Salisbury Road Hungerford
The outline application for a major housing development off Salisbury Road, Hungerford was reduced from 119 to 100 dwellings (to align with the proposed housing allocation) shortly before it was due to be considered by West Berkshire Council’s Western Area Planning Committee. Officers recommended approval and, in spite of persistent strong local objection to the development, the Committee followed that advice and approved the application. The Inspector’s report on the Housing Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD) was published just ahead of the Planning Committee meeting on April 5th. This presented an unhelpfully equivocal approach to allocations in Hungerford. When it became evident that the officers’ advice ran counter to the consistent objections raised by the AONB Planning Advisor, we took two courses of action. Firstly, we wrote to all members of the Western Area Planning Committee to reinforce our concern that harm that would befall the AONB should the application be approved, and that in our view this could not be justified. In particular, the tests (of exceptional circumstances and public interest) set out in national planning policy (NPPF para. 116) that would allow such development within an AONB were not met. In parallel, we requested that DCLG’s National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU) should call in the application for determination by the Secretary of State in view of the matters of greater than local significance at stake.
We were, naturally, very disappointed – but, by the time of the Planning Committee, not surprised – by the decision to approve the application. Hungerford Town Council (HTC) responded by calling an Extraordinary Meeting, held on April 26th and which the Planning Advisor attended. The Town Council proposed three courses of action:-
All three actions were supported, the last being subject to taking legal advice on the prospects of success and likely costs of such action. HTC has received legal advice on the merits and cost implications of initiating a judicial review and on 17 June councillors voted unanimously to do so.
Our call-in request to DCLG’s NPCU was placed on hold during the General Election campaign, but on 16th June we learnt that it had been refused: see below for the relevant extract from the NPCU letter:
A second element of HTC’s Extraordinary Meeting on April 26th was approval for the Town Council to explore the costs and benefits of producing a Neighbourhood Plan for Hungerford. There had been substantial disquiet among local residents and the Town Council that the effort invested in producing the Town Plan appeared to have failed to deliver the local control over housing development. The potential Neighbourhood Plan is being pursued by the Town Council, although there remains some cynicism as to the effectiveness that a Neighbourhood Plan might have.
An application for full planning permission for a small development of a greenfield site on the north-eastern edge of All Cannings was not supported by the Planning Advisor. All Cannings is a small village lying in the Vale of Pewsey Character Area, the settlement boundary for which was removed in the recent review by Wiltshire Council. The development site sits outside the built form of the village, is not a defined area for development in the Local Plan, and does not meet a demonstrated local housing need. It was evident that the development of 4- and 5-bedroomed detached dwellings would be prominent and incongruous extension of the existing built form of the village, visible from much of the extensive PRoW network in the area, in particular routes leading south towards the Vale of Pewsey from the Horton Downs. The application has been refused. Reasons for refusal made specific reference to the resulting harmful impact on the AONB.
Major development at Kingsdown Swindon
Swindon Borough Council invited comments on an EIA Scoping Report for a major development at Kingsdown to the north-east of Swindon adjacent to the A419 Blunsdon Bypass. While not within the AONB, it is within its setting and is visible from parts of the Ridgeway National Trail. The Planning Advisor offered comments, requesting that the scope should be amended to include an appropriate LVIA to determine the impact of the proposed development of this 100 hectare site on the AONB. The scoping report had been over-simplistic in its consideration of likely effects on the North Wessex Downs. The unjustifiable screening out of effects on the AONB would have meant that potential impacts on the Area were not considered further. Our concerns and request to include proper consideration of impacts on the AONB were fully reflected in Swindon BC’s response to the developer. The developer has evidently accepted the need for the LVIA and their landscape architect has contacted the AONB to confirm the appropriate viewpoints for the assessment work. Unfortunately a response from Natural England, essentially comprising standard advice relating to EIA scoping, while broadly helpful in respect of the general requirements for landscape and visual impact assessment for a development of this scale, had failed to recognise and to highlight the specific and important point that the site was within the setting of the North Wessex Downs AONB (and thus in conflict with NPPF para 115).
