Planning Application 18/06887/FUL – Land adjacent to Ridgeside Stables, Penn Road, Hazlemere, seeking permission for 90 dwellings. P&TGRS response to this application.
The above planning application has been submitted to Wycombe District Council for developing the ‘horse fields’ which are the open fields running from near Hazlemere Golf Club down to opposite the Mayflower pub. The land is in Hazlemere but the proposed development will have an impact on Penn & Tylers Green. Full details can be found using the following link:- https://publicaccess.wycombe.gov.uk/idoxpa-web/;Planning Application 18/06887/FUL
P&TGRS has submitted our comments on this application, the following is a copy of our response.
Land Adjacent to Ridgeside Stables, Penn Road, Hazlemere – 18/06887/OUT
We write to register our strong objection to the above-referenced planning application. It is a site we have previously commented on to the Council during the consultation process for the New Wycombe District Local Plan (NWDLP). We note the timing of this application coincides with the Summer holiday period when many residents who might wish to comment will be away from their homes.
We are concerned with comments made under the Considerations Section of the Screening Opinion provided to the applicant under cover of a letter dated 29th June 2018. Whilst we acknowledge that the Screening Opinion is written in the specific context of providing support to the view that an Environmental Statement is not required we do believe there are aspects of it that could be misconstrued. Firstly, in relation to Characteristics of the Development, we do not agree that the development would be commensurate with existing levels of development in the immediate vicinity. This is because housing on the Penn Road opposite the site and the existing housing on the Penn/Hazlemere Road on the same side at Penn is made up of single dwelling plots abutting the roadside. These are not estates. The remainder of the site is bounded by ancient woodland and open countryside. The proposal would not be contiguous with existing housing.
Secondly, in terms of Population and Socio-Economic impacts, again acknowledging the context of the comment, our own view is that the scheme is bound to have a negative effect on local infrastructure and resources for schooling, GP facilities and traffic levels which are already stretched. We are concerned about the cumulative impact this proposed development would have on these services. The NWDLP together with the neighbour authority’s draft Plan has proposals for over 1100 new dwellings nearby (Terriers Farm & Tralee Farm). There is also a proposal for a new cemetery at Queensway by Hazlemere Crossroads and more traffic travelling northwards from the Gomm Valley and Ashwells developments. Presently, at normal peak traffic periods, the residents of Penn Road have the daily sight of morning queues from Hazlemere Crossroads and in the late afternoon to evening of a traffic queue often stretching back the whole length of the road to the Mayflower public house. A distance in excess of 1,000 yards which could account for over 200 vehicles of average length queuing. The road infrastructure in this locality is simply not able to absorb further traffic at peak periods in normal conditions.
Thirdly, whilst we are of the clear opinion the proposed development will have an adverse impact on the AONB and the Green Belt, the comment on the landscape impacts appears somewhat ambiguous in as much as reference is made to its significance being minor in the context of the EIA. We note the Chilterns Conservation Board Management Plan states: – ‘The cumulative impact of development and land use change should not adversely affect landscape quality and character’ (policy L10 CCBMP)
An appendix follows, which details our specific objections and challenges assertions made in the Planning Statement submitted on behalf of the applicant using the Statement’s paragraph references.
Chairman, Planning Committee
APPENDIX to Penn & Tylers Green Residents Society letter dated 28th August to Wycombe District Council re Planning Application 18/06887/OUT – Land Adjacent to Ridgeside Stables, Penn Road, Hazlemere.
Paragraph 2.5 and 2.6
We consider the prospects of any residents of the site walking to access local services is very limited.
The bus stops referred to will all require significant walking distance and the crossing of the busy B474 which is inherently dangerous for pedestrians. The demand for bus services by adults appears limited locally as the No. 31 service has just again had its frequency reduced. The main means of transport in the locality is the private motor vehicle.
All the properties adjacent to or opposite the site are on single plots and are non-estate.
Statement of Community Involvement (SCI)
The SCI resulted in 237 responses 87.9% of which opposed the proposed development with only 6.5% supporting. The Executive Summary explained that the ‘majority of residents are not supportive of housing’ and ‘The most consistent comment regarding the proposals was whether it would have an impact on the current travel levels in the area’. The above figures reflect substantial local opposition to the siting of the proposed development, its negative effect upon the local landscape and the character of the area. It would add further to traffic problems which includes street parking, particularly around schools and shopping areas.
