bat and barn owl survey is required, and the research for this can only be carried out at the appropriate time of year, May and June, to establish the proposed development’s impact on the species.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, we object to the current planning applications on behalf of our client on the following grounds:

  • Impact on Listed Building;
  • Impact on Residential Amenity;
  • Conversion Design;
  • Impact on Natural Heritage

Full consideration should also be given to the refurbishment of the steadings currently proposed by our client as the best viable and compatible use of the site, in accordance with national policies.

For the reasons outlined above, it is respectfully suggested that the Formartine Area Committee refuse Full Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for the Conversion of a Steading into a Dwellinghouse at Nether Ardgrain.

 

Download the Nether Ardgrain chartered planners report as a PDF:

Nether Ardgrain Chartered Planners Report (F/APP/2007/1261 and F/APP/2007/1262) (PDF: 112 kb)

Letters of Representation

Nether Ardgrain Letters of Representation

Thanks in part to the publicity of the planning applications, the councellors received many letters of comments and objections to the Nether Ardgrain steading conversions, including letters from David Davidson MSP, Malcolm Bruce MP, Shiona Baird MSP and SAVE Britains Heritage.

These files are all in the public domain, and can be viewed on the Aberdeenshire Council Website. To view or open these PDF files you may need Adobe Acrobat, which can be found at www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

 

Public comments and objections to the steading conversions to two houses and a business unit at the Nether Ardgrain Grade A listed site:

Comments and objections to Nether Ardgrain development APP 2006 3841.pdf (729k)

Comments and objections to Nether Ardgrain development APP 2006 3841 - 2.pdf (111k)

 

Public comments and objections to the steading conversions to a house at the Nether Ardgrain Grade A listed site:

Comments and objections to Nether Ardgrain development APP 2007 1261.pdf  (1 MB)

Comments and objections to Nether Ardgrain development APP 2007 1261 -2.pdf  (2 MB)

Listed Building Consent Applications

Sample Listed Building Consent Application

 To allow others to comment on the merits of an alternative use, you can submit a Listed Building Consent Application (see our Listed Building Consent pages for more information). At Nether Ardgrain we submitted plans to restore and renevate the Grade A listed barns, as an alternative to residential development. This Listed Building Consent application can be used as a reference if you decide to submit your own consent application.

*******Under Construction*******

Planning Objection Letters

Sample Planning Objection Letters

 
Sample Objection letter 1

To make your objections to a planning application heard, you must submit what is known as a letter of representation (see our respond pages for tips on writing an effective letter of representation). This sample objection letter is from an actual planning application at the historic site of Nether Ardgrain in 2006, where a large and imposing steading development was proposed which would completely alter the character and setting of a Grade A listed site.

The main topics covered in this objection letter include:

  • Historic objections, including a loss of character, site and setting
  • Loss of privacy
  • Overdevelopment
  • Overlooked windows
  • Increased traffic
  • Private water supply damage

This objection letter may be used as a guide template or for reference when writing your own objection letter. Remember that each planning application is unique, and the objections outlined in this letter may not be applicable to your own situation.

Sample Objection letter 2

This sample objection letter is again from an actual planning application. After being unsuccessful in the first planning application at Nether Ardgrain in 2007, a second application proposed a large and imposing house on the historic site. This objection letter (letter of representation) was submitted to object to the development.

The main topics covered in this objection letter include:

  • Historic objections, including a loss of character, site and setting
  • Loss of privacy
  • Overlooked windows
  • Increased traffic
  • Private water supply damage
  • Buildings still serve a functional purpose (unnecessary development)

This objection letter may be used as a guide, template or for reference, when writing your own objection letter. Remember that each planning application is unique, and the objections outlined in this letter may not be applicable to your own situation.

Letter of Representation 1

Sample Objection letter

This sample objection letter is from an actual planning application. A planning application had been submitted in 2007 to convert part of the  historic site at  Nether Ardgrain into two large and imposing houses and a business unit. This objection letter (also known as a letter of representation) was submitted to object to the proposed residential and business development.

To make your objections to a planning application heard, you must submit what is known as a letter of representation (see our respond pages for tips on writing an effective letter of representation).

The main topics covered in this objection letter include:

  • Historic objections, including a loss of character, site and setting
  • Loss of privacy
  • Overlooked windows
  • Increased traffic
  • Private water supply damage
  • Threat to endangered wildlie
  • Buildings still serve a functional purpose (unnecessary development)

This objection letter may be used as a guide, template or for reference, when writing your own objection letter. Remember that each planning application is unique, and the objections outlined in this letter may not be applicable to your own situation.

 

Dear Sirs,

Proposed Steading conversion to form 2 no dwellinghouses, 2 garages and 1 no business unit at Nether Ardgrain, Ellon
 

Ref: APP/2006/3491

We took ownership of Nether Ardgrain, which is a Grade A listed site of National Architectural and historic importance, in September last year.

Nether Ardgrain was the seat of the Barony of Ardgrain, and was erected to royal charter in 1528. The Kennedy’s of Kermuck, who built Nether Ardgrain, had earlier erected Ellon Castle as their fortalice. They were the Hereditary Constables of Aberdeen, so are entwined with the history of Ellon and Aberdeenshire from 1413 AD onwards.

We strongly object to the proposed steading conversion at Nether Ardgrain on the following grounds:

  • Grade A Listing

Nether Ardgrain was listed as Grade A on the 16th of April 1971. Scottish heritage defines Grade A listing as:

Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or
building type.

Aberdeenshire Council Sites and Monuments describe Nether Ardgrain as:

Medieval (from 1100 AD); Post-Medieval (from 1560). Farmhouse; dated CR 1664 at Royal Coat-of-arms centre gable & J E B 1751 at lintel. The coat-of-arms relates to Ardgrain becoming a barony in the early 16thC. The present house was erected by John Kennedy of Kermuck who purchased the barony in 1629; reconstructed in the mid-18thC; all interiorwoodwork of this date; 2-storey and dormerless attic, harled, skewputts, steeply battered walls, approximately symmetrical S front with centre 1- window gable of slight projection, roll-moulded doorpiece with arched panel and sundial over it; original chimneypieces at 1st floor, one moulded 17th or 18thC, one c 1800; column-balustered stair; SE ground floor room formerly had chimneypiece in SW angle.

Historically, to the present day Nether Ardgrain has been a farm. Indeed, Ellon records indicate that there has been a site here from the medieval period onwards.

Changing the steadings into two large houses, two garages and a business unit will represent a considerable loss of character, integrity and history from this site, especially with their very close proximity to the main house. The secluded historic setting of Nether Ardgrain will be permanently and detrimentally altered by the introduction of two large houses, two garages plus a business unit.

Aberdeenshire Local Plan (Policy Env\18) states:

All Listed Buildings or structures contained in the statutory list of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest for Aberdeenshire shall be protected against any works which would have a detrimental effect on their listed character, integrity or setting by the refusal of listed building consent and/or planning permission.

And also (policy Env\18):

The Council will encourage the protection, maintenance, enhancement, active use and conservation of Listed Buildings.

Aberdeenshire Local Plan states (policy Env\18):

Aberdeenshire’s built heritage is irreplaceable and must be preserved and conserved for present and future generations. Listed Buildings make a significant contribution to the character and amenity of Aberdeenshire. The fact that a building is obsolete for a period of time is not in itself a justification for unsympathetic change. Listed Buildings are at their most vulnerable when vacant, so encouragement is given to appropriate redevelopment that protects and enhances character. They are a valuable resource that can stimulate enjoyment of the wider environment and act as an important medium for education, recreation and tourism. As such, they must be protected. For this reason precedence will be given to the requirements of this Policy, when there is any conflict with the requirements of other policies in this plan.

