Urgent Update 1st May 2021
You will see from the attached statement from Human Nature that their eminently desirable Gomm Valley project has fallen into the hands of an as yet anonymous PLC, whom we understand offered a little more cash to Aviva (the current land owners) to purchase the land and with it the right to take the project forward. Human Nature have expressed their consternation very eloquently in their statement (see below).
The Residents Society looked into the Human Nature planning application very thoroughly and concluded that it was a truly excellent project that we should do our utmost to support as they proposed to create a sustainable community and not ‘yet another housing estate’. Human Nature are determined to broadcast Aviva’s decision as an unhappy example of a profit versus sustainable development issue, turn it into a national talking point and hopefully persuade Aviva to alter course. In a radical approach, Human Nature are calling for Aviva to re-wild Gomm Valley and turn it into a nature reserve rather than let a generic house-building company change all their well-thought-through plans for their own profit.
Aviva’s own website is full of statements which contradict their proposed actions, for example:
Item 7 : ‘Sometimes not taking the money is the more responsible path to choose.’
We ask you to please write to Aviva expressing your personal concern at this abandonment of the visionary Human Nature plans for Gomm Valley that they have supported for 4 years. Aviva have an annual shareholders meeting on Thursday May 6th and any comments before that date should be sent to the CEO of Aviva Investors, Mark Versey at email@example.com, and also the Group CEO of Aviva PLC, Amanda Blanc, Amanda.Blanc@aviva.com.
If you need inspiration, attached is an excellent email which you could use to base your own correspondence on, but do edit it sufficiently to give it your own voice.
Do say if you are a shareholder in or have your pension or insurance with Aviva.
This is the latest map from Human Nature – you will see all the area to the right which was to be retained as open land for public access. This will likely be built on by any other developer.
Statement from Human Nature follows:
Statement on the Gomm Valley, Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Developer Human Nature says the Gomm Valley should be re-wilded and turned into a nature reserve
Developer Human Nature – the principal architect, promoter and prospective development partner to landowner Aviva for a sustainable new community in the 70 hectare Gomm Valley in Wycombe – today announced that its partner had decided to sell its land, without conditions, to an anonymous PLC. This is after four years crafting an extremely sensitive eco- development, bespoke to the valley, with a planning application submitted and awaiting determination.
Human Nature stated that with Aviva deciding to extract as much money as possible from the scheme for its land and selling to the highest bidding non- values-driven developer, there is now little or no prospect of a bespoke elegant solution for a genuinely sustainable community in the last unbuilt Chiltern Valley in Wycombe.
Human Nature, today called for the valley to be re-wilded and turned into a nature reserve for the regeneration of important chalk grassland and woodland habitats, for wildlife and as a biodiverse new parkland for the enjoyment of local people.
On 25th April, Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc wrote to inform Human Nature that her colleagues in Aviva Investors had decided to sell its land in the valley, without conditions, to an anonymous development PLC. This was despite a counter offer made by Human Nature and contrary to assurances given over many years to local people and organisations that this project was, for once, not simply a land speculation.
Jonathan Smales, CEO of Human Nature said, “this brings to an end a four year exercise in which we and a group of highly dedicated, expert, passionate and deeply thoughtful specialists have been immersed
in planning and designing with the intent to build a new kind of genuinely sustainable development. Our
intent has been to house families well while respecting and honouring the valley setting and establishing new standards of ecological, low impact design across the entire scheme. Our team is heartbroken.
“Our proposals included the regeneration of precious chalk grassland, the planting of thousands of semi- mature trees, protecting ancient woodland and the Site of Special Scientific Interest, securing long term management through a local trust, making beautiful walkable streets that wind slowly along the contours of the valley and with a cycle lane for children rather than building a race-track for through traffic, and designing and building a wide range of elegant zero carbon homes for people of all backgrounds and incomes.