The Housing and Planning Minister in a Housing, Planning and Green Belt debate in the House of Commons in February 2018 said the following: –
‘There is a broader point here about home building and the overriding need to carry local communities with us, whether rural, suburban or urban communities…… We recognise we need more homes, but we also know that communities worry about new developments […]: what will it mean for congestion on the roads, and what will it mean for pressures on schools and local NHS services? ‘
We do not see that the statement made here chimes at all with the SCI survey results.
The New Local Plan is halfway through its public examination by an Inspector which will continue from 3rd September 2018. The opening sentence of the Inspector’s ‘Important Notes – Schedule of Matters, Issues and Questions’ in respect of Wycombe District Local Plan Examination states: –
‘The purpose of the examination is to determine whether the Wycombe District Local Plan is sound in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework’ (NPPF)
Paragraph 216, NPPF referred to also states: –
‘…. decision-takers may also give weight to relevant policies in emerging plans according to: –
The stage of preparation of the emerging plan (the more advanced the preparation, the greater the weight that may be given);
- The degree of consistency of the relevant policies in the emerging plan to the policies in this Framework (the closer the policies in the emerging plan to the policies in the Framework, the greater the weight that may be given).”
The policies in the NWDLP are consistent with the policies in the Framework and remain consistent with the revised NPPF in the protection of Green Belt and AONB land (paragraph 213, Annex 1, NPPF, July 2018). Accordingly, we disagree with the conclusion reached in the last sentence of paragraph 5.4
In the reference to paragraph 6 NPPF the quote made is incomplete and selective. The full text of the paragraph reads: –
‘The purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. The policies in paragraphs 18 to 219, taken as a whole, constitute the Government’s view of what sustainable development in England means in practice for the planning system.’
Further, the 3 dimensions, an Economic Role, a Social Role and an Environmental Role are not divisible. The Environmental Role is stated as: –
‘contributing to protecting and enhancing our natural built and historic environment…’
Major development on Green Belt and AONB land adjacent to ancient woodland and countryside is the complete antithesis to protecting such land and, in our opinion, precludes satisfying the 3 dimensions to sustainable development.
Paragraph 5.9 Housing White Paper
The Housing White Paper, not only sets out the Government’s commitment to home building but importantly re-states the Government’s commitment to protecting the Green Belt. At paragraph 1.37 it says: –
‘The Green Belt is highly valued by communities, particularly those on the edge of urban areas’
At paragraph 1.38 it goes on to say: –
‘The Government wants to retain a high bar to ensure that Green Belt remains protected….’
There have been a number of Ministerial statements reflecting the Government’s wish to protect the Green Belt.
The WDC, AONB Site Assessment Report dated September 2017 at paragraph 2.10 says: –
It should also be noted that the Housing White Paper proposes an amendment to the NPPF to say that AONBs are “…a strong reason for development to be restricted.” This is reflected in NPPF (2018) paragraph 172 where it says: – ‘The scale of development within these designated areas [National Parks, AONB, The Broads] should be limited’.
The description of paragraph 14 NPPF omits explaining that the reference at 6.2b. ‘specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted’ has in the NPPF a Footnote No. 9 referenced to it. This says: –
‘For Example, those policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitat Directives…. land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty……coastal erosion.’
Paragraph 187 can by definition only apply to sustainable development which we do not believe the proposal is.
The expression ‘the presumption in favour of sustainable development’ does not provide an automatic sanction per se to any development proposal. It is simply the context under which plans are considered. As explained at 5.5 above, the whole of the policies of the NPPF have to be considered and taken into account. The NPPF does not change the statutory status of the Development Plan as the starting point for decision making (paragraph 12 NPPF).
Policy CS3 sets out objectives which are principally for High Wycombe Town, not Hazlemere and the surrounding villages. In terms of Wycombe District, the significant point is made at 4.11 where it says some places both urban and rural are in need of regeneration but that ‘Others already have special qualities where the emphasis is on conserving and enhancing what we have.’
Paragraph 6.6 and 6.7
CS9 confirms the Green Belt will be protected from inappropriate development. In setting out the 5 Green Belt purposes the examples at paragraph 4.43 of CS9 show that not all 5 purposes need to be met. Arup’s Green Belt Review for the Buckinghamshire Councils confirms this.
