A reality TV star and ex-footballer plans to create a luxury spa retreat at their Great Warford home are set to be determined by the Northern Planning Committee next week.
Dawn Ward, star of The Real Housewives of Cheshire, and her husband Ashley Ward have applied to change the use of Warford Hall, which lies within the Green Belt, from a private residence with ancillary offices to a spa hotel along with a swimming pool.
The proposal includes refurbishing the hall, which they have been struggling to sell for over five years, and adding a two storey extension to provide a total of 16 bedrooms. A new spa facility will form part of the new extension works which is similar in scale to the extension previously granted, permission for which has now lapsed.
A total of 30 guests will be able to stay overnight and a limited number of pre‐booked day spa guests will also be accommodated. The existing provision of 68 car parking spaces will remain.
There are currently 15 people employed at the business and the proposed development will increase the number of employees to 30.
The Wards, who bought the hall 13 years ago, ran their property construction business 'Bilton Ward Developments' from there until it was hit by the recession. Before the recession the main business employed 30 people at Warford Hall. Now the focus is on interior design and employs 15 people. As a result of fewer people being employed, the buildings are no longer fully occupied.
According to the planning application, Warford Hall, which dates from 1867, is very expensive to maintain and run with the utility services costing over £100,000 per year and 3 people employed permanently to maintain the outside of the property and the 5 acres of garden.
The application states "The applicants wish therefore to establish a business that would help the Hall become sustainable and build upon the qualities of the property and its setting."
This application was been called-in to Northern Planning Committee by Councillor Charlotte Leach for the following reasons:- "I am calling the application in on behalf of Great Warford Parish Council and a number of local residents who have a number of concerns including the traffic impact and the potential increase in noise at the site."
A total of 33 comments have been received from local residents or interested third parties, their objections include concerns that the proposed development would create excessive traffic and noise in this quiet rural location and have a detrimental impact on the residents of the Parish of Great Warford.
Alterations to the external design of the spa element of the scheme were submitted in December 2019. These were subject to additional public consultation. An additional 13 comments were received, a number of original concerns and objections were raised again but additional objections included the character and look of the amended extension is very large, the whole of the first floor is now fully glazed and the amended plans include a part external swimming pool which could impact on residential amenity in terms of noise.
The Planning Officer is recommending the Northern Planning Committee approve the application at their meeting on Wednesday, 12th February, concluding that the proposed development does not represent inappropriate development in the Green Belt and is considered a less intensive proposal, which would limit the impact of the use of the buildings to an acceptable level and thereby provide an acceptable impact on residential amenity.
The Officer also stated "There are no objections to the proposed development from the highway authority The compromise proposal would satisfy the economic sustainability roles by providing employment in the locality and allow the reuse of the building with minimal impact on the local community."
In April 2017 Dawn and Ashley Ward lost their appeal against Cheshire East Council's refusal to grant them planning permission to create a conference and wedding venue at their Great Warford home, with facilities for up to 130 people.
Great Warford, Little Warford and Nether Alderley parish councils all objected to the application along with over 200 local residents who complained that "Party Warford" was inappropriate in a quiet, rural village and would result in noise disturbance and increased levels of traffic on the narrow country lanes.
The plans can be viewed on the Cheshire East planning portal by searching for planning reference 19/2003M.