“While the scheme as proposed is profitable, the costs of achieving this level of sustainability meant that the future land receipt to Aviva was, while still substantial, less than it had originally hoped for. They called on us to cut cost allocations for these essential landscape and ecological features and dumb down the public realm – streets, public spaces and facilities – so that they could make more money. But the Gomm Valley is no normal ‘development’ site, nor do we live in normal times – we face a climate emergency and a crisis in the natural world. This is not a place, or a time, for the crass land speculation this now appears to be.
“We believe that we and our team have been used as a Trojan Horse, our values abused, our promises to and bonds with local organisations and people broken, so that Aviva can wash its hands of a challenging scheme and pocket the cash under cover of what it calls its ‘fiduciary duty’ to its own investors. We think their investors should be horrified. The banal and abstract nature of the term ‘fiduciary duty’, wielded by real estate bureaucrats from a tower in Central London, belies a cynical manoeuvre without a thought for the valley, the climate, nature, people who live nearby and the people who might live there in the future.“
Human Nature believes that duties to the environment generally, to the Gomm Valley in particular, and to public trust have to outweigh narrow, short term financial gain. Aviva itself appears to agree though only in principle.
“Steve Waygood, Head of Responsible Investment at Aviva Investors, speaks of, ‘integrating ESG factors into every investment decision…challenging big names… changing the way things are done and pushing targets to be more ambitious…turning talk into action’. Moreover, he argues for the need, ‘to get capital flowing in the right direction so that it actually rewards companies that are more sustainable’. He even makes a case for ‘re-thinking capitalism’.
Now is the time to translate those fine words from strategy documents and conferences and put them into practice: time for Steve to roll up his sleeves with his real estate and development colleagues to transform their culture and how they operate. Unless and until he does, they will continue with their carefree destructive practice.”
After years of working on the economic appraisal for the Gomm Valley, Human Nature believes that with Aviva planning to take so much money out of the scheme for its land, there is now almost no prospect of the bespoke, elegant and genuinely sustainable development, with the corresponding investment in the landscape and habitats, promised to Wycombe planners and communities.
There is still less prospect of a unique approach to the design and durable quality of sympathetic, adaptable, long-life, low carbon homes. And therefore Human Nature calls upon Aviva to do the right thing – before the legals complete on its sale to its anonymous PLC buyer – and abandon the sale of the Gomm Valley and instead make a gift of the land to local and regional conservation charities.
There are many brilliant local environmental and conservation groups active in the area, such as the
Chiltern Rangers, the Wildlife Trust and the Chiltern Society and Conservation Board. They have the ability and expertise to re-wild the valley creating a beautiful resource for wildlife to thrive and local people to enjoy. If Aviva or the new owner refuse to do this, Human Nature believes the public authorities should obligate them to do so in policy, or instead locate new homes where anything-goes, business-as-usual, development by volume housebuilders will do less harm.
Human Nature sees this as a missed opportunity for a benchmark development in the county and pretty much anywhere else: housing families in potentially ‘the greenest and most elegant new settlement in England’. This opportunity appears to have passed and the local community that has been so roundly betrayed must dig in, as will Human Nature, to prevent a disastrous fate for the last unbuilt Chiltern Valley in Wycombe.
Jonathan Smales & Michael Manolson Founders, CEO and Chairman
77 High Street
East Sussex BN7 1XN
Contact: Jonathan Smales 07968 190560
Contact: Chelsea Renton 07818 064456
2019 : REASONS WHY YOU NEED TO WRITE IN SUPPORT OF THIS APPLICATION
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 firstname.lastname@example.org quoting the reference no.
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 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
Gomm Valley – “The Greenest New Place in England”
This is how the developers described their aspirations for Gomm Valley at their ‘Community Engagement and Design’ event held in the fields behind the Perigrine Business Park over the weekend of 30 June/2 July. This took the form of an exhibition illustrating the development objectives, together with explanatory talks and Q&A. The developer selected by Aviva (as landowner), is known as ‘Human + Nature’(H+N), which has assembled a team with strong credentials in the planning and design of sustainable communities.
