Thoughts on planning with Roger Tempest

CLA member Roger Tempest, custodian at Broughton Hall Estate, gives an overview of the various diversification activities and his general approach to planning.

Roger Tempest: Yes, planning at Broughton Hall Estate here, it's been a slow organic process because we've been here a thousand years. It's like everything happens, this organic evolution, and we are very open to everybody's eye because we are here and people can see it and whatever. What really has happened here is that we've had all these situations in order to survive.

We've converted buildings slowly but surely and people see a successful one or successful different use of a building, and then it grows and people have faith that we are getting it right. I think the counsellors or the planning officers can see what we are doing is we are not like crude development where we're just trying to sell something and make money or something like that.

Ours is a different purpose so we're doing it with more custodianship and with more care. We are looking at the long term always so just converting a barn into a house and selling it is not our way of doing things so we are looking for different uses. At the moment we have this vast variety of different uses. We might have an experience centre for off-road vehicles, maybe in one part of the state. Then we have a vast range of office space.

We have 52 companies based in buildings around the place of all different descriptions and they're here for long term. They pump money into the local secondary economy so the school, the pub, the this, the that is all active because of their presence and then we are doing a recovery centre at the moment, which is all linked in with our wellbeing. Here, we see the future very much about wellbeing and how people could connect their lives with nature more and the use of the land in a different way, rather than just pure agriculture.

That leads on to other uses such as we're doing a very large rewilding program, which we are progressing at the moment which is going to involve about 800 acres of new woodland creation. In Yorkshire rather than Scotland, these big areas or Northumberland, Yorkshire around here, it's this well-developed tapestry which now putting 800 new acres of woodland, there's quite a big impact on this area.

What I'm trying to say is that all these different uses, which can coexist successfully in terms of planning if the planners and the local community can see that it's all positive and it's a win-win for everyone, they're going to be more positive towards it and there's nothing really scary we are doing here. We've got 44 million tons of limestone underneath us, which could be quarried, but we're not going to do it because our mindset is not involved in quarrying and things like this. We've gone for the wellbeing market and so something very different.

All in all, in terms of planning, it's this slow, organic trusting planning and so on the whole, we've had a lot of success on the planning, but we do hit problems and we had a problem the other day where we hadn't built one new house in a hundred years on this estate, one new house. We'd done a few conversions, but no one new house and we had not one objection from anybody on it.

Then it went to the planners and we had two hugely supported counsellors and I think most of the council did support it. Then we had an intervention from one of the planners saying it was going to contravene some new planning laws and things like this and that it will put a coach and horses were his words. Through the planning system and so these houses, which were going to be to rent and are basically affordable housing are not going to happen now.

Something like that is obviously very disappointing. I'm sure some of the solutions will come out of it in the end, but so there's things we do get planning-wise on this 3000 acres of land, but there's also, we do get problems with it and in terms of the grade one listing, we have a lot of listed buildings here, but we are really into design. Quality of design is really important to us.

I think the problem in the planning system has been the people who are monitoring that quality of design maybe haven't been doing a great job on it. There's the bureaucracy of it all and the whole technical conditions have been a rather I think affected the end dreamy design, which could come out of these projects but it's compromised by planning current laws. In terms of grade one buildings, we really care about them and because the main hall is 1597, we have to really care about it and so ultimately, I feel we are our own planner in a way. We care about it so much that we want to make sure we preserve history. That's our game, really, but we have to coexist with modern times too so in terms of a summit, like in the building, we're in now Avalon is a purposeful, modern intervention within a historical setting, but I think won awards and things. I think we proved it well and the building behind us here in Utopia which is by Sir Michael Hopkins in the garden by Dan Pearson, two leading designers in Britain that it's won eight awards. It's been well received, but that design is really important that you can do this quality of design within a historic setting.