Chancellor and Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has been granted permission to build a swimming pool, gym and tennis court beside his historic North Yorkshire home, despite claims the development will harm the setting of the grade II listed property.
While Mr Sunak’s proposal to develop a single storey L-shaped building in a paddock beside the lake at Kirby Sigston Manor, near Northallerton, divided Conservative members of Hambleton District Council’s planning committee, the scheme had already attracted controversy.
After the planning application was lodged political commentator Kevin Maguire said the luxury development made him feel “slightly sick” as Mr Sunak had “opposed feeding kids in the hungry holidays, threatened to take away £20 a week Universal Credit to about five million families and kept statutory sick pay down at £96.35 a week”.
Mr Sunak has lived at the 1826 former vicarage since before becoming Richmond MP in 2015 and has previously had plans approved to convert outbuildings there to create guest accommodation.
Since becoming Chancellor in February last year he has spoken of his passion for keeping fit, saying he regularly completes a workout before starting work at 7.45am.
While no mention was made of Mr Sunak at the meeting, members said they had visited the expansive gardens to assess the proposals, which included changing the use of agricultural land, constructing a stone building and outdoor tennis court and creating a wildlife area.
An officers’ report to the meeting stated the council’s policy was that development in Kirby Sigston would only be supported when an exceptional case, relating to farming, environmental improvement, affordable housing, reusing existing buildings, renewable energy and social and economic regeneration, can be made for the proposal.
The report made no mention of any exceptional reasons for the development, but added the extension of residential curtilages are common where they are not considered harmful to the character of the countryside.
The meeting heard developers had claimed the proposed new building, close to the grade I listed 12th century St Lawrence’s Church, had been designed to have a minimal impact on the historic buildings and landscape, and reflected “a stone-built ancillary building that has undergone renovation and modification”.
However, councillors were told the swimming pool building, which would be sited some 81 metres from the main house, would differ markedly from traditional agricultural buildings in that it would feature numerous large windows.
While one member said the proposed swimming pool looked like a farm building, several others disagreed.
Councillor John Noone said: “It doesn’t look like an agricultural building to me, it looks like a rather large bungalow. I think it does actually have an impact on the setting of the grade II manor house. When we went on the site visit you could clearly see the manor house from where we were stood.”
While Councillor Andy Wake called for Mr Sunak’s proposal to be sent back “to get a better design of building”, Councillor Andrew Robinson said it was too modern a property to be in front of a listed building.
Nevertheless, other councillors dismissed the heritage concerns, saying the look of the pool building was “very much in the eye of the beholder”.
Councillor Malcolm Taylor said: “For me any negative that people see – the impact is going to be on the residents of the hall. They are going to be the only people who view the property.”