Councillors are set to pay a visit to a historic Bath cottage as they deliberate whether to allow its owners to replace it with two modern houses.

It has already been ruled that Waterworks Cottage can be demolished without needing approval, but plans to build two “unashamedly modern” homes on the site still require planning permission.

The plans came before Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, 28th June, but councillors on the committee voted to defer their decision in order to visit the site.

Westfield councillor Eleanor Jackson said there were “a lot of unanswered questions” about the application and proposed the site visit. She said: “This site is on the threshold between what you might call the suburban area and (…) rural area, and its only by standing there you can judge where the balance lies.”

Lansdown councillor Lucy Hodge seconded the proposal, adding: “It’s a very unusual site.”

But Oldfield Park councillor Ian Hansall said: “It seems unreasonable on the residents to be kept waiting again and again and again, or the neighbours. It’s also not fair on the applicants if we were to defer again.”

The planning row over the 1850s cottage on Charlcombe Way has raged for over two-and-a-half-years now as neighbours and councillors clash with owners Jeremy and Darah Flavell who own architectural design firm Three Point Design and hope to replace the cottage with two three-bed houses on the site.

They propose one  house at the top of the site off Charlcombe Way, designed to appear as one storey from the road, but with a lower ground floor as the site slopes down the hill; and another smaller house at the bottom of the site.

The Flavells originally planned to build three houses on the site but planning permission was refused by the council, a decision upheld by the planning inspectorate who judged that this would be overdevelopment of the site which forms a transition between the City of Bath and the rural countryside.

Tom Rocke, planning agent for the Flavells, addressed the committee at the start of the meeting. He said: “The application before you today is very different. It responds positively and effectively to the only issue identified by the inspector and to members concerns regarding overdevelopment of the site,as well as to your declared climate and ecological emergencies.”

In addition to reducing the number of dwellings to two, he said that the sizes of the houses had been reduced and that they would have zero operating emissions, an improvement over the current cottage which cannot be made more energy efficient.

But the cottage’s next door neighbour Chris Parkin said the new plans still failed to address the issues. He told the committee: “It constitutes significant overdevelopment of the landscape, destroying the gradual and harmonious transition from urban to rural and radically changing the street scene and character of the area.”

He added that the footprint of the houses would still be five times that of the current cottage.

His comments were echoed by Joanna Wright, who addressed the meeting as ward councillor for the area. She called it “cramped and contrived” and urged the committee to refuse the planning application or to visit the site to judge the impact.

The planning committee voted 4-3 in favour of deferring their decision in order to go on a site visit.

Mr Parkin welcomed the decision. He said the site was “complicated” and added: “The only way to properly appreciate that is through a site visit.”

The plans will come back before the committee at a meeting after councillors have visited the site.

LDRS, John Wimperis