Monday, 6 October 2014

Grave Threat to Stockbridge and Longstock from Developers


Latest News: The Test Valley Northern Planning Committee voted to refuse permission for this development at their meeting on 13th November 2014. A splendid result, but not necessarily the end of the matter. 

Stockbridge High St. The site of the the proposed development is the green field above the trees at the far end of the street.
The representation of visual effect of the proposed building of 46 houses above Stockbridge and Longstock, as seen from the Down
Stockbridge and the linked village of Longstock lie in the Test River valley, in some of the most picturesque and unspoilt countryside in Hampshire. The town of Stockbridge has a long and interesting history, having developed from its Roman origins as a key causeway across the river into a thriving centre for fishing and country sports, and is particularly famed for its unusual range of independent shops which flank the broad high street. At either end there is downland and open countryside, and on either side lie a fine grazing marsh and water meadows. 

For the past year the town has been under threat from plans for a completely inappropriate development initiated by a well-connected local councillor seeking personally to benefit from the sale of the proposed site. Apart from the fact that having a councillor who is not able to represent his constituents on an important local issue (as he has to declare an interest and absent himself from any discussion), natural justice requires that our elected councillors should not be able to benefit from large-scale development in areas they represent. 

Currently the developers, David Wilson Homes, have resubmitted their plans for consideration by Test Valley Borough Council before any decision has been taken, as the result of initial fierce local opposition. However, the revised plans do nothing at all to change the basic objections, and have been soundly condemned by many, including the National Trust.  There is no doubt that the development itself would have a dramatic adverse visual impact on the town of Stockbridge and change its aspect and character forever. 

The basic objections to the plans can be summarised as follows:

£  This urban style development is still far too large; it is not suited to its rural location and will only serve to encourage further inappropriate development in the countryside surrounding Stockbridge. 
*Contrary to Chap 7, Policy E1 & Policy E2 of the emerging TVBC Local Plan and Longstock & Stockbridge VDS.

£  In the revised plans David Wilson Homes (DWH) admit that the proposed development of 46 houses and flats will be visually intrusive in this area of open countryside.  The suggested tree planting will do little to address visibility, day or night.  The proposal will significantly change the appearance of the area and have no relationship with the established character and development pattern of the surrounding villages.  It will appear as a sporadic urban development that is out of character and context with this part of the Test Valley.  This site will permanently compromise and irrefutably erode this rural area, irrevocably damaging the character of Stockbridge. 
*Contrary to Chap 7, Policy E1 & Policy E2 of the emerging TVBC Local Plan, Longstock & Stockbridge VDS and Chap 11 & 12 of the NPPF.

£  The affordable housing offered in this development still does not meet actual need for all three parishes.  Current housing figures as at August 2014 show a total requirement for 35 properties;

1 Bed
2 Bed
3 Bed
4 Bed
Total
Actual Need
31
3
1
0
35
Proposed
3
11
3
1
18

It is clear that the affordable housing offered in this development will not be filled by people with a local connection to the three parishes, contrary principles of rural affordable housing.   These 18 affordable properties are simply being used to justify building 28 market value houses in undeveloped countryside outside of the defined settlement boundary. 
*Contrary Policy E2 and COM 8 of the emerging TVBC Local Plan and Para 7 and Chap 9 of NPPF.

£   The site is not sustainable.  There is limited employment in Stockbridge and the surrounding villages which will result in residents from this development commuting.  There is only a very limited bus service - no other public transport exists and roads are unsuitable for cyclists.  The site is too far away from the nearest towns to encourage walking.  This will result in an environmentally unacceptable increase in traffic through Stockbridge.  The economic benefits offered by this proposal are overstated and would duplicated if this development were placed anywhere within the Test valley.  Stockbridge cannot cope with such a significant increase in population, it will overwhelm existing infrastructure and result in an unacceptable reduction in service to its current residents. 
*Contrary to Chap 4 Para 4.1 of the emerging TVBC Local Plan, Para 7 and Chap 3 & 4 of NPPF.

£  The development site already experiences problems with rain water runoff which will be exacerbated once built upon.  DWH are using run off statistics collated in 2012 prior to last winter’s flooding**.  Siting a development of this size above a flood plain fails to safeguard existing residents from future flooding.   
*Contrary to Policy E7 of the emerging TVBC Local Plan and Chap 10 & 11 of NPPF.

The local planning officer hearing the case is Mr Jason Owen of Test Valley Borough Council. He can be contacted on planning@testvalley.gov.uk or an online form exists for objection to be filed by 14th October

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