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Stickler for the rules MP caught out over 'disregard' for planning rules



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Sir Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch
Sir Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch

AN MP with a record of blocking popular legislation in the name of sticking to protocol has been accused of trying to get around the planning process in a bid to rebuild his New Forest cottage.

Despite being told by national park authority planning officers last October to get a full ecological survey carried out on his detached two-storey Mudewell Cottage in Neacroft, near Bransgore, Christchurch MP Sir Chris Chope submitted the application without one.

The NPA planning committee was told on Tuesday that according to an initial ecology appraisal, old bat droppings had been found in the roof of the Harrow Road house. This signified the presence of the protected creatures and their roosts.

Committee member Richard Frampton expressing strong disappointment in Sir Chris’s “disregard”.

Mr Frampton told the meeting: “It’s not going to be too much of an effort to go through the hoops and get a full survey and that’s all we are asking – we haven’t got the complete evidence.

“I’m very disappointed that someone who stands up so much for protocol and doing things right should actually pay so much disregard to our policies.”

Sir Chris was not present at the NPA meeting due to the vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal on the same day. But his architect Richard Ludlow Fisher claimed Sir Chris had since endeavoured to get a full survey carried out “ASAP”.

“All he wants to do is complete the design process and invite tenders,” said Mr Ludlow Fisher.

“My client fully intended to come today but is on other business in the House.

“He doesn’t want to evade the issue but wants to go ahead and get the development done - it’s unlikely the rebuild will change the design of the property.”

Mr Ludlow Fisher’s statement accompanying the application describes the existing address, which was originally built as a traditional New Forest cottage but has been extended and modernised over the years, as being modest in size, with a substantial, refurbished outbuilding.

He explained the rebuild was being sought to solve issues with insulation, conservation of heat and power, fenestration and drainage, as well as “disproportionately low” ceilings and an “inadequate staircase” which would never get though current building control regulations.

“The owners have elected, therefore, to seek planning permission to replace the present building with one which will address all the problems that currently exist and give them a property which is more in keeping with both modern living and current legislation.” the architect concluded.

NPA ecologist Ian Barker confirmed at the meeting: “The applicant does have the benefit of having professional consultants. Evidence of bats have been found on the site and a number of procedures need to be carried out.”

He said a survey comprising full access to the structure, and acoustic studies, was required during the active bat season. “Until that work is carried out, we do not know what species are involved,” he added.

Members voted unanimously in favour of the officer’s recommendation to reject the application.



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