Feb 282019

We have until 15 March 2019 to send in any comments.

The Ashwells Forum working group has prepared this summary of the lengthy and complex Design & Access Statement and urges all parties to support the application for the following reasons:
a. The Spine Road through the new development, from the London Road to join Cock Lane, is to be narrow, sinuous with hair-pin bends, designed to discourage through traffic (see plan).
b. The forecast increase of traffic on Cock Lane in the AM peak hour arising from the new houses is predicted to be very low : 20-39 v/hr heading north and 19 v/hr heading south. Independent traffic consultants conclude there are no forecast traffic access or flow concerns and that Cock lane would not need to be widened.
c. Three-quarters of the valley will remain in its natural state and will be gifted to a charitable trust in perpetuity, for the benefit of local inhabitants. The public will have access to almost all the valley whereas there is almost none at present.
d. Human+Nature’s ambition is to create a community rather than just another housing estate on the edge of town. They intend to create ‘the greenest and most elegant new place in England…..‘ a place of national significance’. It was because AVIVA believed that Human+Nature was capable of realising a project at this level that they entrusted them with the task. We too believe they can succeed in this and deserve our strong support.
e. This ambition is entirely in accord with the Government’s latest thinking. Sir Roger Scruton, the chairman of a new public body, ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’, calls for beautiful and sustainable housing using local materials, emphasising the importance of building with a centre where people can meet, not just ‘dropping little boxes into an empty field’.
f. What will happen if it is refused? The outcome could be significantly different. The possibility is a volume house builder taking it on, unwilling to make an expensive sinuous road, agreeing to widen parts of Cock Lane, and with fewer green, sustainable ambitions or enthusiasm for public access.
These views are supported by the P&TG Residents Society and by the Ashwells Forum.
Please send your comments in writing by 15 March to Robert Harrison at Planning & Sustainability at the above address, or by e-mail to planning@wycombe.gov.uk quoting the reference no.
Miles Green
28 February 2019