Ecchinswell, Basingstoke and Deane
The Planning Advisor commented on a planning application in the village of Ecchinswell to demolish a small, dilapidated garage and workshop replacing the structure with much larger, two-storey building in the style of a barn, comprising a triple garage on the ground floor and a first floor ‘hobby room’. While the footprint and orientation remained similar to the original structure, the scale of the new structure is significantly different and is out of character with the style and form of buildings in the settlement. Additional concern was raised over the potential impacts on protected species, and in particular the diverse community of bats known to inhabit the area. Planning conditions were recommended to mitigate impacts on bats. However, the potential light-spill from the upper storey of the new structure could have the effect of negating the planning conditions aimed at minimising the negative impact of external lighting on bats. We proposed modifications to reduce the potential light-spill; however, planning permission was granted without such modifications.
Gas fuelled generation plant near Upper Bucklebury
A full planning application for a gas-fuelled generation plant near Upper Bucklebury, to the north of Thatcham, was drawn to our attention by the Parish Council. The proposed development in not within the AONB, but comfortably within its setting (125m from the AONB boundary). It comprises a small industrial development in an area of countryside dominated by wooded heathland. The Planning Advisor objected to the development on the grounds that the assessments of impacts on AONB purposes were entirely inadequate. The proposal provided no indication that due regard had been given to the setting of the AONB, nor that potential impacts on wildlife had been properly considered. The area is known as a breeding site for nightjars and adjacent areas have been subject to remedial work to convert woodland back to heathland habitats. The application also appeared to be incomplete since essential connections to a gas supply pipeline and to the local electricity grid were not evident and seemed to require works outside the defined development site. We recommended that the application should not be determined until deficiencies in the evidence base and impact assessments have been addressed. A decision is awaited.
Burderop Park/Burderop Park House Wroughton(Swindon)
The Planning Advisor provided pre-application advice on the proposal for a major residential development at Burderop Park, Wroughton within the AONB, close to its northern boundary in an area vulnerable to pressures for housing development and where the management of historic parkland and estate landscapes is a key issue. Following submission of the formal application (including Listed Buildings Consent), supplementary comments were provided by the Planning Advisor concerning the potential to ensure that artificial lighting is managed so it does not impact on AONB objectives (dark night skies; wildlife behaviour). As the area is noted for its diverse bat population and other wildlife assets we propose that an ecological mitigation and monitoring plan should be elaborated and including in planning conditions to ensure that a net gain to nature from the development is achieved. NE has supported comments by the AONB and an ecological advisor on the need for a more detailed plan to safeguard biodiversity assets.
Vale of White Horse Local Plan
The latest stage in the Vale of White Horse Local Plan was launched for consultation in March. ‘Local Plan 2031 Part 2’ (LPP2) covers preferred options detailed policies and additional sites in the Vale. We were particularly disappointed to find that this includes a major housing development of 1,000 new dwellings within the AONB at the Harwell Campus. In 2015, Part 1 of the Plan had included two strategic developments (of 850 and 550 homes) adjacent to the Campus. The proposed 1,400 houses amounted to the largest development known to have been proposed in a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the last 60 years. The AONB invested considerable effort to resist these proposed housing allocations. We were naturally pleased when the inspector for the examination of Part 1 found them unsound and recommended their deletion from the Local Plan, based on the harm that would be caused to the AONB and stating clearly that the NPPF tests of ‘exceptional circumstances’ and ‘public interest’ were not met. The new single site, which straddles the Icknield Way, is in part on one of the sites rejected by the inspector for Part 1, and in part allocated for employment (saved from the 2011 Local Plan). The case for this major development of a new community is, in our view, unconvincing. It remains the case for the new strategic housing on the Harwell Campus fails to meet the NPPF tests which must be met to allow such damaging development within an AONB.
The Planning Advisor responded to the consultation, including a proposal for an innovative approach to provide a better understanding of potential impacts on the AONB. We have suggested that the Sustainability Appraisal of LPP2 should be extended to provide a cumulative impact assessment of Local Plan 2031 and developments planned from neighbouring areas on the AONB.
Upper Thames Reservoir
We also commented on policies covering the Upper Thames Reservoir, which we believe has as yet not taken proper account of impacts on the AONB setting, on opportunities to develop improved policies on external lighting to support dark night skies objectives, on watercourses to safeguard chalk streams and rivers, and on the integration of sustainable transport with green infrastructure objectives to enhance access routes into the AONB.
