Recently Ben Howlett, MP for Bath, presented to the House of Commons a petition in support of an A36/A46 link road to ease the flow of traffic from the south coast to the M4.
Mr Howlett said that the petition was signed by 2846 concerned residents. These signatories - an unimpressive number given the population of Bath - are of course residents of Bath, not of the area that would be blighted by any new link road.
Freshford Parish Council, along with neighbouring councils in the Valley Parishes Alliance, is firmly opposed to plans for an A36/A46 link. The idea has been considered and rejected at intervals over recent years as it would not solve Baths traffic issues but would create significant additional problems.
Avon Valley Action Group
The Valley Parishes Alliance has set up The Avon Valley Action Group whose website gives full background on why a link road has been rejected in the past and why it should be again.
West Wiltshire District Council /Cabinet/5 December 2007
Appendix 2: Spatial strategy options
"A" Strategically significant town. The primary focus for development. "B" Market towns suitable for locally significant growth. "C" Small towns and villages for smaller scale development to meet local needs.
Wiltshire Council routinely reject planning appeals
Dr Sally VansonInteresting, at the recent parish Council meeting the local Wiltshire Counsellor admitted that planning applications which the Parish Council and most neighbours have objected to will probably go through 'because the Council don't like the expense of appeals'. There are two dreadful applications in at the moment and more to come. Do we really want our village to be turned into a racetrack when we have only just got the 20mph limit.
Westwood and sustainable development
Westwood is relatively remote, is a green belt area and therefore unsustainable for development from the perspective of traffic generation, retail provision and other facilities. It is clear that some well-located new housing and local employment schemes will always be necessary, but developers are now laying siege to the village - emboldened by Conservative-run growth-at-any-cost obsession."
Local highway network (Classified unnumbered C roads)
I am concerned that Lower Westwood is totally unsuitable for the two developments proposed, because of the sporadic nature of existing residential development, the danger of the road at the pinch point, the capacity of the local highway network and the foul and surface-water infrastructure to cope and the rural character of the village. If you also object please go onto the Council website and do so formally as well as writing to our local MP.
Please note that the two C roads that go through Westwood one of which merges with the other lie in beautiful countryside (AONB). Parts of Westwood are in Conservation areas and there are some mediaeval buildings. There is no possibility of altering these roads without destroying this part of the countryside. There is considerable out-commuting from West Wiltshire which uses the Lower Westwood road to get to the city of Bath and beyond.
FRESHFORD NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN - PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU VOTE.
In the Parish Council minutes Nick Stevens has asked the PC to consider a pay rise for Ingrid due to the extra workload anticipated from the expected surge in planning applications, resulting from the implications of the Plan. This is minuted.
As Nick Stevens was the main architect of this document and had planning advice, he has confirmed that a 'yes' Vote is a 'yes' to more development. Future Parish Councils and BANES will not be able to say no to a development that is allowed under the new plan.
[Editors note the statement in paragraph two above needs to be confirmed by the government]
The plan states:
"Planning and Development to drive and support sustainable development which delivers homes, business and infrastructure, helping our community to flourish as it meets present and future demands ...."
This gives an assumption to allow development. All development is sustainable as we have a train station, school, surgery, shop etc... The parish council and BANES will have to allow all, but the most extreme developments, and a good planning expert would probably get those through with this wording.
"Environment: to protect and enhance our natural, built and historic environment within the Green Belt, Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Local Conservation Areas. At the same time we want to live in a vibrant community which provides for and supports, people of all ages."
The last sentence is a developers dream. He/she can argue that this takes priority over all the rest. The Government states that we need more houses and this is acknowledged and identified in the plan - BANES needs to find 1100 new homes in the rural environment. Green Belt, Cotswold AONB – these all become niceties. They will not protect sites earmarked for development. An example is Southstoke, Bath, which will have a 600 housing scheme built in the Green Belt. For an example of infill, look at Norton St Philip. BANES have posted a leaflet, which states that they are keen to develop in rural areas. Your Parish Council aim is to do the same and they will be able to, if the plan goes through.
