Human Nature declare their intention of creating ‘the greenest and most elegant new place in England…. ‘ a place of national significance’. We feel that they are making every possible effort to achieve this and so give our strong support to this revised application for all the reasons outlined below.
We have come to this supportive view despite having spent some 30 years opposing development of any kind in the Gomm Valley. A Planning Inspector has ruled that houses must be built in the valley and so the question now is not whether or where homes are to be built, it is what type of development do we wish to see?
After many discussions with Human Nature and the Local Authorities, we see this complex proposal as a remarkably ambitious plan that seeks to bring together:
The need and obligation for more and varied housing
50% of the housing (981 in total) will be 1 or 2-bedroom dwellings to improve choice and with the more sensitively planned layout the actual footprint is not much greater than a poorly planned 400-unit scheme and will use only a fifth of the valley area (see Plan). The large majority of the land currently farmed will be regenerated to species-rich grassland which, in combination with the protected woodland and SSSI, will represent 79% of the valley area (Ashwells is not included) with community gardens, small parks and play areas in addition. More than 4,000 new trees will be planted. The unbuilt green areas will be gifted to a Gomm Valley charitable trust in perpetuity and with an endowment. The public will have legal access along all-weather paths to most of the valley, whereas there is almost none at present.
Creation of a community, not a housing estate
Human+Nature’s ambition is to create a community rather than just another housing estate on the edge of town, with its own village centre, shop, restaurant, bakery, café, school, community centre and a swimming pond. This ambition is unlike any new housing scheme in the UK. ‘Living with Beauty’, the final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission begun by the late Sir Roger Scruton (who spent his childhood on Hammersley Lane), sets new benchmarks for 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’.
Promotion of greener lifestyles with less use of cars
The buildings will be as ‘green’ as they can make them, aiming for a minimum 35% reduction in carbon emissions against regulations. A frequent shuttle bus from the top of the site to Wycombe, sustained financially by a development trust, and designs to enable cycling and walking for many local journeys are integral to the proposal. The spine road through the new development will be a bespoke, sinuous lane that will be highly unattractive for through traffic. This will result in two-way flows at the AM peak hour past Tylers Green Middle School on Cock Lane staying at current levels of about 400 vehicles/hr compared with an earlier estimate for a through route of up to 1,500 v/hr.
Government trip generation ratios indicate that the 981 dwellings will generate only 419 outward vehicle movements/hr at the AM peak, mostly heading down Gomm Rd, then east & west along London Rd, with only a small number (1.5 v/minute) heading north up Hammersley Lane.
The likely alternative
The likely alternative to this development by Human+Nature is run-of-the-mill, unrelated groups of houses built by a volume housebuilder, concerned only with profit, and not prepared to incur the extra expense of creating a community or a road which will deter through traffic.
Gomm Valley development plans, feedback to Human + Nature outline planning application, click here,Comments on the amendments to Human+Nature’s Outline Planning application for Gomm Valley, 19/05281/OUTEA, by the Ashwells Forum Working Party for Tylers Green. The Working Party includes representatives from Chepping Wycombe Parish Council, the Penn & Tylers Green Residents Society and neighbouring residents
Our comments on the original application (copy attached, dated 28 Feb 19, sent on 12 March 19), included a summary of the lengthy and complex Design & Access Statement. We urged all parties to support the application because after a long and careful review we had concluded that Human Nature do have the ability to succeed in their aspiration of creating a benchmark project, a place of national significance.
We came to this conclusion despite having spent some 30 years opposing development of any kind in the valley, including valiant attempts to get it included in the AONB and in the Green Belt. Indeed, only a few years ago, Wycombe District Council (WDC) supported us in this endeavour which we jointly presented to the Local Plan Inspector, but the Inspector, whilst agreeing that the landscape value of the valley merited AONB status, ruled decisively that the valley must remain as a land bank for future house-building. WDC then had no choice but to obey this ruling and draw up a Development Brief which would pass the critical scrutiny of the next Local Plan Inspector. It is the Development Brief which now decides the areas in which houses will be built, not the developer.
The question now is therefore not whether or where homes are to be built in the valley, it is what type of development do we wish to see? The likely alternative to Human+Nature is run-of-the-mill, unrelated groups of houses built by a volume housebuilder concerned only by profit, unwilling to make an expensive sinuous road, happy to widen parts of Cock Lane, unconcerned about more traffic past our Middle School, and with far fewer green, sustainable ambitions and enthusiasm for public access.
