A FARMING family has been told it cannot build an office and shop with a four-bedroom house for a manager at a holiday let business in the Monmouthshire countryside.
The Alice Springs Lodge accommodation was developed following the demolition of the clubhouse of the former golf club of the same name in 2018, and has 16 holiday lets aimed at older people and those with limited mobility at Kemeys Road near the village of Kemeys Commander, south of Llanfair Kilgeddin.
Planning officers said the bid for an office, reception, shop and manager’s home hadn’t shown a need for the employee to live on-site so recommended the two-storey building, including a disabled toilet for guests, be refused.
Officer Andrew Jones said the applicants have 220 dairy cows and 2,200 broiler chickens on their farm less than three miles away at Trostrey Court, where they have ran 14 holiday lets for the past 15 years.
He said the council, and its consultant, had assessed the application and concluded it didn’t meet the test that would allow it to go against the standard planning policy and approve a new house in the countryside.
He said the proximity of the other business and the possibility of shift work meant the site could be managed without a manager living on site.
Gobion Fawr councillor Alistair Neill however asked the committee to approve the application. He said his only relationship to the applicants was that he was the ward member and that he had “approached the application objectively”.
The Conservative, who had asked for the application to be decided by the committee, said: “There has never been a more important time for us to demonstrate our support for local business.”
He said the applicants are offering “luxury” accommodation and visitors expect a “level of service” and there was “a need” for someone on site 24 hours a day.
“It is unthinkable a hotel business of half this size would not have on site management,” said Cllr Neill who also told the committee: “It is not our business to tell them how to run a business successfully.”
Suggestions during the planning process, which had taken two years, that a nightwatchman could be employed, or one of the existing holiday lets could be converted, showed a lack of understanding of the business, and costs involved, said Cllr Neill, who argued it showed an acceptance from the council of the need for an on-site presence.
He said a four-bedroom house was necessary so the manager’s position would be attractive to an applicant with a family.
Mitchell Troy and Trellech Conservative Jayne McKenna said she lives on a farm and had helped a family member set up a small holiday let business three miles away and understood the need for dedicated staff.
“You can be in the middle of calving and you might get a call from a guest saying they need you on site. By the time you get back, change and head out there it can be a minimum of 30 minutes and when guests are paying a lot of money they don’t want to be waiting around.”
She said guests can have questions such as how to use a cooker to how to get the heating on.
Labour councillor for Llanfoist and Govilon, Ben Callard, supported the refusal. He said: “It seems to me to be conflating two issues, that you need to live where you work, personally I don’t live anywhere near where I work, it’s not an issue.
“This is a holiday let, it is not a hotel, we’ve heard they (the manager) would be a first aider, a heating engineer.”
He said he could understand an application for an office block but couldn’t support a four-bedroom house in the open countryside.
Monmouthshire’s head of planning, Craig O’Connor, said an assumption against building in the open countryside is one of the “key planning principles” and councillors had a “really interesting debate” but officers had concluded the application hadn’t meet the “feasibility test” for such a development.
He reminded councillors the applicants would have a right of appeal and the application was rejected after the committee voted to agree the recommendation for refusal.