"Definition of an infill site:
Infill is the filling of a gap normally capable of taking no more than two houses. Infill development must be
consistent with the policies set out in the Plan and preserve the openness of the Green Belt."
The wording 'normally' allows for this not to be a rigid requirement and again, a good planning expert in the pro development environment we are now in, would allow many more., especially as all developments would be considered sustainable. I believe the word 'normally' has been put in to allow for total planning flexibility.
Also, the above wording is different from the Local Plan. I believe that this would allow a bulldozer to be driven through this clause and allow a free for all by developers and any one with a big garden. The Local Plan's definition is much tighter and designed to protect the Green Belt. The development committee are not happy with this and have been ignored by Nick Stevens group, who put the final document together.
For example, developments along the High Street would mostly be refused under the Local Plan and the present planning. This will not be the case once the New Plan is ratified.
"....To Allow for additional housing on infill sites within the village Settlements Areas.
To pursue the objective of seeking to find an appropriate site or sites within the NP Area for Affordable Housing. "
The emphasis is to allow for additional housing for profit. The high value of a planning permission for a house in Freshford, will result in a considerable number of houses being built. The openness of the Settlement area will rapidly change and the traffic will inevitably increase. Our historic road system will not cope.
"8.1.03 To support sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments that benefit business in this area and which respect the character of thecountryside "
Holiday homes and a campsite - all very up market. How can we refuse with this statement in our Plan?
"8.2 Policies..." The Plan supports the sustainable growth and expansion of local businesses and enterprise in the following ways:
In respect of 8.1.01, above Planning and Development Policy, the villages Design Statement and Housing and Affordable Housing Policies."
As a Developer this plan is an invitation to develop within the envelope. The fact that it is so pro development would be an argument to push the boundaries out, especially if they are not identified as Local Green Spaces. The development of holiday homes and business may well be allowed anywhere.
Developers will be shouting "Christmas!" and there are a lot in this locality, some of whom were involved in giving advice on the 'opportunities' with regards to Planning .
Finally, it is important to know that many of the Parish Councillors involved in drafting the Development Plan have a vested interest, which they have not declared. Some, who have been asked directly, have refused to confirm whether they are set to gain substantially from the Development Plan. Many have included their land and gardens in the development envelope. I believe that the Plan is being used, by those advising us, for personal greed. Their recent circular is considered to be biased, leading and divisive and they have been asked to withdraw it by members of the community. THIS IS A BETRAYAL OF TRUST.
A NO vote gives us the protection under the existing Local Plan. If you Love this village please vote NO.
Can your local authority build in the Green Belt? Possibly, Cumnor in Oxfordshire is facing this problem and a letter was written to the Government. The issue is discussed and documented at: Cumnor says No!
The thread on Google Groups has an extensive list of references that are useful for any community that is developing its Neighbour Plan.
The key article is: Letter sent on behalf of Nick Boles MP - Dept. for Communities and Local Government.
The Circle theory of planning and Freshford's Hydro electric generator
The Circle Theory of Planning
The Circle Theory of Planning ignores all boundaries. A circle is drawn centred on the site location for the planning application under consideration. In words one might say "consider everything within 2 miles of a site". When planners apply the Circle theory everyone within the circle should have an opportunity to comment on a planning application and environmental factors would be considered by consulting national agencies.
Parish councils receive invitations to comment on planning applications at their regular monthly meetings. It is the councillors at these meetings that represent the public. They are aware of the possible implications of the planning application which can be gleaned from the application and the accompanying plans together with comments supplied in person or in writing from residents. This is democracy in action at the lowest level.
The application of the Circle theory of Planning is made by setting the radius of the circle. Residents living within that circle constitute the population that need to be consulted, not consulted directly, except for close neighbours to the application location, but by the circulation of applications to parish councils, and by invitations to submit comments to Development Control. Unfortunately, the planning application submitted to install an Archimedean screw generator close to Freshford Mill did not benefit from the application of the Circle Theory of Planning. Benefit in the sense of doing justice to Mr John Burnett's application and to informing the population within the defined circle. But then the Circle Theory of Planning does not exist, I have just invented it. However the concept does now exist and it is up to others to decide whether it is useful or not.