Human+Nature’s outline application for 143 acres of the Gomm Valley site owned by Aviva (which does not include the 19 acre Ashwells site separately owned by WDC), has been submitted. All members of the public now have until 15 March to submit their views. It is unusually detailed for an outline application and includes a good many, very welcome, self-imposed conditions as evidence and reassurance of their serious intent. The main lines of their application are as set out at a public presentation at the Middle School on 18 November. Housing would be grouped in four character areas which they call ‘villages’, much of it on split levels to accommodate the slopes. 10 different housing types are planned. All proposed place and road names are based accurately on field names recorded in early deeds and on the 1848 Tithe map. The main village square is at ‘Little Haldens’ near the Gomm Road entrance to the site with community facilities such as a coffee shop, summer café, bakery, restaurant, village store (with a Post office), a primary school (up to the age of 11), a nearby community centre, sheltered housing complex, plant centre, micro-brewery, gym, recycling facilities, and the shuttle bus, all of which would be managed by the master developer’s Commercial Estate Management Company with up to 10% of any surplus going to a Gomm Valley Trust (see below). There would be a Little Haldens intranet system.
The ‘Spine Road’ running up through the valley from the London Road, to be named Ashwells Lane for the most part, would be narrow and sinuous (4.8m, widening to 6.2m for hair-pin bends), with passing places at least every 60m, effectively discouraging speeding and through traffic. It would be limited to a gradient of 1 in 20, which would encourage walking and cycling. Car use by residents would be further discouraged by providing a shuttle bus service to the town centre and station, as well as providing electric cycles for hire.
The only connection to Cock Lane would be at the southern end of the single track section, just above Pimm’s Close. The forecast increase of traffic on Cock Lane in the peak hours arising from the new houses is predicted to be very low. Around 20-39 vehicle trips heading north and 19 vehicle trips heading south are predicted to use Cock Lane in the morning peak hour. Traffic consultants have not quite finished their work, but we are assured that none of the predicted impacts on roads are considered to be problematic. Cock Lane would be left as it is, utilising the existing natural traffic calming effect, with improvements to passing places and strengthened edges. The previously proposed roundabout with Hammersley Lane would be replaced by a priority T junction just south of Robinson Road.
Only just over one fifth of Gomm Valley (less the separate Ashwells development) would be built on, and the agricultural land not used for building would be converted to species-rich grassland possibly grazed by sheep. A series of drainage ponds would be added, feeding a natural public swimming pond, and more than 4,000 trees (including an orchard of fruit trees) would be planted to screen the houses by both strengthening existing hedgerows and creating new ones. Public access to open space would include a 9 acre park (with a part reserved for the school for play and wild learning), the semi-wild areas of species-rich grassland, green corridors, community gardens and play areas and would be encouraged by footpaths and bicycle tracks. Future residents would be required to pay an annual fee to a Little Haldens Community & Sustainable Living Trust to manage all these and other common areas and community assets, including a community centre and the shuttle bus service, and to organise festivals, street parties, folk dancing and the like.
Human+Nature undertakes to gift all the unbuilt green areas, in perpetuity and with restrictive covenants, to a Gomm Valley Trust, a charitable body which would be the owner and guardian of the undeveloped land, endowed with a capital fund by the master developer, and tasked with managing the landscape as a living laboratory.
Those who went to H+N’s November presentation will have heard their ambition, already clear from all the intended facilities mentioned above, to create a ‘Little Haldens’ community, rather than just another housing estate on the edge of town. Their ambition is wider than this, indeed they believe it can become ‘the greenest and most elegant new place in England….. ‘ a place of national significance’.
Their green credentials are evidenced by their intention to transform the former agricultural land into species-rich chalk grassland, with close and careful management of the existing rather neglected SSSI and an enlarged wildlife site. They want to set up a Nature Project to monitor progress and act as a laboratory of the environmental change that can be achieved. A local food programme, both to sell and to supply the local restaurant, would be encouraged by community allotments, greenhouses, community growing slopes, and orchards. 20% of the roofs would be green, 20% would have solar panels, 10% would have bee bricks. There would be climbing green walls. Back gardens would be planted initially by the developer and would open out on to the communal allotments. The attention to every detail is illustrated by the careful specification of boundary treatments as brick, hit & miss brick, hit and miss wooden fencing or post & rail fencing. Overall, they are aiming for a 35% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, much more than the 15% required by WDC; the medium-term aim would to be fully carbon neutral.
Car parking is recognised as a key issue. As the proposals are currently at the outline stage, the actual parking numbers are subject to change, as housing types and numbers evolve and develop through the detailed stage. However, the applicant has committed to meeting the Bucks CC parking standards for the number of car parking spaces per dwelling. Bucks CC Parking Guidance would suggest that an overall ratio of 1.3 spaces per dwelling is required for this particular mix of 1,000 dwellings, with 1,306 car parking spaces currently proposed. These are provided in a variety of forms including parallel on-street, courtyard, podium, communal, private driveways and car ports. The intention is that encouragement for walking and cycling (1,746 cycle parking spaces), the shuttle bus and proximity to Wycombe’s bus routes will discourage the need for a second car. The number of parking spaces will be kept under review as the scheme develops.
It is intended that a good proportion of the dwellings would be financed and owned by a Housing Association and so make them more widely available to those who cannot afford the full market prices. Some 20% of the buildings at key locations would be one-off ‘specials’ to bring greater
character to the scheme especially in significant locations.
This would all require a layout and an expenditure very different from that shown in WDC’s Development Brief and emerging Local Plan. The Planning Inspector recently proposed that,
It is acknowledged that higher housing numbers may be achievable on the site where a high quality innovative and bespoke architectural response is adopted and/or a higher proportion of smaller dwellings form part of the mix… The Council will view positively any proposals for the Gomm Valley site which seek to deliver more than 600 dwellings, where it can be demonstrated that the development would comply with the requirements of national and local policy.
Human+Nature proposed up to 1,000 compared with the some 400 plus dwellings originally identified in the Development Brief, although they point out that compared with the largely 3 & 4-bedroom houses previously proposed, over 50% of their housing would be 1 or 2-bedroom dwellings, mostly concentrated near the A40 corridor, and that the buildings themselves will only some 8% of the valley area compared with some 5 to 6% previously. They achieve this by laying the buildings out differently, with some 4-storey buildings at the Gomm Road entrance, 4 and 5-storeys around the Little Haldens main square, and a good number of 3-stories elsewhere. H&N argue that the environmental gain from their far richer green habitat – not just the valley but in the well-designed open and green spaces around and between buildings – more than outweighs the additional housing and tha t the evidence from their work on environmental, landscape and visual impacts more generally supports the extra numbers. In short, they say they can house many more people, in better homes, in better environments, provide excellent local facilities and services and help build a community all while still achieving net environmental gain across the piece.
It is important to note that some 109 acres of the valley, over three-quarters of Aviva’s land, would remain forever, legally protected, as grassland, woodland and hedges, including the enlarged wildlife site and the SSSI. For the first time, the valley would be open to the public on foot or cycle, encouraged by all-weather paths. This would be a huge bonus for us all and is a very significant argument in favour of the project, as is the intention to make Ashwells Lane unattractive to through traffic and of not encouraging traffic through Tylers Green by widening Cock Lane.
We have examined this extraordinary project with considerable care and have concluded that it is not pie in the sky. The Human+Nature team has an impressive track record and is led by two former leaders of Greenpeace in UK and the USA, who have the ability and every intention of creating a benchmark project. We can see a very real possibility that this could indeed become ‘a place of national significance’.

Ashwells Forum working party
February 2018

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