Feb 232018

Pt 1 Illustrative Masterplan

Please note Ashwells Forum includes members of the P&TGRS, CWPC and the three surrounding residents groups from Ashwells, Sandpits Lane, and Carter Walk/Wheeler Avenue)
An outline application
The Planning Statement makes it clear that this outline planning application covers access and landscaping only, as ‘submitted matters’. All other aspects of the application are to be considered later as ‘reserved matters’ and so we make no comment on them. A useful meeting with the applicants dealt with several detailed concerns which need not be repeated but for interested readers the summary Q? As are below this editorial.

The overall quality and comprehensive make-up of the information submitted with the application are to be commended. The proposal to reduce the number of dwellings from 125 to 102 is to be welcomed, and it is requested that this should become a ‘not-to-exceed’ figure.

Need for a Design Code
It is noted that the masterplan is only illustrative at this stage and that detailed proposals will be submitted in due course. In this context, the acceptability of the planning and design proposals can be considered in general terms only. The Design & Access Statement indicates that proposals will be subject to a Design Code to be prepared during 2018. It is essential therefore that this Design Code should be subject to a further public consultation process and approved prior to the commencement of detailed planning and design.

Housing mix and ‘Affordable’ Homes
The November 2016 scheme for Ashwells claimed that the development would “go some way to addressing the chronic shortage of new dwellings for first time buyers, families, and younger people”. In the public consultation response that followed, it was noted that the development needed to provide a range of tenures and typologies that responded to local needs and provide decent homes of the right quality and at prices, people could afford. It was suggested that this might be achieved by the provision of ‘market’ dwellings of a size and price that will allow younger locals to become part of the Ashwells community.

The ‘Proving Layout’ submitted with the application provides a breakdown of the proposed housing mix. This is useful, but it fails to address the question of affordability. In an email exchange with WDC’s Head of Major Projects & Estates Executive on 10 December 2017, it was stated that there was in existence a schedule of ‘estimated end values’, in other words, a projection of the likely selling prices of the houses as proposed in the masterplan. This needs to be made available so that the local community may comment on how this responds to local needs.

There has been no consultation with the local community to establish what would be an appropriate housing mix, and on this basis, the breakdown of housing numbers as proposed in the application can only be regarded as assumptions by the applicant for the purposes of infrastructure planning and needs to be re-visited through further public consultation. In this respect, it should be noted that the NPPF states that one of its key objectives is to “assist in empowering local people to shape, improve, and enhance their surroundings”.

The Planning Statement proposes a multi-site approach to the affordable housing provision, across Ashwells, Bellfield Road, and Desborough Road. It is proposed overall affordable housing provision for these 3 sites is to be achieved by allocating 100% of the bed spaces proposed for each of the Bellfield Road and Desborough Road sites, and zero% to Ashwells. The implication is that any approval of Ashwells application is dependent on parallel approvals also for Bellfield Road and Desborough Avenue. This needs to be the subject of a review by the Planning Committee to ensure that the correct protocols for multi-site affordable housing provisions have been observed.

Parking standards
Visitor parking will be needed not just for the visitors to the new houses, but also for walkers and cyclists wishing to use the new access to the main valley and for the children’s play area. The 0.2 visitor space per household will not be sufficient.

Footpath improvement
The FPs to Carter Walk and to the Horse and Groom need considerable improvement.

Street Lighting
We reiterate that residents have consistently voted against street lighting and would not like to see it on the new development.

Car Parking for the Middle School
We are aware of the views of CWPC and the Middle School and support their general approach.
Parking for the school on Cock Lane opposite the end of Kingswood Avenue results in a blind bend. Yellow lines may be needed to prevent parking.

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