The Scottish executive NPPG 18 (Planning and Historic Development) is also applicable. Nether Ardgrain is contained within the statutory list of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest for Aberdeenshire due to its Grade A listing, and as such is protected by the Aberdeenshire Council policy Env\18 and The Scottish Executive NPPG 18. We therefore request that the planning application is rejected.

  • Curtilage

Nether Ardgrain was Grade A listed in 1971. The house plus two steadings and three gardens were sold in 1982. This is the house, buildings and land which we now own. At the time of listing in 1971, the entire site was a single entity, and thus the Grade A listing equally applies to the steadings, which fall under curtilage.

Government legislation states:

The curtilage of a listed building is normally considered to be the land, buildings and structures which go with or are ancillary to the principal building. Any buildings or structures which formed part of the land associated with, or belonging to, the principal building at the time of listing are considered to be within the ‘curtilage’ of the listed building and are therefore considered part of it. Buildings or structures that date from after 1st July 1948, and which are unattached to the listed building, are not considered to be curtilage listed. Typically, structures covered by curtilage listing might include: walls, gates, railings, gatehouses, stables, urns, statues, dairies, barns, privies and cart sheds.

The Grade A protection afforded to our house therefore extends to the surrounding buildings. It might be argued that, being Grade A listed, the steadings should never have been allowed to fall into their current state.

Grade A listing extends to the interiors of buildings. Internal structural features of the steadings, such as cobbled floors, will be lost under the proposed development. The conversion into two houses, a business unit and two garages is in no way keeping with the original steadings or their function at the time of Grade A listing. We request that the proposed steading conversions are not allowed to go ahead.

  • Nether Ardgrain Titleage

We note that on the submitted plans the house is labelled Nether Ardgrain House. This is incorrect; it is the farm, which includes the house, which is called Nether Ardgrain. Indeed Historic Scotland lists the house as Nether Ardgrain, Farmhouse. We would request that the name is not changed.

  • Incorrect Plans

The plans relating to the proposed steading conversions are incorrect. For example, significant features of our house are missing, buildings are shown which no longer exist, and the scale of buildings and their position relative to each other is incorrect. The portions of land owned by us are not indicated on any of the plans.

  • No Consultation

At no time were we consulted or informed of the plans to convert the steadings. Our first indication of the proposed development was the statutory planning application notice letter.

  • Access

Nether Ardgrain is accessed by a single lane hardcore track of 250 metres. We have access rights to use the track, and seeing it unmaintained we have by default taken on the sole responsibility and cost of maintenance for this track. We understand that the previous owners of Nether Ardgrain did likewise, again at their own expense.

There is no passing place and the track is lined for most of its length by a low stone wall either side. Traffic is light, with the occasional tractor, plus our own two cars. Even so, we have to continually maintain the track by filling in potholes and maintaining the verges. This is especially important through the winter seasons, when muddy potholes quickly grow if not filled.

The track is very old, connecting Nether Ardgrain to the early Aberdeen - Fraserburgh road (sadly this no longer exists, from our track onwards it becomes a footpath), and we believe the track leading to Nether Ardgrain and the associated walls which line it are also protected under curtilage as mentioned previously. The track forms part of the considerable history and character of Nether Ardgrain, and was under single ownership with the house at the time of Grade A listing. As such, the track should also be protected from unnecessary damage.

The additional traffic generated by a further two large houses plus trade associated with the business unit, greatly exceeds the track capacity. The bringing of construction equipment necessary for the steading conversions will also place additional loads and damage on a track not designed for such traffic.

  • Snow

Being on an elevated and exposed location, the track last year filled with snow, cutting Nether Ardgrain off for a week. We understand that this is a near annual occurrence. The track is private, and as such is not cleared by the council in winter. Such a track which blocks for extended periods almost annually is clearly not suitable for a business to operate with.

  • Noise

At its closest, the house is 5 metres from the steadings, with the track running between. Three sides of our house are exposed to the track and courtyard. Being Grade A listed, our house is fitted with single glazed sash units, and our Grade A listing may prevent us from fitting double glazed units. Over centuries, the track has built up, and today the living room window lower sill is less than 0.5m from being flush with the track surface. Passing traffic and pedestrians in effect look down into our living room.

Traffic on the track is only a few feet away from eight windows on the house, a living room window, two windows in our sitting room, two upstairs bedroom windows, an 3rd floor window and two hallway windows. Furthermore, we have a bathroom window, a downstairs bedroom window, an upstairs bedroom window, a 3rd floor window and our conservatory all within the courtyard which would all be exposed to increased traffic and elevated noise levels.

The very close proximity to two large houses, two garages and a business unit with all the associated noise will be very intrusive to a single glazed house such as ours, and we will have limited or no options to reduce noise levels, by for example introducing double glazing, because of our A listed status.

  • Overlooked windows

Although not marked on the proposed plans, our house has a large Victorian style glass and wood conservatory, which has two of its three glass sides facing directly into the courtyard and our main entrance is through the conservatory from the courtyard. Our ground floor bedroom also looks directly into the courtyard, as does a bedroom window on the first floor and window on the third floor. The steadings occupy a slightly elevated position, and as such look down into our ground floor bedroom and conservatory. The proposed conversion of the steadings into houses and a business unit will result in a significant loss of privacy.

In addition, the proposed business unit and garage exits directly in front of our living room and sitting room windows and as described above, persons and traffic will be looking down into the living room window, which again will result in a significant loss of privacy.

  • Water

Nether Ardgrain, due to its remote location, is not connected to either mains water or public sewerage systems. Our house is served by a single well for water, and has a soakaway septic system downhill from the house to handle effluent. Our drinking water system is fitted with a series of filters to remove nitrates and bacteria. The water barely passed the nitrate and bacteria tests performed by the previous owner on selling, even with additional filters fitted. At its current levels the water is unsuitable for elderly persons, small children or expectant mothers. The pump for our water supply thermally cut-out three times this summer during a prolonged dry spell, raising concerns that the water level was running low in the well. This is with justified reason; approximately 15 years ago a second well had to be drilled by the previous owner when the first ran dry. With just two adults using our well and underlying aquifer, we may not have too much of a problem. The additional burden of supplying a 5 bedroom and 3 bedroom house plus a business unit may however prove to be more than the aquifer can supply, especially during the summer months.

Behind the steadings is an area of marshy land, elevated from our well, which will have to be drained if the proposed development goes ahead. Wells such as the one we rely on for our water supply are especially sensitive to ground disturbances and building work, and there is a risk the draining of the marsh area or extensive building work on the steadings will have a damaging and permanent effect on our water supply, potentially leaving us without a usable water supply.

It should be noted that any development which occurs within close proximity to a sensitive watercourse will produce a source and pathway to a sensitive receptor.

This infringes on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ‘Groundwater Protection Policy’, which aims to dissuade developments that may have a detrimental effect on groundwater for potable use.

The site in question is classified as ‘most sensitive’ due to a natural spring which is used for drinking water, adjacent to Nether Ardgrain. Any development in close proximity to this sensitive watercourse would risk disturbing sediments and contaminating drinking water supplies.

  • Waste Water

Two additional houses and a business unit will produce a considerable volume of effluent, far in excess of what is presently produced on the Nether Ardgrain site. Soakaway tanks serving two additional houses, and of considerable size with ensuite bathrooms, plus a business unit with staff toilets may all be very detrimental to the water quality of our already marginal water supply and indeed the supply of the proposed houses and business unit. It should be noted that the steadings are all slightly elevated from our house and well.