The location of the proposed Archimedean Screw Generator by Freshford Mill
Officially, the planning application mentions as its location a parcel of land: Application Number: 11/05463/FUL Address: Parcel 7436, Rosemary Lane, Freshford, Bath, Bath And North East Somerset, BA2 7UD
Proposal: Installation of a hydroelectric scheme comprising of an Archimedes Screw turbine which will be recessed into the river bank adjacent to the weir, in a concrete channel and a fish pass.
I doubt whether anyone other than planning would know where the parcel of land is located. To make matters worse the application mentions not Freshford Mill weir but Farthingham weir. One local I spoke to, who was born in Freshford almost 50 years ago, said she had never heard of the name Farthingham. I found reference to Farthingham in local historian Alan Dodges's scholarly book on Freshford. Farthingham is a field. As far as I know the weir is referred to not by name other than Freshford weir or Freshford Mill pond- the place where many locals have gone swimming since time immemorial. By not clearly identifying the location of the proposal in language that local people can understand there has been yet another possible, but unintended, injustice to the integrity of Mr Burnett's application. To fully appreciate the problem it is necessary to consider Freshford's unique location in terms of boundaries.
The administrative boundaries of Freshford and its hamlets
The village of Freshford is partly in Somerset or to be correct in terms of administrative areas in Bath and North East Somerset (BANES). The village is also partly in Wiltshire. For BANES Development Control (Planning) there are additional factors that can create problems of communication with the public and the wider public who may have concerns about a particular planning application. In addition to a possible need to communicate with Wiltshire's Westwood and Limpley Stock parishes, some of Freshford is in the parish of Hinton Charterhouse.
A development proposal, in this case the application to install an Archimedes screw generator on the River Frome has environmental implications that need to be routinely investigated by national agencies. Both the Environment Agency and English Nature needed to be consulted. Unfortunately, since the generator is going to be located over Freshford's Parish boundary in Hinton Charterhouse (HC) only residents living in HC were informed. Apparently, the generation of noise seemed to have been disregarded by Planning in this application. Sound travels through air and gradually dissipates, as sound travels in waves, and waves can be reflected, sound may travel further than one would think. As residents along the Frome Valley know sound does travel further than one may think. those who live on the North side of the Frome valley hear A36 traffic noise, we also hear the weir, when the level of traffic on the A36 is low. We also have two or three weekends of noise from motorcycle events over by Farley Hungerford Castle. Similarly those living across the Avon valley in the parish of Winsley may also hear the A36. BANES Development Control did not exactly ignore the noise issue but failed to realise that the proposed development could cause distress to local people who live in different counties and in different parishes. Drawing a circle on a map would have identified residents who could be affected by this proposal and their involvement could have been arranged. A significant number of residents who could be affected by noise live in Wiltshire and those that live in BANES also may live in Freshford parish, rather than Hinton Charterhouse, and some of those that live in Hinton Charterhouse were not informed, probably because they were not close to the weir.
The Frome valley is also regularly visited by people on foot who are enjoying the beauty of this area. It is thus, with the village and hamlets a place of recreation and relaxation in close proximity to large built up areas and regularly enjoyed by local residents, it is green belt. It is thus important to preserve the peaceful nature of the Frome valley where it joins with the River Avon valley not just for the public at large but also for residents. It is a shame that the whole area hasn't been given to the National Trust.
Apparently, there is no need to post a Planning Application notice on a local telegraph pole, lamp post etc. in BANES and possibly elsewhere, which is the usual method to communicate with the public. The result of such an omission has been rising resentment and suspicion and not to mention alarm once locals became aware of the proposal. That coupled with the failure to inform Freshford and Westwood Parish Councils has again been unfair to Mr Burnett who has submitted all the information required.