Proposals are still at pre-planning stage, and the aim was to present themes that would form the basis for development, and share thoughts on these with the local community, inviting comment that could then be taken into account as the planning and design move forward. The overarching themes are intended to enhance Gomm Valley’s special characteristics, through respect for landscape and ecology, sustainability, and green transport, delivered through continuing community engagement in the design and delivery process. The plans covered the valley area south of Ashwells (which is to be developed by a different team), incorporating some important deviations from WDC’s Development Brief, particularly with regard to the configuration of the Gomm Valley spine road and its connection with Cock Lane.
In terms of impact on P&TG, H+N’s preference is to leave Cock Lane as single track, with the spine road reconfigured to join Cock Lane much further down (opposite the Christmas tree yard). The alignment of the spine road would respond to the topography, creating a slowly winding and circuitous path through the valley. The intention is to make the spine road an unattractive option for drivers looking for a rat-run down to the A40.
The contribution of GV&A to Wycombe’s future housing needs (as defined by the new Local Plan) is 520 new homes, of which 100 are on the Ashwells site. This leaves 420 in Gomm Valley. H+N propose a significant increase in this, to a figure potentially between 700 and 1,000 units, citing the creation of best value from the developable area and a critical mass able to support their proposed community facilities. They believe that this need not necessarily occupy a much bigger footprint than WDC’s plan,, as there will be more flats (providing an increased number of smaller, more affordable, homes). This increase will place added pressure on traffic volumes. To mitigate this, H+N hopes to reduce car dependency by providing a small fleet of electric buses running a service to HW station at peak times.
The focus of the new community will be a village square with a mix of uses, including primary school, supported living, coffee shop, restaurant, bakery and convenience store. They also envisage co-working facilities such as ‘makerspaces’ and studios, car club/bike club, and a GP practice. The square will open out to the valley to its north where there will be amenity grassland and play areas for children.
The immediate impression was that H+N seems to have a very different idea of how they want to deliver the project compared with that of WDC, but this needs to be tested for feasibility and deliverability. It is expected that the Liaison Group will meet soon, for H+N to explain how they intend to move forward and for WDC to indicate their response. All being well, an outline planning application could be submitted at the end of September, with the development taking 7-9 years to complete.
For further information, visit www.gommvalley.com (where there is an informative video).
Ashwells Forum comments on Planning Application 18/05002/R9OUTE submitted on 23 February 2018
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.
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.
The FPs to Carter Walk and to the Horse and Groom need considerable improvement.
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.
Ashwells Forum comments on Planning Application 18/05002/R9OUTE su8bmitted by the Chairman Ashwells Forum, on 23 February 2018
Pt 2 Transport matters
Widening Cock Lane
We have always accepted that Cock Lane would need to be widened for the short northern stretch down to the new Ashwells entrance. We understand from the applicants that widening along the whole length of the Ashwells site has been included in this application because of BCC’s insistence on the eventual further widening and the connection to the Spine Rd. We do not see that there is any basis for agreeing, at this point in time, to any further widening of Cock Lane beyond the new Ashwells junction.
Transport Impact Assessment (TIA)
At a meeting with Penelope Tollitt and David Anderson on 7 Nov 2017, Penelope Tollitt agreed with our assertion that the decision to further widen Cock Lane and join it to the Spine Road must be contingent upon Traffic Impact Assessments for both the Ashwells and Gomm Valley developments. She agreed that, while only the Ashwells Planning Application was available, it was not appropriate to do any further widening. Christine Urry’s letter to Penelope Tollitt of 20 Sep 17 (penultimate para.) says much the same thing – that the TIAs are needed to demonstrate the impact on the local highway network in terms of capacity and safety.