Paragraph 6.8 and 6.9
The applicant accepts that the proposed development, the construction of new buildings, would amount to inappropriate and thereby harmful development in the Green Belt (Paragraph 89 NPPF). In such circumstances, in accordance with paragraph 87 NPPF, it is necessary to demonstrate and prove that ‘very special circumstances’ exist in order to carry out development on Green Belt land. ‘The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. The essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence ‘(paragraph 79 NPPF).
The harm to the Green Belt by the proposed development is not in our opinion clearly outweighed by other considerations as is required for ‘very special circumstances’ to exist. (paragraph 88 NPPF)
The applicant has sought to rely on selective phrases from the Council’s Green Belt Review Pt II Assessment in an effort to support a claim that ‘very special circumstances’ exist. The paragraph referring to “capacity for development on the site” also says: – “more extensive development across the site would not be in keeping with the local pattern of urban development and would diminish the openness of the countryside. Therefore there is very limited capacity for new development….”.
It is relevant to point out the work of Arup and the Council reflected in the Wycombe Green Belt Assessment Part 2 – “Critical Friend” Summary Report ensuring the process for justifying ‘exceptional circumstances’ existed to enable the removal of land from the Green Belt, was thorough and rigorous in testing the 5 purposes Green Belt serves.
In its Conclusions and Recommendations (p.54 GB Part Two Assessment Sept 2017) the Council explains its careful regard to national policy and guidance in reaching its conclusions. At paragraph 3.56 it states; –
‘The assessment also demonstrates that there are no other sites that are sustainable, developable and capable of removal from the Green Belt.’
Accordingly, as the Penn Road site has already been identified and assessed in a rigorous and thorough process it is clear it does not meet the criteria to justify removal from the Green Belt due to “exceptional circumstances”. As such, the argument put forward by the applicant is a spurious one.
Paragraphs 6 .11 to 6.17
Local Plan policy CP2 – Spatial Strategy declares that ‘only sites which perform weak GB functions will be allocated for building’.
The Council’s Green Belt Assessment Part 2 was issued in September 2017. It took account of the county wide Green Belt Assessment carried out for the Buckinghamshire Authorities by Ove Arup & Partners Ltd (ARUP), a world-renowned independent firm of engineers, consultants and technical specialists, which was published in March 2016. Arup was also commissioned to provide independent expert advice on the emerging Part 2 Assessment undertaken by the Council with a focus on ensuring: –
- The work is objective and robust;
- The methodology and approach is aligned with the NPPF and other relevant policy and guidance (including the recently published Housing White Paper); and
- The Part Two Assessment is aligned with the work undertaken by Arup in Part One.
Arup, very clearly, assessed the Penn Road site (reference 33a) as meeting national policy for remaining in the Green Belt. It considered that the land parcel had a largely rural open character with consistent boundary features such as the B474 road, the land barrier serving as an additional barrier to sprawl. It did not consider it required any further review Notwithstanding this, the Council had requested sites could be promoted for further review and the segment of land parcel 33a lying in Wycombe District at Penn Road, Hazlemere within the Green Belt and AONB was put forward by Inland Homes to be considered in the Green Belt review part two. When the Draft New Local Plan was issued in 2016, some different opinions arose in the Council’s Draft Report from those in the Arup Report, apparently and understandably due we believe to segmentation of Section 33a. Subsequently, following the council’s consultation process and the comprehensive “Critical Friend “Review by Arup referenced above, the site was not included in sites recommended for changes to Green Belt status.
The reference to paragraph 18 NPPF erroneously quotes paragraph 19. The Section heading is “Delivering Sustainable Development” which the proposed development does not in our opinion. Paragraph 23 NPPF is entitled: – ‘Ensuring the vitality of town centres’, not simply ‘centres’. Both of these sections have much wider purposes and we do not see the sections referred to as substantive reasons for commending the proposed development.
Paragraph 6.19 and 6.20
Rather than economic benefits from the proposed development there will be a negative impact on the quality of life of existing residents who already suffer significantly high levels of traffic and air pollution. There will be a considerable impact on light pollution caused by the development which will have a deleterious effect on the locality and the surrounding woodland habitats. Neighbouring Penn & Tylers Green has a no street lighting policy. None of the employment benefits quoted will be long-standing or likely to benefit local people particularly. There are two major food retail outlets being developed in High Wycombe presently to add to the many that already exist. There is significant development at the Handy Cross site. This does not reflect a problem with existing local economic development. The retail development at Park Parade in Hazlemere has a car park regularly full to capacity.
