A farming business operating without a building permit near a gas pipeline has been offered a lifeline by Pendle advisers.
Nest Farm School in Greenhead Lane, Brierfield, is run by Georgie Mitchell, a former British snowboarder who has grown the business over the past three years.
Georgie Mitchell from Nest Farm School, Pendle
She recently filed a retrospective development application with Pendle City Council for a change-of-use authorization for activities in a farm building and on land she leases.
Pendle planning officers had advised borough council councilors Nelson, Brierfield and Reedley to deny permission and issue a work order to shut down farm school operations within three months.
At the committee meeting this week, advisers felt torn between supporting an innovative company and assessing potential risks to pipeline safety.
A number of speakers spoke in favor of Ms Mitchell’s candidacy.
Planning officer Brian Sumner was among them.
He said: “The reasons for recommending refusal do not add up. The farm school is used for recreational purposes and not for educational purposes. This is therefore a change in use that may be authorized in the green belt areas.
“When it comes to sustainability, this shouldn’t just be measured when it comes to automotive transport. Sustainability is also about other forms of sustainability, such as the use of buildings and the good that this business brings to the community. These outweigh any problems with traveling by car – and this is not a remote or isolated place. ”
Regarding the risk of the pipeline, Mr Sumner said that was not a problem for an application like this.
He said: “There are acts of Parliament and various agencies governing these types of matters. If there had been breaches on the site, these agencies would have fallen on it like a ton of bricks. ”
Health and safety agencies have opposed any such application as standard practice, he suggested. But recommending the denial has not stood up to scrutiny, he said.
Ms Mitchell told advisers that she was a first generation farmer and was not used to the planning system.
She said, “My business is built on the philosophy of supporting alternative education and increasing the health of minds and bodies. I was previously a university teacher and lecturer and this endeavor seemed like a natural step forward.
“Over the past few years, I have had the joy of welcoming local children from all walks of life to Nest Farm School. Helping them with their mental well-being is so important. There is nothing else like it in the area. With the rise of alternative education and home learning, it is clear that the current core curriculum is going to have to change. The lack of understanding of food and rural issues is quite shocking. Having a business like this in this area is really important. I ask you to support this app – not just for me but for the local children. ”
Laura Hadcroft, mother of four, spoke out on behalf of Nest Farm School.
Nest Farm School
She said, “It provided space for all of my children. There is nowhere to go that suits all of my kids like this. My four year old knows where tomatoes, berries and wild foraging come from. This would not happen in mainstream education.
“Shutting down this business for green belt issues would be ridiculous. It would be a shame. As a parent, I cannot properly express the positive impact this has had on my children over the past 12 months. We cannot lose this community farm school.
Councilor Mohammad Hanif said he wanted to offer support at the school but was concerned about the gas pipe and the dangers. He asked for more information from planning officer Alex Cameron.
A number of advisers had similar mixed feelings.
Nelson, Brierfield and Reedley Committee. Pendle Borough Council
Planning officer Mr Cameron said: “The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has objected twice. I received a second email saying the pipeline is a risk to students and staff. The HSE also said it has the authority to ask the Secretary of State to call the planning request if the council is willing to approve such a request. These are risks to the lives of children. We would be obligated to refer this request to the Policy and Resources Committee of the Board if approved by that committee. ”
He added: “This site has seen a previous change of use request refused due to the impact on openness. This previous request sought to obtain an authorization to change the use of a car park. The refusal then gave rise to an appeal which was lost. The only way to access this site is by car. The nearest bus stop is 1 km away. It is not sustainable. On all points, it would be referred to the Policy and Resources Committee if supported by that committee.
However, Councilor Mohammad Iqbal said: “The HSE has a lot more power than anyone else. If they want to shut down this business, they can do it. So I am surprised that they did not come to shut down this wonderful business. If they want to use the Secretary of State, then either leave them or come see us in the meantime. We will continue this debate in the Policy and Resources Committee. ”
A vote of councilors was split between six and six for and against the request for a change in use.
Committee chair Councilor Naeem Ashraf used his vote, known as the casting vote, to support Nest Farm School’s request for a retrospective.
The Borough’s Policies and Resources Committee meets on November 25.