The definition of an extension – and how to decide how much harm one might cause to a listed building – led to a protracted 90-minute discussion between members of Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee.

And in the end no agreement could be found – meaning a family’s hopes to convert their garage and link it to a listed barn conversion home has been put on hold.

The Jolly family, who live in the grade II-listed barn in Hampton Lane in the village south of Highworth, say it’s a very small home and they want to convert the 20th century garage a few yards away to a boot room and cloakroom. A new extension for a kitchen and breakfast room built between the garage and barn would be linked to the main house by a glass passageway.

Mrs Jolly told the committee: “We moved into the Old Barn three-and-a-half years ago and it was in considerable disrepair. We have spent the time working in the grounds, making it much better and on the house.

“It’s such a small house we cannot have friends round to dinner, we cannot celebrate family Christmases.”

Her voice cracking with emotion, she said: “If you can approve this application that would make out lives so much better.”

But the report to councillors by planning officers recommended refusal of the plan – primarily because the conservation officer felt the extension and linking tunnel would harm the protected character of the barn, which used to be part of  the buildings with the next door farmhouse, also listed.

The report said: “The proposed extension and link to the modern garage would cause harm to identified significance of the former barn and the former farmhouse. 

“The proposals would negatively affect the character and appearance of the Hampton Conservation Area. 

"The harm identified include the overall scale, form and footprint of the proposed extension, is not commensurate with the characteristically small footprint, isolated and singular form of the historic barn building. 

"The effect upon the small plan form associated with this building is that it would be extended in a way that is not commensurate with its identifiable special architectural or historic interest of the listed building.

“The proposed ‘link’ extension is poorly related to the small simple rectangular plan form of the listed barn. This reduces the identified historic isolated character of the barn and forms an inauthentic range orientated and turn their back upon the historic farmhouse.

“This would be harmful to the identified historic significance of both the listed barn and the former farmhouse.”

A majority of members were seemingly in favour of going against the officer’s report and granting permission to the Jollys. A motion put forward to reuse the application was defeated by eight votes for four.
One of the members in favour of refusing permission, Steph Exell said: “I’d be interested in hearing any cogent planning arguments for overturning the officers recommendation, if there is one I might reconsider.”

Coun Peter Watts, who  was in favour of the proposals, said: “The barn was converted in 1987 to a residence. So what we have now is a residential property in a listed shell. 

"The extension is not really an extension to the building - it is separated  and only linked by a glass passage. The listed building would be unchanged.”

That didn’t convince either the chairman of the committee Matthew Courtliff or another member Daniel  Adams. 

Coun Adams said: “It is an extension. It’s a new building physically, mechanically attached to the existing building- that’s the definition of an extensions. Saying it isn’t just isn’t true.”

Local ward councillors Alan Bishop and Vijay Manro both said that neighbours in Hampton were in favour of the proposals being granted and because the sight of the garage form the road is blocked by a fence and trees did no harm to the  conservation area.

But Coun Courtliff said: “We have a statutory duty to protect listed buildings. I have sympathy with the applicants, but I have not heard any planning reasons to go against the officer’s recommendation.”

Members agreed to defer the matter.