Paragraphs 6.28- 6.34
It is relevant to note that under paragraph 11 d.) revised NPPF (July 2018) it says: –
For decision-taking this means: –
- d) ‘where there are no relevant development plan policies, or the policies which are most important for determining the application are out of date’ – Footnote 7 explains, this includes for applications involving the provision of housing, situations where the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites (with the appropriate buffer as set out in paragraph 73) – granting permission unless:
- the application of policies in this Framework that protect areas or assets of particular importance provides a clear reason for refusing the development proposed; – Footnote 6 then explains these policies are the ones in the Framework relating to land designated as Green Belt and AONB.
any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against this Framework taken as a whole.
Planning guidance states that: – ‘unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt’.
Without a public footpath running alongside the road, it is doubtful any of the services and facilities quoted will be accessed by foot. Even if there were a footpath, it would be inherently dangerous for children, in particular, to attempt to cross the busy B474 to access schools, assuming there to be sufficient school places for them, to catch buses or visit local shops and GP surgeries. The data for peak traffic levels at school travel times is shown at 6.51 below.
The statement that the proposed development accords with all relevant policies rather belies the fact that traffic from the development would compound present and future forecast traffic levels. It appears that the Arcady traffic model failed to operate accurately at the Hazlemere Cross Roads mini roundabouts. We consider the substituted photographic evidence to be surprisingly unrepresentative of practical experience of peak hour traffic in normal periods of usage. The claim of an observed maximum peak queue of 49 vehicles on Holmer Green Road would seem reasonable. However, the suggestion of a maximum observed queue of 17 vehicles on Penn Road travelling north is risible.
Paragraph 3.22 of the TA is incorrect in describing Penn Road as minor and lightly trafficked. It is classified as a ‘B’ road (B474). Jacobs’ Southern Quadrant Transport Strategy (2012) (SQTS)p38, for Buckinghamshire County Council and the District, setting out a 10 – year vision for the southern area of High Wycombe, forecast an AM peak of 525 v/hr northwards and 771 v/hr southbound a total of 1296 v/hr on a ‘Do-Minimum’ scenario at the proposed site. This rises to 1511 v/hr at the top of the B494 Penn Road by the Hazlemere Cross Roads and compares to a lower peak flow of 1188 v/hr on the A404 to Amersham at the Cross Roads. The B494 should be described as a distributor road as is the A404, taking traffic from north High Wycombe, Hazlemere, Holmer Green and nearby localities in the direction of east and south to junctions with the A40, the M40 and Beaconsfield railway station.
The Table at paragraph 3.6 of the TA gives average weekday peak hour flows as follows: –
AM 370(N) + 530(S) = 900 v/hr and
PM 544(N) + 430(S) = 974 v/hr
900 vehicles per hour equates to 15 vehicles a minute which on average would mean a pedestrian would have no more than 4 seconds to cross a very busy road. With the addition of the new developments proposed under the NWDLP, excluding the Tralee Farm development which would add more traffic, Jacob’s figures climb to almost 1400 v/hr at peak times. This would mean on average a vehicle passing every 2.6 seconds on the Penn Road. At this level, the position for pedestrians deteriorates further. It is hard to imagine how any vehicle could manage to turn out of the development, particularly northwards.
The idea that residents of the site will not be reliant on travel by car to and from the site as mentioned at paragraph 3.43 of the TA is considered unrealistic when Jacobs’ SQTS states: –
‘Car ownership is relatively high, and work journeys are predominantly by private car’ and, in describing its key transport challenges states: –
‘Any further development that results in unmitigated traffic growth in the southern quadrant would worsen congestion with associated environmental and health impacts including noise and air quality issues.’
The proposed development will do harm to the existing ‘sense of place’ which presently avoids the complete coalescence of the villages of Hazlemere, Tylers Green and Penn. In our view, it cannot seriously be considered that the proposed development can in any way replace or enhance the visual amenity value of the current open landscape.
The proposed development would harm the natural and local environment and valued landscape.