We further note that there is already significant evidence in the Ashwells Planning Application’s TIA that supports our case for no further widening of Cock Lane and for no connection to the Spine Road. The TIA provides data that undermines the case being made by BCC and shows that it is unnecessary.
1) For Safety Reasons:
BCC have stated that Cock Lane needs to be widened for reasons of highway safety (Para 3 of Christine Urry’s letter to Penelope Tollitt of 20 S5-year, but this TIA examines the 5-year history of reported accidents in Cock Lane and states the following in section 3.7.8 :
Given the fairly minimal number of incidents, the low severity and absence of recurring trends it is reasonable to conclude that there is not a significant highway safety problem within the vicinity of the site.
It should also be noted that none of the 5 incidents recorded over the past five years occurred within the narrow section of Cock Lane.
This TIA supports our contention that Cock Lane is a natural traffic calming route that is inherently safe.
2) Traffic Volumes:
The TIA (Section 7.2.3) puts the increased traffic volumes resulting from the proposed development into perspective
Based on the results of the above exercise, the proposals can be expected to result in the following vehicle trips, 60 (two-way) trips during the AM peak hour, and 64 (two-way) trips during the PM peak hour. It is considered that the anticipated increase in vehicular traffic will not result in a material impact on the local highway network.
Furthermore, Appendix E of the same report forecasts that out of the 60 trips only 26 will be through the single lane section that BCC wants to widen. However, it may be even less since this forecast is based on a Wycombe-wide travel to work survey. Perhaps of more relevance, is evidence from the existing Ashwells site where only 12% of the AM peak traffic goes through that part of Cock Lane, so the volume from the new development could be more like 7 vehicles/hour (12% of 60, 2 way basis).
This TIA also supports (Sections 7.2.3 and 8.3.4) our view that there is no planning need for the Spine Road connection and widening of Cock Lane beyond the new Ashwells junction. The figures presented support our consistently stated view based on Jacobs reports, commissioned by BCC and WDC, that the traffic movements from the developments themselves do not justify this since the TIA figures are even lower (at 26 vehicles/hour max, quite probably just 7 vehs./hr.) than expected.
Traffic calming in Cock Lane
Christine Urry’s letter to Penelope Tollitt of 20 Sep 17 (Pg. 2, para 3) reveals a doubling of AM peak hour traffic along Cock Lane by 2026, from 647 to 1,317 vehs/hr, as a result of connecting a widened Cock Lane to a new Spine Road. She also repeats the wording of WDC’s Development Brief in saying
It is however important that this highway improvement does not lead to a significant increase in traffic using Cock Lane and the new Spine Road, because of the detrimental impact that would have on the village of Tylers Green. The widened section of Cock Lane will therefore be fitted with traffic calming to keep traffic speeds low and limit the attractiveness of the Spine Road to new traffic from further afield whilst achieving a safer road with appropriate onward visibility.
No details of traffic calming in Cock lane have been proposed, but since both authorities appear to agree that traffic calming would achieve the aim of the Development Brief, we have to ask whether it is possible to produce convincing evidence that it would be effective. We have retained the services of an experienced Traffic Consultant who confirms that there is scant evidence that traffic calming reduces the volume of traffic. It merely slows it down and makes a contribution to road safety.
To quote our consultant: ‘Traffic calming should always show a positive benefit in terms of safety and that is the usual target for a TC scheme. I think there was some evidence in the 90’s re reduced flows but generally highway authorities are less worried about traffic flows now so TC schemes are geared to reducing speeds.’ (Dermot McCaffery is a Member of the Institute of Highway Engineers and a Member of the Institute of Road Safety Officers. He has over 29 years’ experience in highway and transportation development control).
Traffic calming in New Road
Many, though not all Forum members, had significant concerns over the proposed traffic calming measures in New Road by the use of chicanes. They can and will be circumvented by traffic taking slightly different routes (either carry on along B494 then turn back past the pond and the First School to reach Cock Lane, or simply cut through the housing estates north of New Road, along Rose Ave, Ashley Drive, Kings Ride and St John’s Rd). In both case this will create greater dangerous additional flows past and through sensitive areas used by young children going to school.