The developers of the Freshford Mill site said to me that they couldn't afford to install a working waterwheel to generate electricity and a dummy one was inserted into the plans. This is a project for a real generator that provided it is not considered to be an eyesore, which I do not think it will be, and does not create a noise nuisance, which is unlikely owing to its design, should be welcomed as a significant contribution to renewable energy generation locally. Unfortunately, as mentioned above the public were not fully informed.
The software which is widely used by local authorities is not working properly with IE 8 or IE 7, come to that Safari, so I suppose, the other browsers as well. See screenshot below
If one clicks on "Submit Comments" one is presented with a Property Search window. One has to click on the "Associated documents" tab then select "View associated documents" and then select "Comment on application" Residents trying to comment on the Aroona planning application have had considerable difficulty doing so. I have used three desktop PCs to check on whether it is just my problem but with the same results. This is a software issue as both Wiltshire and B&NES planning portals which use the same software respond in the same way.
I emailed Idox the software company early in January and have not had an answer yet. The situation is worse now (February 6th) as all the documents have disappeared -restored later. The Bath Chronicle has picked up the story, in relation to an application to erect a phone mast at Twerton.
Recently a hoarding was erected at Freshford Mill. I thought that planning permission had to be sought to do this? However as confirmed by the mock-up the hoarding shows what we feared most. That is that the new buildings will have little in common with the older buildings and with any houses in Freshford which are made almost exclusively of local stone.
The artist's rendition does not show the fact that the buildings will be raised three metres above the existing ground level to give a measure of protection against floods. These new buildings should be made of local stone and we do not see any justification for approving this development as it is currently proposed. These buildings look more like a development in Essex.
I understand that the landscape by Freshford Mill bridge is going to be altered by the removal of trees to allow a new telephone line together with poles to be connected to the new development. When Peradins owned the mill site the telephone line was further up Rosemary lane and I don't see any goood reason why the line can't be restored to where it used to be. What I can imagine is a disturbance that could effect the beauty of this part of the river Frome landscape. The two photographs below show the existing beauty of the landscape.
The view up the river Frome from Freshford Mill bridge, which is an Ancient Monument, in July 2008. The view is not marred by telephone lines. Telephone lines are just one of the blights on the landscape of today.
The view down Rosemary lane near Freshford Mill bridge. The view is not marred at present (July 2008) by telephone lines and poles.
I have been to the Freshford Fete today. I suppose I was not surprised to learn that Ypres Rose the developer is generously supporting the fete. However, I saw a reminder that the new build would consist of buildings that in my opinion are not appropriate to this area of the country. The predominent building material in Somerset and Wiltshire is stone. So why are Ypres Rose allowed to build houses made of brick and block rendered walls and cedar cladding. Cedar cladding is quite popular in the United States as it is a cheap durable material. It is used on quality garden sheds but is hardly appropriate in the South West of England. The photograph below is of a garage in Sharpstone. I consider this building, even though it is a garage to be a fine building which is in harmony with its environment. It is not only a great pity that the buildings which I consider to be inferior in design at Freshford Mill have been approved by planning it also raises questions about the planning process.
Development Control: Support Application: 07/03529/OUT
Further to my last comment on this application I would like to add that I have taken a video camera up to the proposed location of our village shop and post office. The reason that I decided it was necessary to use a video camera is because I was surprised to read the adverse comments made on the application by the Landscape Architect and Conservation officer. In particular that by the conservation officer: "that a building of this size cannot fail to have an impact on the open character of this area"
I disagree. I have found that the existing village hall is either invisible or hardly visible from a number of locations that are open to the public: the footpaths to and from this part of Freshford lane and most of Freshford Lane. Since the proposed location of the shop is by the corner of Galleries field immediately adjoining Freshford Memorial Hall car park, it follows that if the hall is not visible, then surely the proposed shop would be also, certainly that corner of Galleries field is either invisible or hardly visible. Unless of course if one was immediately in front of it. The videos may accessed at: Videos of location of Shop
I shall also post a DVD containing the ten videos to Planning.