Due to the inability to access mains sewerage, the requirement for alternative sewerage mechanisms for the proposed developments, such as a cesspool or cesspit will be sought. With a high water table, this system is likely to be located above ground. This presents aesthetic issues. Additionally there is a potential risk of the system malfunctioning and contaminating the groundwater and associated drinking water.

  • Business Unit

A significant change of role will occur if a business unit is introduced to the Nether Ardgrain site. Privacy will be compromised by the introduction of trade traffic and staff arrivals and departures, especially with access being limited because of the single lane track.

Noise levels will increase during work times. Parking problems will be introduced, because we presently use the courtyard (which is partly owned by ourselves), and there appears to be insufficient or indeed any dedicated parking spaces outside the business unit itself. The business is directly visible from our living room windows, and the business unit represents a significant appearance and function change at Nether Ardgrain, and the business unit represents intrusion and a significant loss of privacy.

  • Environmental Habitats and Impact

On the plans is shown a Dutch barn, drawn dotted, located to the back of the steadings. This barn has an owl nesting box, placed there to home Barn Owls. We frequently see the barn owls, they trip the motion sensor lights outside at dusk, and we have seen three owls together on a summers evening.

The proposed plans indicate that the Dutch barn will be demolished, removing the nesting site for these owls. Barn Owls are a protected species. The steadings are also home to bats, which can be seen in the summer months, and again, bats are a protected species.

The North East LPAB Priority Species List states that Pipistralle bats are part of the UK priority species. The same document lists the Barn Owl as a UK species of Conservation Concern.

Aberdeenshire Council Policy Env\4 sates:

Development that would have an adverse effect on habitats or species protected under British or European Law, or identified as a priority in UK or Local Biodiversity Action Plans, or on other valuable habitats, will be refused unless the developer demonstrates:

a) that the public benefits at a local level clearly outweigh the value of the habitat for biodiversity conservation;
b) that the development will be sited and designed to minimise adverse impacts on the biodiversity of the site, including its environmental quality, ecological
status and viability; AND
c) that there will be no further fragmentation or isolation of habitats as a result of the development.

The planning application does not address any of the above.

  • Confined Courtyard and Narrow Track

As described above, the living room window is very close to the track surface which has built up over the centuries. The track is approximately half a metre from this window. The hardcore track surface throws up stones and our living room window has two panes which have been cracked as a result of passing traffic. Additional traffic will only increase the frequency of these breakages.

Access to one of the proposed garages is through the courtyard (part owned by ourselves), which will result in additional traffic and pedestrians in the courtyard. The proposed Steading conversions are each served by a single garage, clearly insufficient for a 5 bedroom house and a 3 bedroom house. This will exceed the courtyard capacity and will result in a further loss of privacy.

Access both into the courtyard and round the single track road to the house is tight.

Damage has already occurred from passing traffic. We can only predict that more damage will occur to our Grade A listed property as passing traffic is greatly increased, and the introduction of boundary fences on the proposed steading conversions can only make access and manoeuvring worse.

  • Necessary Services by Large Vehicles

The courtyard is partly owned by ourselves, and partly is shared access. We do not own a sufficient area to turn cars, and rely on access rights to manoeuvre cars into the garages. Oil delivery, a necessity for central heating, is made by large tankers to our garage. Access is also required to the far side of the courtyard when our sceptic tank requires emptying. These two vital services are required for the continued functioning of our house. A boundary wall within the courtyard is proposed as part of the steading conversions. This will reduce access for all vehicles, and makes access for the above vehicles considerably more difficult or impossible.

  • Access to Fields

Being a farm, there is a continuation of the track, leading from our courtyard to the neighbouring fields. The proposed steading conversions have gardens which overlay this track and the adjacent farmland, so block this track. Clearly access will still be required to the fields served by the existing track, but there is no provision for this on the plans. To gain access, farm traffic will either have to pass directly in front of our house, behind our vegetable garden, or between our steading and the proposed business unit. In each of these options, no track currently exists. Nor would we want to see such a track introduced. All three routes would lead to an increase in intrusions, and will be to the detriment of our privacy. However a formal and suitable track will be required to prevent the area becoming overwhelmed by mud during the wet winter months should the plans be approved.

There is nothing within the proposed plans to indicate if access will be required through the courtyard to the field adjacent to our second steading. If access is required, the passageway will be inadequate due to the erection of boundary walls.

Access to fields has therefore not been addressed on the plans, other than identifying that the current access track will be blocked by the proposed steading conversions.

  • Division of Property

When the land was divided in 1982, the house, two steadings and three gardens were sold off, while the U steading and barns were retained. As such, our land is divided by the road, with our vegetable garden (labelled garden area on the site plan) and second steading offset from the house. Our second steading area includes some of the land overlooking the business unit and garages, and we have access rights to our property through these areas.

Introducing a turning area beside the proposed garage and business unit will both limit and reduce access to our steading by vehicle.

Introducing a steading conversion to two houses and a business unit will emphasise the division of our property and will have a very negative impact as walls and fences are introduced on land we previously had access rights to.

It should be noted that Nether Ardgrain is served entirely by high stone walls. Fences are not in keeping with the character of the Nether Ardgrain site.

 

 

In conclusion, we believe the steadings are Grade A listed through curtilage. With no investment the steadings will continue to deteriorate and will slowly collapse. The proposed plans address this problem by converting the steadings into houses and a business unit, but this would be at the expense of sites national heritage and importance.

We believe the conversion of the steadings into houses and a business unit to be very detrimental to the historic status of Nether Ardgrain. The buildings should not have been allowed to fall into their current condition, and they have unfortunately been neglected for some time. Investment by their current owner would restore these steadings to their former condition, in keeping with their Grade A status, and we request that this should take place without delay.

In the event that the above cannot take place, we would be prepared to purchase the steadings and restore them to farm buildings. If the current owner still needs the storage space provided by the barns, we will rent them back, while ensuring that they are maintained and preserved in keeping with their A listed status. We would like to stress that this is in no way our preferred solution; we would like to see the barns restored and retained by their current owner.

We trust our objections will be put before the Planning Committee in due course prior to a decision being made on this application.

Yours sincerely,

 

Letter of Representation 2

Sample Objection letter 2

This sample objection letter is from an actual planning application. After the first planning application at Nether Ardgrain in 2007 was refused at committee, a second application proposed a large and imposing house on the historic site. This objection letter (also known as a letter of representation) was submitted to object to the proposed residential development.

To make your objections to a planning application heard, you must submit what is known as a letter of representation (see our respond pages for tips on writing an effective letter of representation).

The main topics covered in this objection letter include:

  • Historic objections, including a loss of character, site and setting
  • Loss of privacy
  • Overlooked windows
  • Increased traffic
  • Private water supply damage
  • Buildings still serve a functional purpose (unnecessary development)

This objection letter may be used as a guide, template or for reference, when writing your own objection letter. Remember that each planning application is unique, and the objections outlined in this letter may not be applicable to your own situation.

A PDF version of the report with pictures was submitted to Aberdeenshire Council can be downloaded from the below link, or is available from the Aberdeenshire Council website.

Nether Ardgrain - objections to Residential Development APP 2007/1261 and APP 2007/1262 (PDF: 670k)

 

 

Dear Sirs,

Objections to proposed steadings conversion to form 1 no dwellinghouse at Nether Ardgrain, Ellon, and listed building consent at steadings at Nether Ardgrain, Ellon.