We have initiated a discussion with Hungerford Town Council to develop an application to SSE for the undergrounding of electric cables from the west of the town across Freeman’s Marsh SSSI. This is adjacent to the area under development for the new marina where the power cables continue above ground. We are exploring the possibility of linking with any works to be undertaken as part of the marina development, where these power cables extend across land which is planned to become water.
1. A reserved matters application (16/00626/RES) was approved for the second stage of the Bovis Homes Development at Overton Hill, Overton for 120 dwellings, landscape and ecological enhancement corridors. Development had been supported by the AONB which reinforced the rural edge of Overton within the setting of the AONB.
2. A revised outline application (15/03489/OUT) is under consideration by Basingstoke and Deane for the development of up to 165 dwellings (originally 200) on land adjacent to Kingsclere Road, Overton. The development has been met with considerable concern from the Planning Advisor and local residents due to the proximity of the listed Church and open arable character of the site which frames the edge of Overton Village bordering the AONB. Significant concerns relate to the steeply sloping site and the potential adverse impact to the setting of the AONB from dwellings and formal/urban landscaping.
3. An outline application for up to 119 dwellings off Salisbury Road, Hungerford is out to consultation by West Berkshire Council. The site is has been included for 100 dwellins within the proposed housing allocations DPD which was examined in the summer by the Planning Inspectorate, yet no recommendation on soundness of the plan has been made. The Inspector did raise concerns over this site, in particular the views from within the site out towards Coombe Gibbet and Inkpen Hill. The Planning Advisor will be commenting on the application, a site which has consistently been of concern to the AONB.
4. An outline application was refused by the Vale of White Horse (P16/V0660/O) for residential development comprising up to 40 dwellings (16 affordable) on land to the North of Lower Road, Chilton. This was a resubmission of a previously refused decision for up to 50 dwellings (P15/V0969); The Planning Advisor liaised with the parish council to discuss the AONB concerns and sustained their continued objection to the development of this edge of settlement location. The application has recently been dismissed at appeal.
5. An application on the edge of Hinton Parva has been received and is still under consideration by Swindon Borough Council (S/16/1455) for the erection of a 3 no. stable block, tack room and lunge pen, this has been through pre-application negotiations between the Planning Advisor and land owner to appropriately locate the buildings without compromising the views and vistas from the nearby Ridgeway in addition to extra native planting and hedgerow enhancement.
6. An application for new floodlighting at Hungerford Rugby Club (16/01142/FUL) has been approved by West Berkshire. The Planning Advisor addressed a number of concerns with particular importance paid to dark skies and proximity of Hungerford Common which enjoys vast long distance views up towards Combe Gibbet and Inkpen Hill. The case officer sought changes to the lighting columns and further planting along existing hedgerows, which saw a reduction in the number of lights, additional louvres and a reduced lux level.
7. An application is being considered by West Berkshire Council for a Knackers Yard at the Old Wessex Saw Mill, Great Shefford (16/02954/FUL). The Planning adviser is awaiting comments from the Environment agency and the local authorities Environmental Health Officer before making any revised comments in relation to potential pollution/contamination but there are no concerns over visual harm to the natural beauty of the AONB.
8. The East Hagbourne (P15/S3228/O) application on the south eastern fringe of Didcot was refused by the Planning Committee against the officer’s recommendation. The site is the focus of the Mind the Green Gap campaign by townspeople and villagers to “stop Grainger PLC’s high-density housing development on the Green Gap between East Hagbourne and Didcot”. The Planning Advisor had submitted an objection to the latest revision, which according to the Mind the Green Gap group helped sway the members of the committee. The applicants have submitted an appeal seeking an Inquiry for which the Planning Advisor has submitted a statement.
9. An outline planning application has been refused (P/16/V0235/O) by the Vale of White Horse for development of up to 75 dwellings at Mather House and Greensands, Reading Road, East Hendred. This was a mirror of a previously refused application, currently at appeal pending a decision (APP/V3120/W/16/3145234), the appeal Inquiry opened in December but was closed and deferred to January after unforeseen circumstances meant the lead witness for the developer was unable to attend. The applicant tried to add additional landscape justification. The Planning Advisor submitted an objection to the Vale of White Horse and to the Planning Inspectorate drawing on the poor relationship with the existing settlement and harm to the setting of the AONB. The Vale’s Landscape Officer has supported the AONB’s comments, and the revised application has subsequently been refused by the Vale.