In addition they will create noise and air pollution by making vehicles stop and start /accelerate. This is in contravention of Policy T13, referred to in section 2.2.1 of the TIA which says that traffic calming should enhance the environmental quality of the area. Moreover, they will be extremely dangerous road obstacles on an unlit road, and BCC have a policy that specifically forbids any speed bumps or other obstructions without street lighting. Residents have consistently voted against street lighting in the village and will have to be consulted again, both on chicanes and lighting, if traffic calming is intended,
In summary, BCC and WDC have not demonstrated that they have a viable method of reducing the doubling of traffic volume that their Cock Lane widening linked to a Spine Road scheme is forecast to attract past the Middle School, and so cannot achieve the aim of the Development Brief which is that there should be no significant increase in traffic using Cock Lane. This Ashwells application does in fact weaken their case which is based on three assertions that are not supported by factual data, namely:
a) that Cock Lane needs to be widened for reasons of Highway safety
b) that increased traffic from the developments provides the justification
c) that traffic calming measures can prevent a significant increase in traffic
In the light of this evidence, we urge WDC to ask BCC either to withdraw their insistence on the need for widening Cock Lane and connecting it to the Spine Road, or to provide evidence-based justification for it. We are ready to provide any detail required to justify our arguments about traffic flow.
This paper reports the meeting with Wycombe District Council held recently, with representatives from the Residents Society and Ashwells Forum. The discussion was based on the detailed planning application and the concerns raised by these Groups. (please note this is a long document!!)
1.Why does application show Bucks County Highways as the owner? Is it legally valid? CB said there was no problem because application involves infrastructure work and Cock Lane widening so BCC is one of the owners.
2. Assurance sought that Cock Lane will not be widened south of the new lower access until after the Transport Impact Assessment for the main Gomm Valley development has been assessed. Widening is not their choice, but it is a Highways Authority requirement so they themselves can’t give any assurance. Their Highways contacts are via Christine Urry and Mark Shaw. They would not do further widening below the new access if they don’t have to since it would both save them money and avoid Cock Lane being closed for 3 months, but Planners may not want to lose the opportunity to get them to pay for widening alongside all their land. On this basis, CB said that the inclusion of Cock Lane widening was simply what they thought they needed to do to obtain planning permission. We pointed out that the Ashwells TIA was clear that there would be no problem from Ashwells for traffic volume or safety. We had been assured by Penelope Tollitt that no decision on widening would take place until the Gomm Valley TIA had been considered and then only if WDC’s aim that there should be no significant increase in traffic through the village was achievable with traffic calming CB said Chinese walls had not permitted any special briefing from the Planners. He is happy to report the apparent conflict in intention between Planners and Highways, and if this could not be resolved at this time, it might be possible to create a reserve strip of the Ashwells land for use when and if the decision is taken to widen the lane.
3. Similarly for any traffic calming measures further up Cock Lane and in New Road. Chicanes were their response to public feedback at the exhibitions, not a requirement from Highways. They were unaware of BCC regulations requiring street lights for chicanes, build-outs etc. We said no need for these measures if Cock Lane is not widened. Chicanes could encourage traffic to divert through other areas of the village. Agreed public consultation required. High speeds down New Road. Flashing speed warning signs could be useful. f
4. Why has the new lower access moved 50m further south, thus requiring widening of a longer stretch of Cock Lane? It was not done to fit in a seventh self-build house, but to achieve vision splay to the north as well as to reduce the gradient at the start of the new access route. The infiltration pond fits in there and is necessary to catch run-off from the site. Savills will provide the Highway engineering drawing of that area.