REF: APP 2007/1261 & APP 2007/1262

We took ownership of Nether Ardgrain in September 2005. Nether Ardgrain has been given a Grade A listing by Historic Scotland, which is the highest possible listing, and means it is a site of National architectural and historic importance.

 
Nether Ardgrain has had tenants on this site since 1492. Nether Ardgrain was the seat of the Barony of Ardgrain, and was erected to royal charter in 1528. The Kennedy’s of Kermuck, who built Nether Ardgrain, had earlier erected Ellon Castle as their fortalice.

The Kennedy’s were hereditary Constables of Aberdeen, and the dignitary of ‘Constable of Aberdeen’ was fixed to the Ardgrain barony.

RCAHMS describe Nether Ardgrain as:

One of the crispest, sparest and most truly Scots houses in the north-east.

Two storeys and attic, harled with skewputs, thin jambs and a central, slightly projecting, one-window gable which is the pleasing focus. Steeply battered walls (including the centre gable), roll-moulded doorpiece and chamfered jambs to all front windows are 17th-century work. The doorpiece is crowned with an arched panel inscribed HOW HAPPY WOVLD THE HVSBANDMAN BE IF HE KNEW / HIS OWN GOOD (VIRGIL) LET IMPROVEMENTS AND LIBERTY FLOVRISH which could stand as a text for the whole Improving Movement, and there is a sundial over. The interior woodwork is all 1751.

Ardgrain is described within the text of Blaeu's atlas of Scotland, published in 1662, of which the map below illustrates.

As owners of half the total Nether Ardgrain site, we strongly object to the proposed steading conversion at Nether Ardgrain on the following grounds:

 

•    Grade A Listing – National Importance of Site.

Nether Ardgrain was listed as Grade A on the 16th of April 1971 by Historic Scotland. Grade A listing is defined as:

Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type.

Aberdeenshire Council Sites and Monuments describe Nether Ardgrain as:

Medieval (from 1100 AD); Post-Medieval (from 1560).
Farmhouse; dated CR 1664 at Royal Coat-of-arms centre gable & J E B 1751 at lintel.
The coat-of-arms relates to Ardgrain becoming a barony in the early 16thC. The present house was erected by John Kennedy of Kermuck who purchased the barony in 1629; reconstructed in the mid-18thC; all interior woodwork of this date; 2-storey and dormerless attic, harled, skewputts,  steeply battered walls, approximately symmetrical S front with centre 1-window gable of slight projection, roll-moulded doorpiece with arched panel and sundial over it; original chimneypieces at 1st floor, one moulded 17th or 18thC, one c 1800; column-balustered stair; SE ground floor room formerly had chimneypiece in SW angle.

Historically, to the present day Nether Ardgrain has been a farm. Ellon records indicate that there has been a site here from the medieval period onwards.

Aberdeenshire Local Plan (Policy Env\18) states:

All Listed Buildings or structures contained in the statutory list of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest for Aberdeenshire shall be protected against any works which would have a detrimental effect on their listed character, integrity or setting by the refusal of listed building consent and/or planning permission.

To consider converting the nationally important historic farm complex at Nether Ardgrain, which dates back to the medieval period, into residential buildings is wrong. The setting, which forms much of the character of Nether Ardgrain will be permanently and irreversibly lost if this development is allowed to go ahead. The proximity of the steadings to the main house means that conversion will have a very visible and hugely negative impact on the Ardgrain site. NPPG/18 opens by saying historic sites in Aberdeenshire shall be protected from development. On these grounds we would ask that the planning application is refused.

Aberdeenshire Local Plan states (policy Env\18):

Aberdeenshire’s built heritage is irreplaceable and must be preserved and conserved for present and future generations.

Listed Buildings make a significant contribution to the character and amenity of Aberdeenshire. The fact that a building is obsolete for a period of time is not in itself a justification for unsympathetic change. Listed Buildings are at their most vulnerable when vacant, so encouragement is given to appropriate redevelopment that protects and enhances character. They are a valuable resource that can stimulate enjoyment of the wider environment and act as an important medium for education, recreation and tourism. As such, they must be protected. For this reason precedence will be given to the requirements of this Policy, when there is any conflict with the requirements of other policies in this plan.

There has been no justification for change (more on this later).

Nether Ardgrain is contained within the statutory list of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest for Aberdeenshire due to its Grade A listing, and as such is protected by the Aberdeenshire Council policy Env\18 and The Scottish Executive NPPG 18.

We therefore request that the planning application is refused.
 

•    Previous Refusal of Planning Permission – Site is not suited to development.

A planning application was submitted in 2006 to convert the steadings into two large houses and a business unit. The plans were refused at committee because:

  • The proposed development would have had a permanent negative impact of the Grade A listed site at Nether Ardgrain, and represents an overdevelopment.
  • The business unit was too far from Ellon.
  • The location was not suited to a business unit.

The physical proximity of the steadings at Nether Ardgrain to the farmhouse means that the primary reason for refusal still remains. To develop these steadings will have a permanently negative impact on this historic site. The site is not suited to development.

We would ask that the proposed development is refused.

•    Curtilage Listing – Steadings are integral to Nether Ardgrain’s character.

Nether Ardgrain was Grade A listed by Historic Scotland in 1971. The house plus two steadings and three gardens were sold in 1982 by the applicant of this planning application, ten years after the site was listed. This land sold is the house, buildings and gardens which we now own. At the time of listing in 1971, the entire site was a single entity, and thus the Grade A listing equally applies to the steadings, which fall under the curtilage of the main house. As was Historic Scotland’s practice at the time, only the main building at a historic site was specifically listed. Had the site been listed today, each building would be listed in their own right. Historic Scotland are now starting a programme to re-assess all sites in Scotland to list the curtilage items specifically, and we await a review by Historic Scotland over the next few years.

The buildings were agricultural at the time of listing, and due to their proximity form a large part of the character and setting at Nether Ardgrain, which after all is listed as a farm house.
 
Government legislation states:

The curtilage of a listed building is normally considered to be the land, buildings and structures which go with or are ancillary to the principal building. Any buildings or structures which formed part of the land associated with, or belonging to, the principal building at the time of listing are considered to be within the ‘curtilage’ of the listed building and are therefore considered part of it. Buildings or structures that date from after 1st July 1948, and which are unattached to the listed building, are not considered to be curtilage listed.

Typically, structures covered by curtilage listing might include: walls, gates, railings, gatehouses, stables, urns, statues, dairies, barns, privies and cart sheds.

The Grade A protection afforded to our house therefore extends to the surrounding buildings.

The applicant’s barns have been severely neglected in recent years. For example, the gable end of a barn has been partly demolished to allow tractor access, and crudely rebuilt with concrete breezeblocks. Sarking and slates on most of the roofs are slipping and rotting, and have been doing so for a number of years. No repairs have been undertaken. This neglect has allowed rainwater in, which is rotting the main beams.

A corner of a barn roof has fallen away (Dec 06), in full view of passing traffic on the track, yet no repairs have been made to date. With the wooden beams exposed to the weather, further deterioration is occurring right now, and yet months later the necessary repairs have still not been made.

The Bothy at Nether Ardgrain (thought to be the last Bothy of its kind in the North East of Scotland), and shown in the picture below, is very dilapidated and is no longer weatherproof. It too is owned by the applicant. The window is missing, the door is off its hinges and the Bothy is slowly crumbing. It is a tragedy that this historic building, thought to be the last of its kind, is being abused in such a way, and again highlights the neglect at the Nether Ardgrain site. 