10. An application for a new dwelling and landscape/ecology enhancement initiative (16/01603/FULMAJ) adjacent to Winterbourne Farm, Winterbourne, has been approved by the West Berkshire Planning Committee. Planning Advisors (past and present) have been involved with this case and had pre-application discussions before and following the previously withdrawn scheme and strongly advised on changes to the siting, scale and design of the dwelling and changes to the accompanying landscape and habitat enhancement proposals, to the response to which has resulted in our support for the proposal.
11. An outline application for a new dwelling after the demolition of barns (16/07815/OUT) in Froxfield has been refused by Wiltshire Council with the support of the AONB. The Planning Advisor liaised with the case officer on the principle of development at the site and the potential landscape impact from further residential development outside the settlement boundary which would further erode the value of the local landscape.
12. An application for the erection of a dwelling for staff at Folly House Stables, Lambourn (16/02806/FULD) is being considered by West Berkshire Council. The Planning Advisor has submitted comments in relation to the siting of the dwelling but supports the principle of a modest single-storey property which would aid in connecting the stables and the residential properties which front the highway.
13. The Planning Advisor, in cooperation with the Chilterns AONB, has submitted comments and concerns in relation to the recent consultation on the South Oxfordshire Preferred Allocations – a document identify towns/villages for development along with housing numbers. This raised considerable concern due to the number of small villages identified within the AONBs which could see approx. 100-200 dwellings allocated in the next plan period.
14. The Planning Advisor has submitted comments to the Inspectorate in response to the submission of West Berkshire’s ‘homework’ which was requested by the Inspectorate at the West Berkshire Housing Site Allocations DPD examination in July. This included further justification of the approach taken to allocating the Salisbury Road site outside Hungerford over HUN001, Smitham Bridge Road. The Inspector raised concerns about the approach taken by the council in allocating development within the AONB, and the final numbers proposed to be above the ceiling figure of 2,000 dwellings identified in the Core Strategy (an option submitted by the council was to include any windfall sites within the housing numbers for the next five years of the plan period).
15. Basingstoke and Deane have consulted with the AONB on the Manydown Development Brief Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), which is being brought forward to align with the submission of an outline application for phase 1 of the Manydown allocated site. The Planning Advisor has submitted lengthy comments on the SPD which does not appear to align with the vision of the developer; nor is the vision for the country park clear. There are concerns over the lack of more rigid policies surrounding materials, open spaces and biodiversity, in particular the role of the country park in providing the bulk of ecological mitigation whilst forming the primary green open space for the new urban extension and surrounding communities.
16. The Vale of White Horse Local Plan has been declared sound by the Planning Inspectorate and the document has now been adopted by the Vale Councillors and will be in effect immediately which gives greater weight to officers in defending applications outside of settlement boundaries.
A reserved matters application (16/00626/RES) was approved for the second stage of the Bovis Homes Development at Overton Hill, Overton for 120 dwellings, landscape and ecological enhancement corridors. Development had been supported by the AONB which reinforced the rural edge of Overton within the setting of the AONB.
A revised outline application (16/03489/OUT) is under consideration by Basingstoke and Deane for the development of up to 165 dwellings on land adjacent to Kingsclere Road, Overton. The development has been met with considerable concern from the planning adviser and local residents due to the proximity of the listed Church and open arable character of the site which frames the edge of Overton Village bordering the AONB. Significant concerns relate to the steeply sloping site and the potential adverse impact to the setting of the AONB from dwellings and formal/urban landscaping.
An outline planning application remains under consideration at the Vale of White Horse (P14/V2873/O) for residential development on land to the west of the Great Western Park Didcot development of up to 4,450 dwellings, mixed use local centres, primary schools, sports pitches, community facilities, special needs school, open space and extensive green infrastructure, hard and soft landscaping, attenuation areas, pedestrian and vehicular access and associated works. Additional landscape information including photomontages has been received to enable the full impact of the proposal to be fully assessed before it goes to planning committee.
An outline application was refused by the Vale of White Horse (P16/V0660/O) for residential development comprising up to 40 dwellings (16 affordable) on Land to the North of Lower Road, Chilton. This was a resubmission of a previously refused decision for up to 50 dwellings (P15/V0969); The Planning Advisor liaised with the parish council to discuss the AONB concerns and sustained their continued objection to the development of this edge of settlement location.
