Artist fights order to demolish studio that differed from agreed planning application

Clive Hemsley had his plans approved by the council in 2017
Clive Hemsley had his plans approved by the council in 2017, but now has to alter his studio after being told it is distinctly different to the plans he originally put forward (Image credit: SMS Planning)

An artist who was told to knock down the studio he built without the correct planning permission has launched an appeal.

Clive Hemsley had his plans approved by the council in 2017 but was told to demolish the building on his land at Greys Meadow in Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire, last year because it didn’t meet the original specifications.

Now he hopes South Oxfordshire District Council will stop enforcement action after he made changes to the landscaping around the building and other compliance measures.

What were the plans for the studio?

Mr Hemsley was originally granted planning permission to convert a stable into an art studio with storage.

The planning conditions laid out a wooden-clad building with an 81 square metre footprint, including 100 square metres of floor space with a 24 square metre basement.

But the actual building has a 102 square metre footprint with 237 square metres of floor space across three storeys. Mr Hemsley also announced he planned to give art lessons at the studio for terminally ill and disabled children.

Planning inspector Justina Moss ruled the building caused “harm with regard to its effect on the character and appearance of the site and surrounding area”.

Many locals have praised and slammed the build

The size of the studio was mentioned as they key reason for why the build had its permission revoked (Image credit: SMS Planning)

Why was planning permission revoked?

Mr Hemsley claims the reason for the council withdrawing planning was due to his intentions to use the studio to teach classes.

He told the Henley Standard: “The council wouldn’t let me teach. I wanted to teach terminally ill or disabled people in small classes but it is now a luxurious studio for one artist.”

However, the council's rejection letter stated: “Officers consider that the retention of the artist’s studio that is 30% larger than approved and in a more prominent location would not be acceptable."

Although not in this case, some conversions project can fall under permitted development, which can help homeowners avoid the need to apply for full planning permission if the build meets specific criteria. That said, a lawful development certificate is usually advisable.

However, as this home was in the Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty conservation area this made it less likely the studio would qualify under permitted development rules.

Homeowner strips back plans to keep the studio

Mr Hemsley has made a number of alterations to help the home meet the council's specifications.

Mr Hemsley said: “Everything has been stripped right back and we have taken down everything the enforcement notice has asked us to do, removed the tracks, sculptures, signage, the postbox and all the bunds. We have even had to move an olive tree in a pot.

“All the hardcore has gone, which was 30 grab loads, and also the steps and track so you can’t get to the studio without getting muddy. You will need boots.

“Now it is all down to the council. One of the conditions is to plant indigenous trees there but we have already put in 150 through previous planning permissions. There is an orchard which is now six years old and quite well established.”

He has also withdrawn his plans to teach classes in the studio.

The artist said he hoped to teach children in the studio

The artist said he hoped to teach terminally ill and disabled children in the studio, but those plans have now had to be scrapped (Image credit: SMS Planning)

The latest proposals have drawn both objections and support for the plans.

Karen Wheeler, of Rotherfield Greys Parish Council, stated: “The application is for a building completely out of character within this rural settling. It has an urbanising impact on the area.

“Nothing has materially changed so there is no reason to change the original decision. Further, SODC should use its powers under clause S70c of The Town and Country Planning Act to decline to make a determination on this repeat application for Greys Meadow. The application should be firmly refused.”

However, Adam Toop wrote: “While has clearly strayed from what was provided for in the original permission granted, what now exists sits more sympathetically within the local environment and represents a marked improvement on the design originally approved.

“The fact that it has also been constructed marginally further away from existing dwellings can also only be considered positive for neighbouring property owners. It would seem disproportionally harsh to now require the demolition of the building.”

The council is expected to make a decision on November 7.

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.