DCAN 9: Residential and Nursing Homes
3.0 Rural Areas and Hamlets
3.1 Proposals for residential and nursing homes in rural areas and hamlets will be considered in the context of the Department’s rural planning policy introduced in 1978’. The policy distinguishes between areas of special control and other rural areas. The areas of special control are identified to protect rural areas around towns and also areas of high amenity or scientific value. Within these areas the policy is much stricter than in other rural areas. Paragraphs 3.5(1) of the policy states that no development will be allowed within areas of special control or it should be kept to a minimum. Whilst planning permission for residential and nursing homes cannot be entirely ruled out in areas of special control, in practice such instances are likely to be very rare indeed.
3.2 With regard to rural areas, outside areas of special control paragraph 3.7.4 of the rural policy is relevant. It states that "normally buildings erected for community use should be provided in existing settlements, but it is recognised that exceptionally there may be a need for such buildings in a rural area’.
3.3 Planning permission is only likely to be granted for nursing or residential homes in the countryside in exceptional circumstances. In considering what might be exceptional it is necessary to weigh the relevant considerations. These fall into 2 categories:
- The need to locate in the countryside.
- Impact on the countryside.
3.4 The Need to Locate in the Countryside
Residential and nursing homes should not normally be located in the countryside where such locations can be a disadvantage due to the absence of service facilities near at hand. Convenient public transport is desirable for visitors and relatives. Exceptionally there may be circumstances where the peace and quiet of the countryside might be particularly appropriate eg for the nursing of the terminally ill or convalescent cases.
3.5 Impact on the Countryside
Planning considerations such as location, siting, traffic aspects. amenity, design, layout and landscaping referred to in paragraph 2.3 above are important. In addition in rural areas it is important to ascertain that satisfactory drainage and sewerage arrangements can be provided.
3.6 The nature of the proposal will also be important. Whilst a change of use and limited alterations or extension of a large rural house in extensive grounds may be acceptable in particular circumstances, new building or extensive additions to modest buildings would normally not be permitted.
3.7 The question of precedent may also be an important one. If the proposal is likely to lead to a number of similar proposals then this will be a factor in determining an application.
3.8 Greenbelts and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
More recently the Department has agreed to the replacement of areas of special control with greenbelts (around towns)and redesignated areas of outstanding natural beauty (in areas of high amenity or scientific importance) with adjustmentto boundaries as necessary. These changes are being incorporated into the statutory development plans process. Essentially these are changes in nomenclature and boundaries, but not in the rural policy itself. The comments in paragraph 3.1 will therefore apply to greenbelts and redesignated areas of outstanding natural beauty and those in paragraph 3.2 in respect of other rural areas.
When considering whether or not hamlets are likely to be acceptable locations for residential and nursing homes the question of the scale of the proposal and its impact on the hamlet is important. Because of their size and the nature of the activities involved residential and nursing homes are normally more suited to urban locations. Whilst in certain exceptional circumstances hamlets may well be better locations than the open countryside, they are not normally suitable locations for residential and nursing homes.