These examples, of which there are many more, highlight that these barns are not being maintained in keeping with their Grade A curtilage listing. To argue that the proposed development is for ‘conservation’ would be false, given the decades of neglect these barns have suffered.

The proposed development merely cashes-in on the high value such steadings currently demand when developed into houses, and has in our view, nothing whatsoever to do with conservation.

Grade A listing extends to the interiors of buildings. Internal structural features of the steadings will be lost under the proposed development. A plethora of new openings, windows, skylights and patio doors, with new boundary walls and landscaped gardening completely destroy the identity and integrity of these buildings.

Conversion into houses is also, by definition, irreversible. The conversion into a large and imposing house is in no way keeping with the original steadings, or their function, at the time of Grade A listing.

We request that the proposed steading conversion is not allowed to go ahead.

•    Restoration – An alternative to residential development exists.

We believe that restoration, not development, is the best way to protect the Nether Ardgrain site. This will allow the buildings to continue to serve a needed and functional purpose. These buildings should not have been allowed to fall into their current state, and have been lacking any form of maintenance or repairs for decades.

The applicant has not put forward any reasons to justify the proposed change of use for these listed agricultural buildings. Indeed the applicant’s supporting letter states that the buildings will be used more heavily if the planning application is refused. The applicant therefore agrees that these buildings can still serve a functional agricultural purpose.

It would be fair to say the buildings are in dire need of need sympathetic repair.

A change of use checklist for a listed site can be found on the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) website (http://www.spab.org.uk/html/advice/conservation-advice/change-of-use) and a copy of this is included at the end of this letter. None of the criteria for the proposed change of use from agricultural to residential have been met.

It has wrongly been said by the applicant that conversion into a house is in our (that is the owners of the main house at Nether Ardgrain) best interests, and that the alternative to this development is increased agricultural traffic etc. We would like to make it clear that we looked for our dream house for three years before deciding that Nether Ardgrain was perfect.

We don’t want to see the site of our home destroyed and lost forever– but that is what we face. We love the rural setting and the centuries of history that surround our historic site. We did not choose to live in a cul-de-sac housing scheme. We have no issued with reasonable agricultural uses for these farm buildings. What we chose, after years of searching, was a country farmhouse. We did not choose to live on a building site, or at a housing scheme.

•    Offer of Purchase –  A party is willing to undertake and fund the repairs.

After the last planning application was submitted, we made a formal offer to purchase these buildings from the applicant for £100,000 (which is twice their estimated value). The applicant refused this, and would only sell the buildings to us for £200,000.

We estimate another £100,000 or more is needed just to repair and restore these buildings, putting right decades of damage and neglect, so cannot meet the applicants over-inflated price.

Ideally the applicant himself should be asked to repair these curtilage listed grade A buildings, given their proximity to the main house, and the damage and neglect to the barns that has occurred over the years. But I understand that these restorations will be costly, which is why we offered to buy them and fund the repairs ourselves. We can fund the repairs, and have the commitment, what we ask for is support in making this happen.
 
There now exists an alternative to residential development, namely restoration. Historic Scotland's memorandum of guidance states that the best use for a historic building is not necessarily the most profitable. We hope all can agree that sympathetic restoration is preferable to irreversible conversion.

Emphasis must be placed on the fact that we do not want to create a museum piece which just sits empty. Our intention is to continue using the restored buildings, by letting the barns out for agricultural use at a nominal token rent. In this way the buildings can continue to serve a functional agricultural purpose, hopefully for many centuries more.

Referencing the SPAB change of use checklist at the end of this letter:  a change of use should not go ahead if there is a third party willing to purchase and repair the buildings.

We fully understand that the council might wish to confirm that we are not just making idle claims. We do have the funds, and we can, on request, verify this to the Council.

On these grounds we ask that the planning application is refused.

•    Water – A private and vulnerable supply.

Nether Ardgrain, due to its remote location, is not connected to either mains water or public sewerage systems. Our house is served by a single borehole well for water, and has a soakaway septic system downhill from the house to handle effluent. Our drinking water system is fitted with a series of filters to remove nitrates and bacteria. The water barely passed the nitrate and bacteria tests performed by the previous owners on selling, even with additional filters fitted. At its current levels the water is unsuitable for elderly persons, small children or expectant mothers.

SEPA guidelines state that agricultural manure cannot be spread within 50 metres of a private borehole well. In December manure was again spread a mere 15 metres from our well, on the applicant’s adjacent land. We have held off raising this with SEPA, but this infringement accounts for the elevated nitrate levels in our drinking water. We note that the steading conversion may be served by private water supply from a similar but separate borehole, bordering two of the applicant’s fields. We would caution that this too will have manure spread well below the SEPA 50 metre exclusion zone, and may not be fit for human consumption.

The pump for our water supply thermally cut-out three times last summer during a prolonged dry spell, raising concerns that the water level was running low in the well. This is with justified reason; approximately 15 years ago a second well had to be drilled by the previous owner when the first ran dry. With just two adults using our well and underlying aquifer, we may not have too much of a problem. The additional burden of supplying a second large house on the site may however prove to be more than the aquifer can supply, especially during the summer months.

Behind the steadings is an area of marshy land, elevated from our well, which will have to be drained if the proposed development goes ahead. Wells, such as the one we rely on for our water supply, are especially sensitive to ground disturbances and building work. There is a risk that the draining of the marsh area or extensive building work on the steadings will have a damaging and permanent effect on our water supply, potentially leaving us without a usable water supply.

In recent months this ground has been driven over, turning the marshy land into a track of sorts. The picture overleaf, taken towards the end of last summer, shows the waterlogged marshland clearly visible, adjacent to the Dutch barn.
 

It should be noted that any development which occurs within close proximity to a sensitive watercourse will produce a source and pathway to a sensitive receptor. This infringes on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ‘Groundwater Protection Policy’, which aims to dissuade developments that may have a detrimental effect on groundwater for potable use.  

The site in question is classified as ‘most sensitive’ due to the natural spring which is used for drinking water, adjacent to Nether Ardgrain. Any development in close proximity to this sensitive watercourse would risk disturbing sediments and contaminating drinking water supplies.

Our distance from mains water means that should our water fail, as a result of extensive building work and draining of marshland for gardens, we will be left with a huge financial bill to have Nether Ardgrain connected to a mains water supply.

For these reasons we would ask that the planning application is refused.

•    Future Intentions – Two new houses.

It is significant that this application for a single house uses the full extent of the two houses proposed in the previous planning application, which was refused on the grounds that it would be a detrimental overdevelopment. Our concern is that while this application is for conversion of two steadings into a single huge residential unit, plans will be revised at a later date for conversion into two large residential units. We have been advised that this is a common ploy used to circumvent planning restrictions. Entrances to the two separate houses from the previous planning application have been exactly carried forward to this new planning application.

The previous application for two large houses and a business unit was refused at Nether Ardgrain because the proposed development was considered detrimental to the site and setting at Nether Ardgrain, and was also noted as being an over development of the site. Other than physically moving the steadings to a different location, the primary grounds for refusal still stand; developing Nether Ardgrain will have a permanent and very negative impact on a nationally important historic site.

Recent planning decisions have set a precedent that steadings become houses in their own right after a number of years. This allows extensions and conservatories to be built onto steadings. If this planning application goes ahead, the site may be further developed and extended once the steadings are classified as houses over the coming years, so causing further degradation to the Nether Ardgrain site.

•    Boundary Walls – A very visual subdivision of the site

The land division by the applicant in 1982 may have been, in part, acceptable. The division was on paper only. No new boundaries were erected.

