Burchatt’s Farm is owned by Guildford Borough Council. It is next to Guildford Model Engineering at the north-east end of Stoke Park and was for many years a popular venue for weddings and community events. The last Council closed it to the public in 2017 and wanted to let it. This involved a change in use which was turned down at by the planning committee. The last we heard was that the Council promised to look at “options for significantly increasing community use and the subsidy required to support” Burchatt’s Barn. But now it appears an appeal has been launched against the planning decision so is the Council still intent on letting the building?
What is Burchatt’s Farm?
Burchatt’s Farm and Barn is an 18th Century house and outbuilding at the north-east end of Stoke Park by the roundabout and Guildford Model Engineering. It was acquired along with Stoke Park in the 1920s.
What’s the issue?
In 1990 Burchatt’s Farm was modernised for hire as a community venue. A kitchen was put in the farm house and the barn insulated. Since then it has been used for weddings, community and private events. In 2017 the Conservative led Council decided to close it to the public and offer it up for letting.
Planning permission was required for a change of use from “D2 (assembly and leisure) to D1 (non-residential institution) with designated first floor flat (no change of use involved) and internal alterations”. (see application). However the application was turned down on 27th March 2019 by the Guildford Borough Council Planning Committee on the grounds that the change would result in “Loss of a community asset contrary to paragraph 92 of NPPF 2019. A second application for internal alterations would also harm to the asset contrary Policy HE1 and Paragraph 196 of NPPF”. (NOTE: Decision is taken from the video recording of the meeting)
The decision seemed very clear. Shortly after the Leader of the Council, Paul Spooner announced in the Guildford Dragon “We undertake at GBC to do all we can to assist Philip and Annie in finding a suitable location for their business”. He also said “We are now looking at the options for significantly increasing community use and the subsidy required to support it”.
However, an appeal against the planning decision has been registered on the Council website.
What does this mean? Surely an appeal would not be launched if the Council had cancelled its offer to let the building? Has the current Council gone back on Councillor Spooner’s comments and no longer intends to return it to community use? Was Councillor Spooner simply caught up in election fever and stretching the truth? Was some agreement made by the previous Council that this Council cannot cancel? Is the Council really helping the local business concerned find a suitable location?