Essex wedding venue told it must stop all events by council

Stock Street Farm Barn in Coggeshall
Stock Street Farm Barn in Coggeshall -Credit:Stock Street Farm Barn in Coggeshall

An Essex wedding and events venue has lost an appeal against enforcement action which has banned them from hosting future ceremonies and live music. A planning inspector has ruled in favour of Braintree District Council's enforcement notice which it issued to Stock Street Farm Barn in Coggeshall.

The venue has been embroiled in a row with the council since the enforcement notice was issued in April 2022. The notice followed a previous application in 2017 by the venue to allow various events to take place there, including weddings, cinema screenings, a dance hall, a concert hall and associated parking.

The council refused this application, stating they had concerns about highway safety and a lack of "sufficient on-site parking" for the events. This decision was appealed, which was dismissed by a Planning Inspector in 2019. However, Stock Street Farm Barn has continued to host events up to the enforcement notice being issued in April 2022. Throughout the appeals period, the venue has remained open.

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The appeal was finally heard by a planning inspector in December 2023, and the decision was published on April 30 this year. The inspector upheld the council's decision, saying the owner of the site “has sustained an unlawful use of the site since circa 2016” and did “not dispute that there is a breach of planning control at the site”.

The Inspector agreed with the council that the proposed “change of use for this venue has a detrimental impact upon heritage assets and highway safety” and in reaching their decisions “the benefits do not outweigh the heritage harm identified to justify a grant of planning permission.”

Management at Stock Street Farm Barn previously criticised the council's "heavy-handed" enforcement action, stating it had not received any complaints from 2016 to 2022 and that the venue was at "the heart" of Coggeshall. They also said they had made "extraordinary attempts" to submit modified plans.

In documents submitted to the appeal, the venue said it had adopted an entirely new travel plan, including a shuttle service, while relocating all commercial parking to "one discreet and well-contained area" of the site, away from the view of the venue itself. The venue also did not dispute there had been a breach of planning control at the site but argued the enforcement notice "does not accurately describe or reflect the breach in question".

Stock Street Farm Barn in Coggeshall
Stock Street Farm Barn in Coggeshall -Credit:Google

A Braintree District Council spokesperson said: “We know this is a valued business in the community, however unfortunately in this case, the current business activity on the site is taking place entirely without planning consent and therefore endangering an important historical building and the safety of road users on the A120. We have a duty as the local planning authority to take action against any business or individual breaching planning law when it is expedient to do so and act in the interests of building and resident safety.

“In this instance, the business continued to operate the unauthorised use in breach of planning control, and the independent Planning Inspector agreed with our reasoning that the change of use for this venue has a detrimental impact upon heritage assets and highway safety, which meant it did not meet national planning policy requirements to grant planning permission for its use. We take planning breaches seriously, demonstrated by this robust enforcement action, and the decision taken by the Planning Inspector to dismiss this appeal should act as a deterrent to anyone who may commit similar breaches of planning control.”

The planning inspector stated Stock Street Farm Barn must cease activity and car parking on the site within two months.

Stock Street Farm Barn was contacted for comment.