5. Initial construction phase – entry should be via new lower access not through existing Ashwells They intend to use existing Ashwells entry as little as possible, only for initial construction traffic, plant, equipment, portacabins, which are required on site to construct the start of the new access. As soon as possible they will use the lower access. Cut and fill will be kept to a minimum although some needed to level the playing area. They will produce a critical path timing.
6. How can later exit-only via existing Ashwells be enforced? No easy answer. BCC require unimpeded access for emergency vehicles to the site. GK suggested traffic flow the other way around would work better. 7. Phase development – How to coordinate 5 (?) different builders. They are confident that this will be achieved.
8. House sizes too small for future changes in living patterns. This is up to the developers. Could be in the Design Code.
9. Design Code must be approved before any detailed applications Yes, it will be.
10. Construction parking – concerns about effect on local roads and green spaces before parking on site is organised No need for any parking on local roads, eg. Carter Walk etc. We will have the phone no. of the Site Manager who should be contacted if any contractors start parking in local roads.
11 No pumped sewage route (and its 6m wide easement) on the application Agree it is an omission. A revised plan will be issued. Will probably follow the route suggested by GK [run round top of build site on the field side of Copse] – just need to be aware of tree root preservation needs. [Aerial view shows tree trunks generally 3m to 4m from line of fence.] Noted the alternative straight line but longer route suggested by Bill Sadler. CB was worried about capacity of pipe to meet needs.
12. Measures to prevent self-build house from over-looking existing Ashwells houses. Split-level contemporary houses built into the hill, oriented to face downhill (south) with no windows towards existing houses. We asked for cross-section plans. They may be custom-built rather than self-built. i.e several owners using the same builder.
13. Parking standards – we prefer Wiltshire County Council’s higher figure. Parking is needed not just for visitors to new houses, but also walkers/cyclists on the new FPs and green space down to the railway line. CB noted our concern that the 0.2 visitor space allocation would not meet the need.
14. Management of the green space on site They have not got that far, but the Ashwells green space would probably be managed separately from the main Gomm valley. A management company financed by new residents was possible or responsibility assumed by CWPC. Surrounding residents would like to see the involvement of CWPC in some capacity.
15. Why put the electricity sub-station at the NE corner of the site, rather than near the site entrance? Technical advice from SSE, but may be wrong. They will investigate. GK will also contact SSE.
16. The oak trees at the ends of the Sandpits gardens belong to the private owners and are not on the Ashwells land as shown on various plans. Agree plans are wrong and will be amended.
17. Parcel 9? No word from Aviva. Ransom strip so can impose some standards. Bridging the gas main may be a problem.
18. Policy for achieving long-term lower cost homes/shared equity housing specifically for locals. There is currently a big debate over the viability of shared ownership schemes. Social rented houses will be off-site but CB would like to provide some more affordable starter homes for younger people with local connections and will push for WDC to forego some profit to allow an appropriate scheme on some of the 20x 2-bed houses. The inclusion of some ‘rural exception’ affordable homes need not be ruled out. To achieve off-site provision, CB aimed to run parallel planning consents for the Bellfield Road and Desborough road schemes. We need to alert Katrina Wood and David Shakespeare. It was agreed that with prices likely to be very high on the site (CB will provide a copy of the model figures for house values), we need a scheme that lasts in perpetuity, not just the initial purchase. CB would welcome precedents. KC, GK, and KB undertook to research.
19. Footpath work needed at Carter Walk end and at Horse & Jockey end.
They will improve these FPs and may work with CWPC to get some fences put back/ intruding trees cut back. We also need barriers that will allow access for pushchairs but not motorcycles.
20. FP through copse or to one side? There were varying views about whether the path should run through the centre of the copse or between the fences of the new houses and the copse. The matter may well be decided by following the route of the main sewer which requires a 6 m wide open space above it. An assurance was sought that no trees would be removed, but would be reduced in height, and an evergreen hedge planted on the northern edge of the copse.
21. There is a no street lighting policy on site and for any traffic calming, but is a BCC requirement for any traffic calming. (BCC Traffic Calming Portfolio 2007, p.5). No lighting is proposed for the new estate.
