PLANNERS now know where to draw the boundary of what actually constitutes a “rural development”.

Councillors on Powys County Council’s planning committee voted narrowly to follow officers’ advice on an outline application to build an affordable home at land next to Hendre View, Penrhos, near Arddleen.

Gwilym Davies, planning control manager, told members that the application had been placed in front of them as a test of the Local Development Plan.

Mr Davies said: “This has been called before committee as the policy has not been tested.

“What is a closely grouped settlement? It’s a grey area, this could go either way in my opinion.”

Before April 2018 rural settlements were named within the plan – but since the LDP adoption last year there is a “criteria based approach”.

The issue was about the principle of development and whether Penrhos constituted a rural settlement for the purpose of the LDP.

Rural settlements need to be historically recognised/named settlements and contain at least 10 closely grouped dwellings.

Planning case officer Louise Evans pointed out that there were 10 properties within 650 metres of the proposal but they were “essentially” in three clusters rather than one large group.

This followed Arddleen and Llandrinio Community Council clerk, Carol Davies, speaking in favour of the application.

She said: “The council supports this application and is keen to see young people who were born in the area being given the chance to return to their roots and keep rural communities alive.

“The recent electoral roll tells us that under the heading of Penrhos there are 39 dwellings listed.”

Agent Richard Corbet, speaking for the applicants pointed out that the church, had been built in 1627 making it a historic rural development.

He said: “The LDP brought in a new policy which I would argue that is very restrictive in nature.

“The family has owned the land for 100 years and were farming there for 15 years before that. Rural affordable housing is desperately needed.

“Over the last 15 years five local need dwellings have been granted and this has resulted in nine children in the local schools with two more to come and that’s just in Penrhos.”

He pointed out that other dwellings nearby had been given permission within the last year using the old pre-LDP criteria.

Councillor Les George (Conservative –  Caersws) argued in favour of the application: “This is an uncomplicated issue.

“We have had an in-depth report, we have comments from the local member and community council.

“I would like to support young people from the area going back to live there.

“They will contribute to the local economy and schools.”

Cllr Kathryn Silk (Liberal Democrat – Bwlch) said: “I’m concerned this could be replicated across the county as we have any number of groups of houses or settlements that are dispersed in  this way.

“The point about the LDP is that it was going to give us a degree of certainty about what actually constituted a settlement.

“My fear is in recognising this as a local settlement we are opening up the countryside completely to development because this is replicated all over the county.

“What we are trying to do is protect the open countryside as a finite resource and to my mind this does not constitute a closely grouped settlement.”

“This precedent will be tested again and again by agents who will push the boundaries, it’s what they do.”

Cllr David Selby (Liberal Democrat – Newtown Central) said: “We have to hold firm when we set a policy, otherwise there’s no point going through the process.”

Cllr E Michael Jones (Independent – Old Radnor) added that a decision of this nature would be referred to in the future.

“We are a planning committee and have to abide by our polices,” said Cllr Jones.

The committee voted 10 – 6 to refuse the application.