A council has made a rare exception to allow a young stonemason to build a house in the Derbyshire countryside – receiving support from his entire village.
The debate over the move has also focused on the large proportion of vacation rentals and second homes that have dominated the village property market.
Daniel Smith, 35, owns and runs his own stone masonry and drystone walling business in the village of Brassington, Derbyshire, near Carsington Water.
He had made a move to Derbyshire Dales District Council to allow him to build a house on the same site as his current business, in Bradbourne Lane, in place of the existing outbuildings.
At a district council meeting this week (August 16), councilors were almost unanimous in their approval of Mr Smith’s plans, against the recommendation of planning officers.
They gave their approval because of the broad support of Mr Smith’s village and long-standing local ties – including an occupation which they say is essential to rural life.
The councilors agreed that they should seize the opportunity to allow someone who has lived in the village all his life to be able to stay there.
Generally, houses built in isolation outside villages and towns, in the countryside, are rejected and widely opposed – but in this case councilors have sought to make a rare exception.
Tony Sharpe, a retired teacher who moved to Brassington in 1993, said the village retained its local community, but there was a growing number of holiday homes.
He said: “There are haves and have-nots and what we have here is a young man who wants to spend, wants his future and wants to raise his family here. There are too many people not doing that in our community these days.
Pat Carlin, who lives in Brassington, said at the meeting: ‘Allowing this construction would allow him (Mr Smith) to stay in the village he loves and works and raise a family.
“Unfortunately, due to property prices in the area, young locals are leaving and prices are mainly driven by second homes and the rental market which locals cannot afford.
“What we should be doing is supporting and encouraging these young people to stay in these villages in our area, and help them climb the property ladder themselves.”
He said the proposed house would add no extra traffic and would be ‘barely visible’ from Bradbourne Lane.
Cllr Janet Rose, District Councilor, said the parish council was unanimous in its support for the plans.
She said the project was planned by a skilled stonemason who wants to stay in the village he has lived in all his life and is not “someone looking for a quick buck”.
Cllr Rose said: “There are currently over 40 second homes and vacation rentals in Brassington making it virtually impossible for a young person to compete in this market.
“A recently sold two-bedroom property in Brassington sold for £300,000 as a holiday rental.”
She said there have been several planning permissions in the area for what are effectively “mansions” – instead of youth-friendly houses.
Cllr Rose said Mr Smith had also ‘done the right thing’ in asking for clearance in advance rather than after the fact.
She said: “He should be commended, we shouldn’t make it look like you have a better chance if you ignore the proper processes.”
A statement from Cllr Richard FitzHerbert was read out at the meeting, in which he said it was ‘essential that we let young locals stay in local accommodation’ and that the endorsement would represent a ‘positive contribution not only to the village but to the community of Brassington”.
Mr Smith, addressing the meeting, said he classified himself as a ‘true local’ and said fewer and fewer people were getting into the business of building dry stone walls.
He had told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he intended to take on an apprentice and train him to build dry stone walls.
Mr Smith said: ‘I have been running my own business for 16 years and wanted to have a house on the same site and hopefully raise a family there.
“People in the south, because they can work from home, buy the houses and there’s more competition for the houses and they can beat us.”
Adam Maxwell, the council’s new chief planning officer, said the authority had turned down plans for a stone masonry workshop and house on the site in 2021.
Chris Whitmore, the authority’s planning officer, said allowing self-built houses in the countryside is not a form of sustainable development.
He said exceptional rural sites can be approved but he felt the proposed house – 110 meters from the nearest house – was “too far removed from the existing built environment”.
Cllr Sue Burfoot said the stone masonry was clearly a rural business and should allow councilors to make an exception for the country house depending on its specific rural occupation.
Mr Maxwell said an exception based on rural occupancy requires life on the site to be an essential function of their role – usually related to farming or caring for horses.
He said he did not feel stone masonry was classified as a “rural business”.
Cllr Peter Slack said Mr Smith should be allowed to live on the site, saying: ‘He is trying to do his best and we are looking at a village that has 40 second homes with people coming in and taking over the village .
“He’s a hard-working local boy and should be allowed to grow in this – he’s not looking to build a mansion.”
Councilor Peter O’Brien said councilors needed to abandon the idealized ‘Thomas Hardy image’ of what a village looks like, with cottages built around a central green.
He said the authority had talked about finding ways for local people to stay in the villages they grew up in, and said now was the time to march.
Councilor O’Brien said he was “quite pleased” that stone masonry is a rural business.
Councilors have talked about imposing a condition that the house can only be occupied by someone working in a “rural business”.
Mr Whitmore said: ‘If you impose a condition that the property can only be occupied by someone who has an essential need to live on the site, then the claimant themselves might not comply with the condition because we don’t not consider that there is an essential function and need for this particular person to be in this property. So I think it’s inappropriate in that regard.
Cllr Burfoot said efforts must be made to maintain Brassington’s viability.
Cllr Helen Froggatt said Mr Smith wanted to stay and raise a family and was not going anywhere. She also said, “We need to support dry stone walling and stonemasons because it’s a dying art and we’re in an area (where it’s a lot) of dry stone walling.”
Cllr Hughes said the scheme would help “keep the community of Brassington going and make it stronger”.