22. Car parking for Middle School. The School would like to have both the drop-off and car park schemes, but they are not compatible since the design has exits opposite each other. The drop-off scheme requires significant engineering and removal of trees and would not work as a pick-up point. CB is visiting the school again soon. CWPC owns the car park and has identified several changes needed.
23. Legal settlement of the existing boundaries of the Carter Walk/Wheeler Ave houses backing on to the site. This is for prescriptive rights for Carter Walk houses who incorporated a strip of land over 30 years ago. It will be done in due course.
24. Will the Noise-Sensitive Receptors R2 & R3 actually be located in the gardens / on the houses in Wheeler Ave and Sandpits Lane, and R4 on top of the Middle School, as depicted in Figure 10.1 [page 228] of the Environmental Statement (the Main Statement)? Do we/they have any choice in this? These are notional depictions of points from which to assess noise levels on site.
25. Section 7.6 of the Environment Statement states that a “capture, rescue and translocation exercise will be required” to move snakes, toads, lizards, etc. from the construction area to the surrounding habitat [which would include the Copse as the largest such adjacent area], followed by the installation of reptile proof fencing to prevent such creatures from returning to the construction site. This would imply that the Copse should be fenced off in order to meet site ecological needs. Does WDC intend to carry out this obligation? Agreed that the copse was the best place for this temporary fenced refuge during the infrastructure phase.
26. Traffic problems at the end of Kingswood Avenue from cars parking on the bend outside Pightle Cottage between Barnes Corner crossroads and the Middle School. CB said that if there was a strong demand via the public consultation for yellow lines, they will add them.
Timings At least a year until building starts; 9 months for infrastructure; House building 2/3 years.
The outline planning application for the Ashwells development, has now been submitted to Wycombe District Council. The application (Ref. 18/05002/R9OUT) can be viewed by going to www.wycombe.gov.uk and clicking on ‘Find a planning application’. The Site Notice confirms the deadline for submitting comments is 26 Feb 2018.
The Residents Society has prepared an overview, a detailed map of the proposed plan and a comprehensive list of all the documents that are available on the WDC website.
The following article is to be published in the next edition of Village Voice. Please keep returning to this page as we will add more information as it becomes available.
The application for Ashwells has been prepared and submitted by Savills on behalf of WDC, who own the land, for the erection of up to 102 dwellings (fewer than the 120 proposed in the Local Plan) and the Masterplan shows the proposed access roads, housing layout and public open space and landscaping. The former chalk pit will also be retained and landscaped to add to the public open space. Existing footpath access through the site will be retained or realigned. The plan allows for the extension of the new road through the site to the south to connect with the adjoining development area of 6 houses (Parcel 9) of the Gomm Valley development.
The 102 houses will be made up of 16 x 4-bed, 59 x 3-bed, 20 x 2-bed and 7 self-build houses, in a combination of detached houses, semi-detached houses, and terraces, with a density on 4ha (10 acres) of 25.5 dwellings per hectare. Parking standards will be 2 spaces per 2/3 bed dwelling, and 2.5 per 4-bed dwelling. The visualisations show mostly traditional-looking 2-storey houses with a few of 2 1/2 stories. The 7 self-build houses will be encouraged to adopt more contemporary designs. The council is looking at ways to include some starter homes/shared equity houses for first-time buyers with local connections. It is an Outline application so no detail design is shown for the dwellings, but it is the Council’s stated aim to achieve good quality design and materials.
The first thing completed will be the widening of Cock Lane between the pumping station/cemetery entrance and the phone mast, from approx. 3.7 m to 6.0 m. A new access road connects into the development at the mid-point, about 50 metres further down Cock Lane than previously illustrated. A pedestrian crossing doubles as the only proposal for traffic calming on this section. Once the development is completed the existing Ashwells exit will only be used for vehicles leaving the site. All ingoing traffic will be via the new access road.