An application on the edge of Hinton Parva has been received by Swindon Borough Council (S/16/1455) for the erection of a 3 no. stable block, tack room and lunge pen, this has been through pre-app negotiations with the planning advisor and land owner to appropriately locate the buildings without compromising the views and vistas from the nearby Ridgeway in addition to extra native planting and hedgerow enhancement.
An application for new floodlighting at Hungerford Rugby Club (16/01142/FUL) is currently being considered by West Berkshire. The planning adviser has addressed a number of concerns with particular importance paid to dark skies and proximity of Hungerford Common which enjoys vast long distance views up towards Coombe Gibbet and Inkpen Hill. The Case officer is seeking further advice on possible changes to the lighting columns and further planting along existing hedgerows.
An application has been deposited with Wiltshire Council (16/06196/FUL) for extensions and alterations to the Old railway Station and West Grafton. The proposed changes would result in significant changes to the building an grounds surrounding the site. The planning adviser has not raised an in principle objection to alterations and enlargement but considers the current proposals to be overly dominant and would result in the urbanisation of the site due to engineering and landscaping works. The response at present from the applicant/agent is to add trees to the boundary to screen the development.
The East Hagbourne (P15/S3228/O) application on the south eastern fringe of Didcot was overturned by the planning Committee and refused against the officers recommendation. The site is the focus of the campaign ‘Mind the Green Gap’, “a campaign by townspeople and villagers to stop Grainger PLC’s high-density housing development on the Green Gap between East Hagbourne and Didcot”. The Planning Advisor has submitted an objection to the latest revision, which according to the Mind the Green Gap group helped sway the members of the committee. The applicants have recently submitted an appeal seeking an Inquiry.
An outline planning application has been revised (P/16/V0235/O) for development of up to 75 dwellings at Mather House and Greensands, Reading Road, East Hendred. This is a mirror of a recently refused application, currently at appeal pending a decision (APP/V3120/W/16/3145234). The applicant has tried to add additional landscape justification. The Planning Advisor has submitted an objection comment to the Vale of White Horse and to the Planning Inspectorate drawing on the poor relationship with existing settlement and harm to the setting of the AONB. The Vales Landscape officer has supported the AONBs comments.
An application for a new dwelling and landscape/ecology enhancement initiative (16/01603/FULMAJ) adjacent to Winterbourne Farm, Winterbourne, has been recommended for approval by the West Berkshire Case Office and is awaiting a decision at Planning Committee. The Planning adviser (past and present) has been involved with this case and had pre-app discussions following the previously withdrawn scheme and strongly advised on changes to the siting, scale and design of the dwelling, which has resulted the NWD support for the proposal.
The planning adviser in cooperation with the Chilterns has submitted comments and concerns in relation to the recent consultation on the South Oxfordshire Preferred allocations – a document identify towns/villages for development along with housing numbers. This raised considerable concern due to the number of small villages identified within the AONB which could see approx. 100-200 dwellings allocated in the next plan period.
The planning adviser is awaiting the arrival of additional information in relation to the revised West Berkshire Housing Site Allocations DPD examination, which was requested by the Inspector in July as part of the Councils homework; in particular further justification on the approach taken to allocating Salisbury Road Hungerford over that of HUN001, Smithan Bridge Road. The Inspector raised concerns taken by the council in their approach to allocating development within the AONB, and the final numbers proposed to be above that of the ceiling figure (2000 dwellings) identified in the Core Strategy.
Basingstoke and Deane have consulted with the NWD on the Mannydown Development Brief SPD which is being brought forward to align with the submission of an outline application for phase 1 of the Mannydown allocated site.
The North Wessex Downs, along with the Chilterns , Cotswolds and Natural England, continues to work with Network Rail as part of an advisory group to comment on all stages of the design options review being undertaken and to work with 2B landscape consultancy (landscape firm employed by Balfour Beatty) to identify and supply all appropriate supporting information to facilitate the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment currently being carried out. LVIA work is currently being finished for the Cotswolds before moving onto the NWD and Chilterns. The advisory group meet every 4-6 weeks to allow for updates and discussion on any work achieved or issues raised. This work has already taken up significant officer time, and it has been agreed that we and the Chilterns will be charging Network Rail for our time on this work from now on.