COUNTY planners have rejected a former Herefordshire Council leader’s attempt to build a house in open countryside.

Hope End ward councillor Tony Johnson, who served as leader of the authority between 2013 and 2018, submitted the plans to build the new property at Hoe Farm, Mathon Road in Colwall.

Planning officers recommended rejecting the scheme as it was not deemed sustainable and was at odds with the council’s policies.

Officer Andrew Banks said: “It’s agreed that this site is not within or adjacent to Colwall. It’s a 1.3 mile journey to the centre of the village.

“It is for the purposes of considering this application located in open countryside.

“There is a presumption against new residential development in the open countryside unless there are exceptional justifications for it.

“The applicant is the ward member, and, I have to say, it would probably be most likely that if that were not the case this application would have been dealt with in a delegated matter and would have been refused.”

Coun Johnson, speaking as the applicant, said there was a 20% shortage of homes in the county and blasted the council for applying ‘double standards’.

“In these circumstances, presumption should be in favour of approval unless adverse impact would significantly and demonstrably outweigh benefits.

“The house would be an ordinary house with a 125 square metre footprint almost completely screened and unseen”.

He said the nearby 474 sq metre factory which was deemed sustainable was fully exposed on the public footpath.

“With my case, no views are affected, no infrastructure is needed.

“My drive serves three houses, a factory with a 16-space car park, a barn for conversion, a tennis court with a 20-seat pavilion, a vineyard.

“It is most certainly neither isolated nor remote.”

Coun Toni Fagan said the committee should follow the expert opinion and refuse the plans.

“We need to make sure that open countryside is firmly protected.

“We have strategies in place to do that. If we ignore those we may as well throw all our strategies into the bonfire.”

Councillors rejected the plans with eight votes for the refusal, four against and three abstentions at the planning committee meeting on September 18.