Widening of Cock Lane south of the Ashwells site is not included in this application. Further details of any connection of Cock Lane to the proposed new spine road through to Gomm Road will be included in the Gomm Valley development application. Documents in this application make it clear that there is no current safety issue with Cock Lane with only 5 slight injuries over 5 years, and none in the section we wish to retain as a single track.We are strongly opposing any such through-road connection or widening of Cock Lane south of the new access road.
The enabling works, building the new access road and putting in groundworks and infrastructure, will all be carried out as Phase 1 of the development. The Council’s aim is to complete the infrastructure then dispose of serviced sites to housebuilders, with 7 serviced plots to self-builders. Construction traffic for the Phase 1 infrastructure works will use the existing Ashwells cul-de-sac access. Construction traffic for subsequent phases will use only new access road.
Middle School & New Road
Sensible proposals have been included for improvements to the pick-up and drop-off arrangements for Middle School. using the existing car park, with a central island to cross the lane to an improved footpath through the trees. Another central island is proposed for Barnes Corner where the children cross, with two chicanes to slow traffic further down New Road each with illuminated bollards and signage.
Documents & Comment
There is a mass of 63 documents including a transport assessment and construction management. A useful list describing the content of all the 63 documents has been drawn up by Gerry King and can be found below. Our initial impression is that the plans for the site itself are acceptable although we will have criticisms to make, and will vehemently oppose any suggestion of a widened through-route to the London Road.
“The petition ‘Keep Cock Lane Single’ was closed on 20th November with 539 signatures. Whilst many had anticipated that this would be treated as a single-ward issue, causing a debate of the whole Council, WDC has decided it is a multi-ward issue that requires 8,000 signatures for a debate. We are in discussion with them about this decision.”
please click on the link below to open the document.
Gomm Valley & Ashwells Development Brief, meeting with Wycombe District Council 20th June 2017
The full Report of the meeting and follow up with Penelope Tollitt, Head of Planning & Sustainability, is available. The final document will be presented to WDC Cabinet on 10th July and then to the Planning Inspector later in the year.
ASHWELLS DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS
In November 2016 the following comments agreed by the Ashwells Forum, which includes the PTG Residents Society, Chepping Wycombe Parish Council, County & District Councillors and neighbouring residents from Ashwells, Wheeler Avenue/Carter Walk, and Sandpits Lane, were submitted to Wycombe District Council as there were real concerns about the proposed development. The full document is available to read here.
Gomm Valley & Ashwells Development Brief, July 2016
Comments agreed & submitted in October 2016, by the Ashwells Forum which includes the PTG Residents Society, Chepping Wycombe Parish Council, County & District Councillors and neighbouring residents from Ashwells, Wheeler Avenue/Carter Walk, and Sandpits Lane
Wycombe District Council issue their Development Brief for the Gomm Valley & Ashwells developments, requesting residents submit comments by the end of October 2016. The Ashwells Forum agreed that the brief is well written, with excellent plans. We particularly welcome the intention to set aside in perpetuity the undeveloped land for a variety of uses and the proposed network of footpaths which we would like to see retain a rural feel rather than be given a tarmac surface.
However, when we compare these proposals with those on which we were consulted in 2014 we find a dramatic increase in the scale of development which alters the whole nature of the proposals.
- Parcel 9 has been added without any justification. We note sadly that it is Best and Most Versatile agricultural land.
- Parcel 11, has been added, despite being shown on Fig 3.12 as being in a more visible area of the site when looking from outside. It is also considerably higher ground than the existing Ashwells houses and so will overbear and overlook them.
- Parcels 7 & 8 have also been added for development and this reduces the separation between communities from the earlier 600m to less than 200m. This is not sufficient to achieve the ‘crucially important sense of separation’ required (5.4).the full document is available to read here: web-v-ashwells-development-brief-oct-16-002