I have published my comments on the planning application below:
Although a Wilsthire resident I live closer to Freshford village centre than to Westwood. To save fuel I would prefer to shop in Freshford as it is only a short walk away. The proposed application does provide parking for those who need to do more shopping and who are dropping off or collecting children from the school. This will reduce the congestion along Freshford Lane. As the proposed shop is located adjoining the Freshford Memorial Hall and is close to a children's playground the shop will foster community relations and reduce the risk to children from traffic. I don't think that the location of the shop would detract from the appearance of the neighbourhood.
Now that Freshford Mill is back on the market for any would-be developer to make a profit from building houses, nothing intrinsically wrong with that, except that in this case, the houses are not needed, it is time to review the alternative plan for the site. I have published the argument on the Freshford Mill web site Alternative Plan for Freshford Mill and there is also a letter on the Letter to the Prime Minister's website: Planning Permission . .. . which my company also hosts.
I still agree that it is a desirable plan and had been approved back in February 2005. However I would like to add that in addition to the recreational features of the plan a working mill to generate electrical power for the village should be considered. There are other mills along the Frome river that have been restored to use or will be shortly. The mill at Tellisford which is no more than a decent walk up river is a prime example of what can be achieved. EDF provide grants and a news item from the press room of EDF on Tellisford Mill can be read here. Tellisford Mill
A working mill would not only bring much needed and increasingly expensive electrical power to the village but would also add to the educational value of the plan.
The problem is where does the money come from to buy the site? We can't exactly have a whip round! But the alternative plan is one that deserves financial support. On the Freshford Mill website I have argued that the village of Freshford and its unique location in the Limpley Stoke valley where the river Frome meets the Avon, amidst wooded steep hills, is a particularly attractive part of the country that we are privileged to live in and have a duty to protect. There are so many other parts of the country that are by contrast bleak and desolate. I am aware that this is the case but the public does not realise this, after all who wants to photograph such places? There is a website "Crap Towns" or rather series of books, that does try to address the issue of poor planning and local indifference.Crap Towns (I don't like that word either!) is a good starting place.
Money should be available to help remove eyesores like Peradins. The money should not have to come from developers as then developers will ignore similar development land to Freshford Mill and seek green field sites (which is what they are doing) or be unable to provide the quality of building that is appropriate. Government should, therefore, be willing to assist with off-setting the initial costs of site restoration. This is an issue that would-be Freshford Mill developers face, although in this case the Peridins site should not have been given planning consent to create a new settlement in a flood plain in the first place! (this issue is still being investigated)
With that planning consent the value of the land shot up. Now perhaps it will dwindle, but to buy the site for the Rural Recreational Area, Nature Sanctuary and Workshops project, money will have to be found. The trouble is that Freshford and its surrounding villages is considered to be populated by "well to do" people and the government tends to "throw money" into projects that are only located in deprived and run down areas. In our case, we need to argue that in this area of the countryside (Somerset and Wiltshire), both the land and the built environment provide an area where people can come to relax and recuperate for a modest outlay in terms of transport or fuel. Money spent here is actually beneficial to those who live in run-down areas, as it provides an opportunity to spend some prime time in the countryside. The value of which Prince Charles has alluded to in his book a A Vision of Britain It should be remembered that Freshford is but a decent cycle ride from the World Heritage City of Bath and is a place where both visitors from overseas and Bath citizens can come to enjoy the beauty of the existing English countryside (a lot of it has gone, and will go) Freshford is also accessible from Bristol, which is one of the most densely populated cities in Britain and whose citizens surely deserve a range of places in which to unwind.
Properly managed, and with a working mill, Freshford Mill could provide a wonderful day out for children not only from the cities of Bath, Bristol and the towns that are close to the Avon and Frome valleys but all the other children that live in Somerset, Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire. I can imagine even steam trains being employed (at sensible prices!) Mind you we would need a Mcdonalds or KFC or a special menu down The Inn!
I have received the following email indirectly from Stuart Campbell the chairman of Freshford Parish Council. The email is of importance to Freshford residents who happen to reside in Wiltshire rather than BANES and is therefore published here:
Subject: Planning Representation of Residents in Counties Bordering Freshford.
