Agenda item

Chichester Harbour Conservancy Consultation on Planning Principle 19: Houseboats

The Planning Committee is asked to note the contents of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy consultation on the proposed Planning Principles 19: Houseboats, and to comment on and endorse the proposed response to the consultation.





Mrs Stevens presented the item to Members and drew Members’ attention to the Agenda Update Sheet and confirmed ‘boathouses’, should read ‘houseboats’ and provided a further verbal update which confirmed that the word ‘now’ should read ‘no’ under the title ‘Chichester Canal’ in the report and on the Agenda Update Sheet to read ‘…any increase in size is limited to ‘no’ more than 25% greater than the existing.’


The Committee received the following Speaker:


Timothy Firmston – Birdham Parish Council


The Chairman advised Mr Firmston that he should also pass his comments to Chichester Harbour Conservancy as this was their consultation.


Officers responded to Member’s comments and questions:


On the matter of the definition of a houseboat, Mrs Stevens explained that this was a complex area and there was no definition of such in planning law and was a matter of fact and degree, considering the form of the houseboat, whether it floated or was attached to a bank, and was dealt with in a similar manner to a caravan, whereby permission was required for the change of use of the land for the siting of a caravan for human habitation.  There was significant and complex planning law relating to houseboats and planning units, when it was a change of use or when it would become a building. If a houseboat was permanently attached to a bank this may be operational development, and work to the bank which may require planning permission.  Mrs Stevens cited instances of Inspectors concluding that a houseboat was no longer a vessel and was a building due to its structure or the extent of building above the boat and therefore it was difficult to present a definition and each application was required to be considered on its own merits.  The British Waterways Act 1971 provided a definition which had been used by Inspectors in their consideration, and was as such a starting point. Mrs Stevens suggested that included within the consultation response was that anyone considering a houseboat should approach the planning authority for advice regarding whether or not planning permission was required.  On the matter of 25% increase in size, Mrs Stevens agreed and advised that should be more closely defined, for example similar to buildings, and length and silhouette above the waterline were considered.  With regards to navigational safety, Mrs Stevens confirmed it was also not clear within the document as to what would be taken into consideration by Chichester Harbour Conservancy although there were many rules relating to use of the harbour.  Mrs Stevens added that by the principle of having a change of use and stopping a water way being used for navigation may present a concern to the Harbour Conservancy although the key issue was likely to be with regards to the main channels within the harbour, but this was not clear within the guidance, and therefore clarification may be required as to how it would be applied.


With regards to having a baseline for the silhouette, Mrs Stevens agreed that there was a concern in terms of cumulative impact of growth over the years, but it was difficult to have a baseline based on previous houseboats as plans would not necessarily be available, and advised that it may be easier to use the baseline from the date of the adopted guidance.  Mrs Stevens added that the document would be part of the management plan for Chichester Harbour which would have less weight than the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Supplementary Planning Document and the Development Plan. Mrs Stevens clarified that with regards to issues such as foul drainage and canal width, the policies within the adopted Local Plan would be a consideration as part of an application, so did not need to be repeated within the guidance.  On the matter of lighting, a condition could be imposed as was usual in rural locations to protect the character of the area, but could not be conditioned specifically for the purposes of navigational safety.


On the matter of nitrate neutrality, Mrs Stevens responded that the Council did not have a policy related to this matter at the current time but it was a consideration for this type of application as a net gain in residential use, within the harbour.  These applications would require a habitat regulations assessment and would require mitigation, so this matter would not need to be included within the guidance.  In relation to thermal efficiency, there was scope for inclusion within the guidance, as the current adopted policy did not include this type of use, as it referred only to new dwellings and non-domestic buildings.  When officers had dealt with planning applications, the aim had been to seek both ecological enhancements and also sustainability measures, such as sedum roofs or solar panels and there had been some resistance in trying to secure these matters.  This issue could also be taken forward in regards to sustainability within the Local Plan review to ensure it encompassed all the different types of dwellings for which applications were received. 


On the matter of a ‘design guide’, Mr Whitty advised that Chichester Harbour Conservancy were often referred to as the custodians of the harbour and were seeking comment from the Council with regards to what was now in front of the Committee, the Council had its own Local Plan and its own policies and those encapsulated much of the descriptive items mooted within the debate.  Mr Whitty added that the focus should be on the feedback to the Harbour Conservancy on what they wished the Council to consider, which was set out in the document, and a design guide would go far beyond the consultation.  With regards to navigation, there was insufficient detail within the document and clarification was required. Officers were not concerned with having this within the document as a consideration, and ultimately officers must focus on how a refusal of application would be presented to an Inspector in terms of the harm. 


Mr Briscoe left the meeting and did not return


On a request of the Chairman, the link for the recording of the meeting would be forwarded to Mr Barrett as the Chichester District Council appointed Member of Chichester Harbour Conservancy for him to pass on as appropriate, and the Mr Barrett confirmed he would also pass on other comments forwarded to him by Committee members in writing.


Mrs Stevens confirmed that in addition to the recommendation, and the issues included in existing policies, the consultation response would be amended to:


·         encourage consideration for renewable and sustainability measures as part of the guidance


·         include the heritage considerations concerning Chichester Canal


·         include consideration regarding ancillary buildings and ancillary development which may or may not require planning permission specifically, but to note this within the document


·         note the necessity for customers to contact the planning authority to establish if planning permission was required and to obtain guidance


·         note the necessity to establish a baseline for the silhouette increase to provide clarity within the considerations


In a vote the Members agreed the recommendation with the addition of matters outlined within the debate.


Recommendation agreed.


Supporting documents: