A CONTROVERSIAL planning application submitted to Stroud District Council by the Novalis Trust which would have allowed pupils with behavioural difficulties from the Cotswold Chine School to live in three residential properties in Box has been rejected by members.

The charity had sought retrospective permission for a change of use of the buildings after SDC’s enforcement team had discovered students living in two of the three cottages in violation of planning rules.

Despite a recommendation by officers to approve the application, at a meeting of SDC’s development control committee on Tuesday (November 12) district councillors voted by a margin of seven to one against granting the change of use, with one abstention.

The move to deny the Trust planning permission comes amid a long-running dispute between Box residents and the charity over its decision to close the village pub, the Halfway House, and turn it into a café.

Along with the Cotswold Chine School and the café, the Novalis Trust also owns six properties in the village and an area of woodland.

At the meeting on Tuesday night, the organisation was on the receiving end of stinging criticism from a number of elected members, including Cllr Nick Hurst (Con, Minchinhampton), who accused the charity of ‘aggressive property acquisition’ in the village, which he said was having a ‘corrosive effect on the viability and wellbeing of the community’.

Cllr Hurst also said he opposed the application because he was concerned about the ‘material loss’ of the dwellings as private residences – a sentiment echoed by Cllr Dorcas Binns (Minchinhampton) who moved for refusal.

Her motion, which was seconded by Cllr Roland Blackwell (Con, Nailsworth) and ultimately approved, called for the planning application to be turned down for three reasons - because it undermined social cohesion, did not promote a healthy community and was likely to lead to increased levels of noise and disturbance.

Minchinhampton Parish Council had objected to allowing the change of use, together with 43 residents who had written letters to SDC, raising concerns about the supervision of students living in the cottages and the potential for anti-social behaviour.

However, speaking at the meeting, David Jones, a planning consultant representing the Novalis Trust, said the proposal was ‘not detrimental to the village or the conservation area’.

“The Cotswold Chine School provides an important service to the educational and development needs of children and young adults who require special care,” he said.

“The accommodation provides a stable living arrangement, helping the residents make the transition from institutional care to self-reliance within a residential environment.”