The proposed steading conversion however visually subdivides the Ardgrain site, by the construction of boundary walls, and will have a very negative visual impact on the site. This impacts on the sites character, separating the farmhouse from its adjacent farm buildings, and we ask that the planning application is refused.

•    Privacy – Windows will be overlooked.

The steadings to be developed form a courtyard which gives much of Nether Ardgrain its character. The steadings are integral to the setting. Within the courtyard, though not shown on the applicants submitted plans, is the Victorian style wooden conservatory of our house:

 
(Picture of conservatory and ground floor bedroom window to the left)

From the conservatory, in which we dine in during the summer months, we have a full and clear view to the steadings as shown in the pictures overleaf. 

To convert the steadings, will mean we are completely overlooked we will loose our privacy. We have a bedroom on the ground floor which looks towards the steadings. This too will be overlooked, and again a steading conversion will result in a loss of privacy in this bedroom.

Our master bedroom, on the first floor looks down into the steadings. We will be overlooking the steadings and its first floor bedrooms, if a conversion is allowed to go ahead. We also have a third floor window which looks directly down into the steadings.

•    Environmental Habitats and Impact

Within the Dutch barn to the rear of the site, is an owl nesting box, placed there to house Barn Owls. We frequently see the barn owls, they trip the motion sensor lights outside at dusk, and we occasionally see three owls together. The proposed plans indicate that the Dutch barn will be demolished, removing the nesting site for these owls.

We are glad to see the removal of the 1970’s Dutch barn, which is in a poor state of repair and dilapidated, but no alternative nesting has been proposed for the Barn Owls. Barn Owls are a protected species.

The steadings are also home to bats, which can be seen in the evenings on summer months, and again, bats are a protected species. Their habitat shall be permanently lost if steadings are converted.

The North East LPAB Priority Species List states that Pipistralle bats are part of the UK priority species. The same document lists the Barn Owl as a UK species of Conservation Concern.

Aberdeenshire Council Policy Env\4 sates:

Development that would have an adverse effect on habitats or species protected under British or European Law, or identified as a priority in UK or Local Biodiversity Action Plans, or on other valuable habitats, will be refused unless the developer demonstrates:
a) that the public benefits at a local level clearly outweigh the value of the habitat for biodiversity conservation;
b) that the development will be sited and designed to minimise adverse impacts on the biodiversity of the site, including its environmental quality, ecological status and viability; AND
c) that there will be no further fragmentation or isolation of habitats as a result of the development.

The planning application does not address any of the above.

•    Incorrect Plans

The plans relating to the proposed steading conversion are incorrect. For example, significant features of our house are missing. Buildings are shown on the Nether Ardgrain site which no longer exist. The scale of buildings and their position relative to each other is incorrect.

To highlight an example of the incorrect plans, the south elevation on the plans shows the back barn to extend to the centre of the stables on the right, whereas the plan view shows the back barn to end before the stables. Both views are in complete contradiction, and one (or both) views are therefore incorrect.

Given that the plans are not correct, and in places the views contradict each other, we ask that a true and dimensionally accurate survey is undertaken to allow all to be fully aware of the site layout.  The portions of land owned by us are not indicated on the plans.

A planning decision cannot be made on incorrect plans. We ask that the applicant is asked to submit correct plans that detail the full curtilage to allow all to see the full impact the proposed development will have at Nether Ardgrain.

•    Access

Nether Ardgrain is accessed by a single lane hardcore track of 250 metres. We have access rights to use the track, and the deeds, which were drafted by the applicant when the land was split under his ownership, state that all users must contribute to the maintenance and repairs in proportion to the damage that occurs.

This is not what happens. We have taken on the sole responsibility and cost of maintenance for this track, and the applicant (whose tractors do ~80% of the damage) has not contributed in any way to the upkeep or costs of maintaining this track since we have moved in. We understand that the previous owners of Nether Ardgrain were forced to do likewise, again at their own expense.  To now add a second house to the site will compound the damage to the track and further add to the upkeep required. There is already a conflict with the track and its upkeep.

  • Who pays for the materials necessary to fill the potholes? (£150 a year with current traffic)
  • Who manually fills the potholes? (an average of 3 hours a week, or 150+ hours a year, at current traffic levels )

It should be noted that a useable track depends on the vehicle. A ‘usable’ track for a tractor or pick-up can be rutted and potholed, but the same track is not usable for residential access.

Tractors continually pull mud from waterlogged fields onto the track, despite our complaints, and with a disregard for residential access. No effort is made to lay gravel at field entrances (which incidentally is a requirement for field entrances on public roads), and the track in winter becomes almost impassable with the quantity of manure and mud dropped by the applicants tractors.

The track is very old, connecting Nether Ardgrain to the early Aberdeen - Fraserburgh road (this no longer exists, from our track onwards it becomes a footpath), and the track leading to Nether Ardgrain and the associated walls which line it are also protected under curtilage. The track forms part of the considerable history and character of Nether Ardgrain, and was under single ownership with the house at the time of Grade A listing. As such, the track must also be protected from unnecessary damage. The bringing of construction equipment necessary for the steading conversion will also place additional loads and damage on a track not designed for such traffic.

•    Noise

At its closest, the house is 5 metres from the steadings, with the track running between. Three sides of our house are exposed to the track and courtyard. Being Grade A listed, our house is fitted with single glazed sash units, and our Grade A listing may prevent us from fitting double glazed units. Over centuries, the track has built up, and today the living room window lower sill is less than 0.5m from being flush with the track surface.
Passing traffic and pedestrians look down into our living room. Additional traffic will result in a significant loss of privacy.

Traffic on the track is only a few feet away from eight windows on the house, a living room window, two windows in our sitting room, two upstairs bedroom windows, an 3rd floor window and two hallway windows.

Furthermore, we have a bathroom window, a downstairs bedroom window, an upstairs bedroom window, a 3rd floor window and our conservatory all within the courtyard which will all be exposed to increased traffic and elevated noise levels.

The very close proximity of the steadings, with all the associated noise will be very intrusive to a single glazed house such as ours. We will have limited options to reduce noise levels, by for example introducing double glazing, because of our A listed status.

 
•    Access to Fields

Being a farm, there is a continuation of the track, leading from our courtyard to the neighbouring fields. The proposed steading conversion has gardens which overlay this track and the adjacent farmland, so block this track. Clearly access will still be required to the fields served by the existing track, but there is no provision for this on the plans. To gain access, farm traffic will either have to pass directly in front of our house, behind our vegetable garden, or between our steading and the proposed outbuilding.

In each of these options, no track currently exists. Nor would we want to see a new track introduced. All three routes would lead to an increase in intrusions, and will be to the detriment of our privacy. However a formal and suitable track will be required to prevent the area becoming overwhelmed by mud during the wet winter months should the plans be approved.

There is nothing within the proposed plans to indicate if access will be required through the courtyard to the field adjacent to our second steading.  Access to fields has therefore not been addressed on the plans, other than identifying that the current access track will be blocked by the proposed steading conversions.

 
•    Summary and Closing Remarks

The steadings are Grade A curtilage listed. An earlier planning application was refused because of the detrimental effects a development would have at Nether Ardgrain. With no investment the steadings will continue to deteriorate and will slowly collapse. The Bothy, the last of its kind in the North East will be lost. It would be wrong to convert the steadings into a large and imposing house because this would be at the expense of Nether Ardgrain’s national heritage and importance.