If someone lives in Wiltshire and is interested in commenting on a B&NES application , then I suppose that they can comment direct to B&NES, but should also ask their district councillor to contact B&NES and support their view. This would certainly be more powerful than expecting B&NES officers to place adequate weight on non-resident comment.
This is a personal view and I think any Wilts resident would be well advised to ask their councillor how to comment effectively to a bordering unitary authority. They could also contact their PC as we refer bordering applications to them (And vice versa), normally in our case to Limpley Stoke and there is nothing to stop a PC in Wilts commenting to B&NES either directly or through us. This happened with the Mill (Westwood PC) but I have no idea how much weight was given to such comments.
Hope this is helpful.
There are number of observations that I am thinking about here. I am going to number them to facilitate discussion, but before I do so there aren't any counties bordering Freshford as parts of Freshford are in more than one county. Unless Freshford is a village that is by definition only in B&NES?
1. First there is the notion of where someone who considers themselves a resident of Freshford lives and the effect that may have on planning decisions. I live a little nearer to the centre of Freshford than Stuart, yet I live in Wiltshire. My postal address is Freshford, Bath etc. My daughter and her family live a few hundred yards from Freshford school where my grandchildren are being educated. Is my daughter and her family not residents of Freshford?
Because we live in Wiltshire does that mean that BANES planning may place lesser weight on our responses to planning applications than people who live in BANES and possibly on the outskirts of Freshford.
2. A village is by definition "a very small town in a country area" whereas a town is by definition a "place with many houses, shops/stores, etc. where people live and work. It is larger than a village but smaller than a city." Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 7th edition 2005. I think everyone will agree that Freshford is a village. The word "village" is also from Old French and from Latin and refers to belonging to a country house eg. a manor house.
3. Freshford has hamlets: Sharpstone, Park Corner, Woodside, and Staples Hill. The buildings in Staples Hill are less than 80 feet from the county boundary between Wiltshire and Bath and North East Somerset. are we seriously to believe that the planners in the Unitary authority of B&NES will regard and have regarded comments on planning applications from Wiltshire residents as of being of lesser importance than those of rsidents who live in B&NES?
4. Stuart Campbell has been chairman of Freshford Parish Council for many years and should be better acquainted with the manner in which planning decisons are made. Yet although the BBC provides a guide to running a parish council and to taking part in one's local community it does not provide such guidance and the government does not either, or if it does it is not found easily using a Google search.
5. If it is the case that residents of a village that are also residents of another county have a lesser say in the decisions that are made in that village, in this case Freshford Somerset then what may we say about the rights of the former Head of Planning at B&NES Ludek Majer a Czech national? to make major decisions about planning that affect Freshford and surrounding countryside?
6. I can understand Stuart making observations about the planning process that affects us as the complete fiasco of Freshford Mill must have shaken his faith in local democracy. How can it be that such a decision can be made, in spite of the depth of feeling against the development. The planners went entirely against the wishes of the residents of this village whether they reside in B&NES or Wiltshire.
7. It is an anachronism that such concepts of residency should be based on arbitary boundaries that have no or little relevance to the 21st Century and the environmental problems that we face.
8. I suspect that discrimination based on which side of a boundary one lives on is against the European Charter to Safegard Human Rights in Cities as such descrimination is breaking the Principal of Proximity. Or of course maybe that Right is not applicable to villages?
9. Another observation I would like to make is that I don't expect my local parish council (Westwood) to support my views, why should they? They might disagree with my views. All B&NES planning has to do to consider whether a citizen's opinion on a proposal is to be considered with greater care or not is look at a map. Indeed, on the contrary, what if the opinion on a proposal came from an eminent authority who is not a resident? Often a parish council may commision a report from some expert to support objections to a planning application. Or is this just a case of being snowed under with paperwork, otherwise, why can't any Tom Dick or Harry submit their opinion on a proposal. What should count is the veracity of the argument, for or against the proposal, not whether the objector lives here or there. This does not diminish the argument of someone who because of where they live will be more affected by planning being approved or not, as the veracity of their argument may be greater because they perceive the effects of the planning application if its approved or rejected.