Our original comments included a list of reasons for our support of the application and we now review these reasons in the light of the modest amendments, all of which have already been discussed and agreed in principle with the relevant statutory consultees, and seem to us to represent an improvement on the original.
a) The spine road through the new development, from the London Road to join Cock Lane, was to be narrow, sinuous with hair-pin bends, designed to discourage through traffic. This remains the case and the proposed junction with Cock Lane has been moved north to near the phone mast on the southern boundary of the Ashwells site, with the spine road connecting as the minor road of a T-junction. This can be seen as an intrusion into the 200m separation between communities required by the Planning Inspector, but its beneficial effect is to limit the widening of Cock Lane to the 150m length alongside the Ashwells site leaving 650m unwidened, reduces the loss of hedgerow for visibility splays, and allows an improvement to the right of way crossing Cock Lane at that point.
b) The forecast increase of traffic on Cock Lane in the AM peak hour arising from the new houses was predicted to be very low. Our own detailed analysis of the revised traffic flow data confirms that this is still the case with a forecast for two-way flows at the AM peak hour past the Middle School reduced from an estimated 1,500 v/hr to around current levels at about 400 v/hr.
It appears that the BCC Highways modelling now reflects the Development Brief requirement:
The purpose of this Spine Road is to distribute traffic from the development. It is not intended to act as an unofficial ‘bypass’ as this would be detrimental to Penn and Tylers Green due to the increase in through traffic. The capacity of the spine road and the northern end of Cock Lane, must therefore be restricted through effective traffic calming to deter through traffic.
c) Three-quarters of the valley, some 109 acres, will remain in a natural state, converted to species-rich grassland with more than 4,000 new trees and the unbuilt green areas will be gifted to a Gomm Valley charitable trust in perpetuity, for the benefit of local inhabitants. The public will have access along all-weather paths to most of the valley, whereas there is almost none at present. This important component has been enhanced by enhanced by improvements in the provision of play and green spaces so that there are now larger localised park spaces for each of the four villages.
d) Human+Nature’s ambition is to create a community rather than just another housing estate on the edge of town and they have made great efforts to achieve this with all the measures described in our earlier Summary, including a school and a village centre with shops, a restaurant and a Post Office. This ambition is entirely in accord with the Government’s latest thinking. Sir Roger Scruton, the recently deceased chairman of a new public body, ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’, called 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’.
e) The buildings will be as ‘green’ as they can make them, aiming for a 35% reduction in carbon monoxide emissions, with ‘green’ roofs, or solar panels where possible. A shuttle bus to Wycombe and active encouragement for cycling and walking is enhanced by the new provision for a continuous 3m wide shared cycle/pedestrian route alongside the roads.
f) All these desirable measures are very expensive and the 400 plus houses originally envisaged by the Development Brief cannot possibly support a development of this quality. 981 dwellings are proposed, and this is indeed a very large increase, with implications including increased traffic and pollution, and does need to be fully justified. Human Nature point out that whereas the original Brief envisaged largely 3 & 4-bedroom houses, over 50% of their housing would be 1 or 2-bedroom dwellings resulting in a development of 981 dwellings occupying 8% of the valley compared with the original Council proposal of 400 dwellings requiring a development area of 5% to 6% of the land.
g) The application proposes that ‘reasonable provision’ will be made for affordable housing, at a level and mix to be established during the determination of the planning application. We see this as an important provision. The Planning Statement adds that the development will comprise ‘a high-quality mix of residential units, including self-build’, at a level to be agreed with the Council via a S106 Agreement.
Human Nature declare their intention of creating ‘the greenest and most elegant new place in England…. ‘ a place of national significance’. We feel that they are making every possible effort to achieve this and so give our strong support to this revised application for all the reasons outlined above.
These views are supported by the P&TG Residents Society and by the Ashwells Forum, but are subject to a cast-iron assurance that the measures set out in this revised outline application will be carried out as promised and not passed to a less conscientious developer.
REASONS WHY YOU NEED TO WRITE IN SUPPORT OF THIS APPLICATION We have until 15 March 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 email@example.com quoting the reference no. 19/05281/OUTEA. Miles Green Chairman 28 February 2019 2 SUMMARY OF DESIGN & ACCESS STATEMENT 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. 3 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’.
LITTLE HALDENS, GOMM VALLEY 78 N 0m 200m Tile Walk Radmor Walk Gomms Field Squar e Gomms Farm Way Ashwells Lane Dewdens Close Dewdens Walk Ashwells Valley Path Temple Walk Little Haldens Park Ashwells Lane LITTLE HALDENS SQUARE Brook Square Brook Walk Lower Brook Field Copse Field Walk Ashwells Lane South North Haldens Squar e Valley Walk Twelve Acre Square Park Walk Haldens Walk Twelve Acre Lane South Haldens Squar e Little Haldens Walk Little Haldens Close Gomm Road Middlebrook Walk Lower Brook Walk Lower Brook Square Niming Wood Square NIMING WOOD TILE FURLONG GOMMS FIELD TWELVE ACRES HALDENS LOWER BROOK GOMMS WOOD CLOSE URBAN VILLAGE HILLSIDE VILLAGE ORCHARD VILLAGE
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