The conversion of the steadings into a large and imposing house will be highly detrimental to the historic status of Nether Ardgrain. The steadings are integral to the site. The buildings should not have been allowed to fall into their current condition, and they have unfortunately been neglected for some time. Investment by their current owner would restore these steadings to their former condition, in keeping with their Grade A status and we request that this should take place without delay.

In the event that the above cannot take place, we would be prepared to purchase the steadings, for a fair and reasonable price, and restore them to farm buildings. If the current owner still needs the storage space provided by the barns, we will rent them back, while ensuring that they are maintained and preserved in keeping with their A listed status. We would like to stress that this is in no way our preferred solution; we would like to see the barns restored and retained by their current owner.

Access to fields, as a result of converting the track to a garden, will be lost, and no suggestion has been put forward on where the new track will be routed through the historic site.

No provision has been made to cater for the protected species at the site.

This development represents a huge loss of privacy, with our bedroom windows and glass conservatory being overlooked. The scale of this cannot be fully appreciated because the plans submitted by the applicant are incorrect.

We stand to face not only a loss of privacy, but we are virtually powerless to counter the additional noise a second house introduces to the site, because of the difficulties in double glazing our Grade A listed house.

We trust our objections will be put before the Planning Committee in due course prior to a decision being made on this application.

Yours sincerely,

Rae and Ellen Younger

 
SPAB guidelines for a change of use of a listed site.

http://www.spab.org.uk/html/advice/conservation-advice/change-of-use

CHANGE OF USE CHECKLIST
Issued by the SPAB Committee, 2002
Many historic buildings have well-established and appropriate uses. Occasionally though; some change is required to ensure a structure’s future care, repair and protection. Creative adaptation can contribute positively to a building’s history; equally, inappropriate re-use can fundamentally detract from its special interest. The SPAB therefore believes that, where some change of use to an historic structure is considered essential, it is necessary to look carefully at the effect on all aspects of the building’s character, fabric and setting. The following checklist is therefore intended to assist owners and their advisers in establishing what alternative use, if any, is most appropriate. The list should be read in conjunction with SPAB advisory documents and other statutory and non-statutory conservation guidance.

If the current use continues to be appropriate can it be maintained? If not why not?
If the building is currently redundant is there an immediate need for a change in use? Would minimal protective works, to allow "mothballing", or a short term low-key use, be a preferable alternative?
Is the new use likely to secure a future for the building, and to be viable for a foreseeable period without major change or addition?
Has the building been offered on the open market for its present use (if appropriate)?
To identify what might have least impact on fabric and character, has the nature of the building been fully understood?

An appreciation of the history and development of a place is essential in considering future use. Preparation of a Conservation Plan or Statement identifying the special interest of the building and its context, may help in this.
Have all potentially sympathetic uses been properly explored?
It may be possible to argue for forms of re-use which have significant benefits for the special interest of the building and its setting, even if contrary to normal local plan policy. This is particularly so in the case of listed buildings and scheduled monuments.

Can the building accommodate the requirements of the new use without seriously compromising the architectural character and/or historic fabric? Issues may include:
New openings:  number, type, style
Fire & Safety:  additional means of escape, protected stairs, upgrading of existing doors, partitions
Physical barriers to access:  thresholds, ramps, door furniture
Sub-division of existing rooms/spaces:  cornicing, panelling, plan form
Extension:  scale, design, use of materials, abutment with the existing building
Servicing:  introduction of pipework, electrical cabling, altering internal environment
The extent of rebuilding, if derelict or a ruin.
Floor loadings:  strengthening existing floor structures
Sound insulation: increased insulation requirements to floors walls and glazing
Thermal performance : increased insulation requirements to floors walls roofs and glazing

Can the building accommodate the requirements of the new use without seriously compromising its setting? Issues may include: -
Increased car parking:  location, surfacing, entrance/exit, sight lines
Division of open spaces:  building groups, farmyards
Separation from any historically-linked curtilage buildings
Fragmentation of the long term management of the buildings
Impact on standing or buried archaeological remains
Hard and soft landscaping: character of existing landscaping
Effect on the broader character of the Conservation Area

If circumstances change can any alterations be reversed without damage to the building? Reversibility should not be an excuse for work of poor quality, and sometimes there may be advantage in well conceived and executed permanent alteration, but the case for making change reversible should always be considered.

 

Press Articles

Nether Ardgrain Press Articles

After the planning applications at Nether Ardgrain became public, the Press and Journal ran a series of articles on the issues surrounding the proposed residential development.

Press And Journal article 1

The planning events at Nether Ardgrain hit the headlines when the below article appeared in the Press and Journal.

www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uk 

COUPLE'S £100,000 RESCUE OFFER TO PROTECT HISTORIC SITE REJECTED

ANDY PHILIP 08:50 - 08 February 2007

A Rescue package has been put together to save the setting of a protected 16th-century farmhouse built as the seat of a north-east barony. The owners of Nether Ardgrain - a tight-knit cluster of granite buildings near Ellon - hope to preserve the historic site in the face of planned modernisation. They say the rural setting could be damaged if steadings are converted into two houses and a business unit, as proposed by a farmer who owns some of the outbuildings.

Nether Ardgrain is the only farmhouse in Aberdeenshire to be given category A-listed protection by Historic Scotland and is one of just 10 in the country. Politicians have backed farmhouse owners Rae and Ellen Younger in their efforts to hammer out a way of saving the original layout of the site. They offered to invest more than £100,000 to buy farm buildings at the site and begin sympathetic renovation.

The couple said farmer Sandy Low's plans offered a way of rescuing the buildings from ruin but risked jeopardising the nature of Nether Ardgrain. Their offer has been rejected by the farmer's agents ahead of a decision by an Aberdeenshire planning committee, which could allow the radical alterations.

Mr Younger, 28, an engineer, said: "It's been a farm for 500 years. It seems a shame to build houses and a business, creating a cul-de-sac, when there is an alternative." He stressed: "We don't have a problem with the attempts to stop the buildings falling into ruin, but it's a rare site and we hope to keep it like that."

Mr Younger said renovated buildings could then be leased back to keep them as part of a working farm.

The couple moved to Nether Ardgrain 18 months ago after falling in love with its history. It was built by the Kennedys of Kermuck under royal charter in 1528 as the seat of the Barony of Ardgrain. The Kennedys, who also built the now-ruined Ellon Castle, were hereditary constables of Aberdeen. The site is linked to local history dating back to 1413. The house sits in a secluded position close to a single-track road that was once the main Ellon-Fraserburgh route.

Among the buildings is a one-room bothy thought to be the only one of its type in the area.

The category A listing, made in 1971, extends to all associated buildings. The issue of changing the use of the outbuildings was made possible when the site was split in 1982. Aberdeenshire councillors plan to visit the farm before they decide whether to grant permission for the homes and business. Officials have backed the application, which was lodged by Taylor Design, of Ellon.

Council planning official Victoria Moore said: "In this case the proposal is acceptable and ensures the future of these buildings whilst preserving the historic status."

Earlier plans had been rejected for failing to focus on conservation.

Gordon Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce was one of three politicians to object to the plans. He supported the concerns voiced by Mr and Mrs Younger and said the current plans would lead to the "irreversible loss" of A-listed buildings. North-east MSPs David Davidson and Shiona Baird have also objected.

The application is expected to come before the Formartine area committee in Ellon on February 27.

Press And Journal article 2

The planning events at Nether Ardgrain hit the headlines when the below article appeared in the Press and Journal.

www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uk 

MAN'S FIGHT TO SAVE HOME IN MEMORY OF PARENTS

ANDY PHILIP 08:50 - 24 February 2007

 The son of a tragic couple has spoken of his emotional battle to save a historic house which offers a lasting link to their memory.