Paragraph 6.79 – Landscapes and Visual Impact
The positive and key characteristics of the site are its landscape quality and visual amenity to residents and visitors to the Chilterns AONB. At night time its tranquillity and darkness. Additionally, the whole thrust of the New Local Plan calls for maintenance of the separate identity of communities. Policy DM32 states the following: –
- ‘Development must not, individually or cumulatively, result in the actual perceived coalescence of settlements.’
- Paragraph 6.122(DM32) says: – ‘Settlement form and settlement patterns are an important component of landscape character. The towns and villages within the District each exhibit a distinct character and range of intrinsic qualities which are based on the settlements’ historic built form, layout and their wider setting. Development should reflect established settlement forms and patterns in order to protect their character.
- Paragraph 6.123(DM32) says: – Much of the pressure for development is around the edges of settlements and has potential to lead to their coalescence either through physically or perceptually reducing the gap between them or by introducing an increase of activity which has an urbanising effect. The landscape between settlements throughout the District should remain essentially free from development and urbanising features /activities in order to provide an actual and perceived visual break and a sense of openness between settlements. The Council considers that preventing physically separate settlements from merging is an important aspect of landscape character.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the other side of the road from the proposed development is built up but with non-estate houses on individual plots, the gap that the site provides between the settlements of Hazlemere and Tylers Green/Penn avoids continuous ribbon development from High Wycombe town centre to Penn. It indicates a separation of settlements and provides a welcome visual reminder that we are on the edge of the Chilterns countryside with the backdrop of the Ancient woodland of Common Wood. Housing development with its urbanised appearance, would seriously damage the setting of Common Wood, which is in the AONB, and the views into and out of it. The Council has a legal duty to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the AONB. Protection of the landscape of the Chilterns is central to the strategy of the Local Plan and the Council. At Policy CP9, the AONB is described as the ‘jewel in the crown’. ‘Cherishing the Chilterns’ and a ‘Sense of Place’ are terms we have all become familiar with and are key tenets of the Council’s vision for the District.
We disagree with the suggestion that the site relates well to the existing settlement.
We cannot see how the change of land use to urban development can be other than harmful to the present landscape character and visual amenity.
Paragraph 6.84 -6.86
Major development is defined for housing development of 10 or more homes or a site larger that 0.5 hectares in the revised NPPF (July 2018) but for designated areas including AONB Paragraph 172 (NPPF 2018) states: – ‘The scale and extent of development within these designated areas should be limited. Planning permission should be refused for major development other than in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated that the development is in the public interest.’ Footnote 55 adds: – ‘whether a proposal is a major development is a matter for the decision maker, taking into account its nature scale and setting, and whether it could have a significant adverse impact on the purposes for which the area has been designated or defined.’
Regulation 19 Version NWDLP paragraph 4.12 says; – The council has concluded that in our local circumstances any allocation that would result in major development in the AONB would strongly conflict with the NPPF. As such they would not be sustainable development and their inclusion in the plan would be unsound.
A full explanation of the Council’s position can be found in its AONB Site Assessment Report dated September 2017. At paragraph 3.3 of that report it says: – The Green Belt Assessment appraises a number of sites which are also within the AONB. Sites in the Green Belt that did not pass the Part 2 Green Belt Assessment have therefore already been identified as unsuitable for allocation in the Local Plan. These sites are not considered further in this AONB report.
This statement chooses to ignore the conclusions of the Green Belt Assessment explained at 6.11-6.17 above.
The development would close the remaining gap between the settlements of Hazlemere and Penn & Tylers Green and be counter to the aims of DM32 referred to above at paragraph 6.79.
We refer to the points raised in paragraphs 6.28-6.34 above.
Conclusion – Paragraphs 8.1-8.6
We do not share the view that ‘very special circumstances’ exist to enable the proposed development to be approved. The applicant has not relied on the appropriate Green Belt Assessment review in arriving at its judgement. NPPF (2018) paragraphs 136 and 137 has added to the requirements for local authorities to fully evidence and justify that “exceptional circumstances” exist to alter Green Belt boundaries.
It is clear the proposal is one of major development in the AONB. The applicant claims that there is an absence of a five-year housing supply. Notwithstanding this claim we refer to paragraph 11(d.) NPPF (2018) for relevant guidance. We are of the firm opinion that the proposed development would harm the Green Belt particularly in its check on the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas and in encroachment into the countryside. It would erode a gap between settlements, erasing a sense of place, diminish the setting of Ancient woodland and be harmful to the Chilterns AONB.