CONCERNS have been raised about plans to build a two-storey extension in the open countryside which would “harm the rural character” of the area.

Dr and Mr Mitchell have applied for planning permission for a two-storey extension to replace a single-storey one, restoring a barn, and building an oak frame store.

The application, some of which is retrospective, is also to partially demolish an existing outbuilding and a new distributary channel to the River Pang, with a footbridge over it.

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The plans are for the River Barn in Marlston Hermitage, Bucklebury, which is within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and visible from two local footpaths.

A conservation officer at West Berkshire Council has objected to the application. Debra Inston said: “The proposed extension would create a wing that would be out of proportion with the scale and character of this modest dwelling.

“This would form a visually dominant, rather than subservient, addition to the building, which would not only harm the character of the dwelling, but also the rural character of the AONB.”

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But all the 12 people who sent in public representations supported the application.

Kim Birkmyre said: “The house was falling down for years and finally someone has bought it, and plans to keep part of the house and make it habitable and beautiful.

“The owner seems to be building in respect of the surrounding woods and river. He seems to intend to create habitat for wildlife as well.”

Clinton Clay said: “After years of seeing the house and Mill barn and associated waterwheel fall into disrepair, I am very pleased that there area plans to extend and improve the house, and by doing so make it fit for habitation. 

“The restoration of Mill barn and its waterwheel will, in my opinion, be a benefit for the whole community as a crumbling historic structure — which would otherwise disappear will be brought back to working condition.”  

Despite the public support, council planners are recommending to refuse planning permission. 

Alice Atwood, senior planning officer, said: “Fundamentally, any ecological benefits that may arise from the works to the River Pang are not dependent upon the proposed extension.

“Furthermore, while there is no objection in principle to these works, insufficient information has been provided to demonstrate any benefits, or indeed that no harm would arise.

“The proposal would lead to an overly urbanised site, which would be visible in the wider North Wessex Downs AONB landscape. Therefore, this application should be recommended for refusal.”

Councillors on the eastern area planning committee were due to vote on January 29 whehter to approve planning permission, but the application has since been withdrawn.