Rae Younger, 28, said he was running out of hope to stop planned development of steadings outside his category A-listed home, built in the 16th century as the seat of a north-east barony. With his wife, Ellen, 27, he is trying to save the setting of the home they fell in love with. He said Nether Ardgrain, near Ellon in Aberdeenshire, was "remarkably" similar to the family home he shared with his late parents in the Borders.

They were killed when a lorry hit their car on the M74 in South Lanarkshire in 2002. Mr Younger later hit the headlines for writing to the High Court urging the judge not to send the lorry driver responsible to jail. He bought the historic farmhouse with inheritance money last year and said it was "the only good thing" that could have come from the tragic loss. Mr Younger, an engineer, is now locked in a battle with council planners to stop the owner of protected outbuildings from converting them to homes and a business unit. The application stalled earlier this month but could be decided by councillors next week.

Talking about the emotional bond for the first time, he said: "As soon as I saw the house I knew it was perfect. It looked so alike to my parents' home I knew I had to have it. Everything from the setting to the garden was the same. "My dad had a passion for history and when I was young I used to help him fix the old house up. I knew he would approve of what we're doing here now. We're just getting over the accident and starting to settle. We want to start a family here now and let my children grow up and enjoy the country setting like I did."

He said the proposed development - drawn up by the farmer who owns part of the site - would turn the compact jumble of steadings and a bothy into a busy cul-de-sac. "We don't want to, but we would have to consider putting it back on the market if that happened," he added. "I've tried everything through the official channels and have the support of politicians and Historic Scotland but there seems to be nothing I can do."

His parents, Alan and Celia, were killed when a 40-tonne lorry struck their car in a traffic jam as they travelled to their house at Hightae, near Lockerbie. Mr Younger sen had been headmaster at Dalbeattie Primary School and his wife was a teacher at Elmville Primary in the same village. Their funeral was so well attended that mourners filled the church and nearby village hall where a live video feed had been set up.

Just 18 months ago, Mr Younger jun saw Nether Ardgrain - built in 1528 by local nobility - and decided with his wife it would be the perfect sanctuary for the future. The farm buildings are the only ones in Aberdeenshire to be given the highest level of protection by Historic Scotland. There are only 10 category A-listed farmhouses left in the country. But planning officers at the local authority have backed plans which the couple said would ruin their plan to remain in the home.

Senior politicians, including Malcolm Bruce MP, have written to the council in an attempt to halt the proposals. Mr Younger has tried to buy the entire site and restore it to its former glory.

The applicant, Sandy Low, did offer to sell the buildings at a higher price but indicated he would wait for the results of discussions on Tuesday.

Mr Younger said: "When we took the house, we knew it would be a double-edged sword. "We can't put in double glazing and the heating bills are huge. But equally we thought we'd be protected from this sort of development. "I just cannot understand why the council planners are ignoring their own policies. "It was supposed to be the perfect new start for us and a link to my parents, but that could all change."

The buildings were listed in 1971 but the site was split in two when parts were sold off in 1982, leading to the current issue. Mr Younger is due to give a last-minute plea to councillors on the Formartine area committee at Ellon on Tuesday.

Press And Journal article 3

The planning events at Nether Ardgrain hit the headlines when the below article appeared in the Press and Journal.

www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uk 

PLANS AROUND PROTECTED FARMHOUSE ARE THROWN OUT

ANDY PHILIP 08:50 - 28 February 2007

The owners of a protected 16th-century farmhouse were last night celebrating a decision to turn down redevelopment of traditional outbuildings. Rae and Ellen Younger claimed their home's setting, in secluded Aberdeenshire countryside, was under threat from plans to build new homes and a business unit in surrounding steadings.

Nether Ardgrain, near Ellon, is the only remaining farmhouse in the region with category A-listed protection from Historic Scotland and is one of just 10 remaining in the country. Local authority planners backed moves to alter the site in support of a farmer who owns part of the grounds. Aberdeenshire councillors refused the application at a meeting yesterday.

The Nether Ardgrain site was split between two owners in the 1980s, which led to the current conflict of interest. Mr and Mrs Younger own the large house and two steadings, while farmer Sandy Low owns remaining buildings still in agricultural use. The couple mounted a campaign to raise the historic profile of the home and took up the issue with senior politicians.

Mr Younger, 28, had used inheritance money to buy the home following the loss of his parents in a motorway crash. He said he "fell in love" with the house, which displayed a striking resemblance to his former family home in the Borders. He gave a last-minute plea to councillors yesterday, who eventually voted to turn down the farmer's plans and protect the overall farm from development.

Three other presentations were given, including one from Mr Low's Ellon-based architect who last night confirmed an appeal would be lodged with Scottish ministers. Mr Younger, an engineer, said he was pleased with the result and hoped to press ahead with his own plans to buy the entire grounds from the farmer as part of a restoration project.

He said: "This is a site of national and local importance. I have the support of Historic Scotland and several other agencies. Politicians have also supported me to stop the development. "Not only would the plans ruin the overall setting of the farmhouse but it would lead to a loss of privacy for us. "Historic buildings are a finite resource and need to be protected."

Members of the Formartine area committee split over the plans but eventually voted 6-4 to turn down the application. Ythan councillor Alison McInnes urged the committee to reject the plans which she described as overdevelopment. "It's more important to protect the setting of Nether Ardgrain," she said.

Concern was raised that failure to use the opportunity to restore the steadings could lead to their ultimate loss. Councillor Bruce Mair said it was "shallow" to dwell on history as a reason to object to the scheme.

Architect Mike Taylor later said: "We will definitely be appealing this and think we'll get a good report from the council planners. I'm confident we can win an appeal." He added that a second option would be to step up the agricultural use on his client's land to help sustain the business.

Nether Ardgrain was built in 1528 by the same family who erected Ellon Castle, sited around three miles away. It occupies a site close to a single-track lane which once acted as the main Ellon to Fraserburgh road. The house and surrounding buildings were given the highest protection in 1971.

Press And Journal article 4

The planning events at Nether Ardgrain hit the headlines when the below article appeared in the Press and Journal.

www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uk 

NEW PLANS FOR FARM'S AGEING STEADINGS

ANDY PHILIP 08:50 - 10 April 2007

Fresh plans have been tabled in an attempt to redevelop grounds surrounding the only category A-listed farmhouse in Aberdeenshire. The proposals would transform ageing steadings into new houses at 16th century Nether Ardgrain, near Ellon.

The applicant, a local farmer, was refused permission for larger-scale redevelopment earlier this year. The local authority sided with conservationists and objectors following a narrow vote, ruling that the historic setting would be lost under the plans.

Nether Ardgrain was built in 1528 by the same family who erected Ellon Castle about three miles away Taylor Design Services has now drawn up a new application including part demolition of an outbuilding. A tug-of-war over the future of the farm site began because the cluster of buildings are owned by two different families.

The ancient farmhouse, given the highest level of protection by Historic Scotland, was bought by Rae and Ellen Younger just over a year ago. But most of the steadings are in the ownership of farmer Sandy Low, who wants to diversify his business.

In an attempt to halt any change of use, the homeowners have lodged separate plans for listed building consent in an attempt to protect the original setting of the site. Mr Younger, 28, said: "We want to protect the site - we'll just have to start again from square one. "The good thing is that councillors have shown they're concerned about the historic aspect."

Mr Low's agent said last month that the council's original decision had been wrong and vowed to appeal. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.