Ashley Parish Council submission in relation to proposed development at 28 High Street 17/01171/OUT

Introduction

The Parish Council, after due consultation with the residents of Ashley, is strongly opposed to the proposed development on the land behind 28 High Street, Ashley (“28 High Street site” or “the Site”). The Parish Council and the residents are not opposed to development in Ashley which is appropriate for the scale and nature of our rural village and is infill, in accordance with the 2015 Lo-cal Plan and the proposed new local plan. For example, no objection was raised to the proposed development of 3 houses on Gazeley Rd / Dalham Rd junction in 2016 [Ref 16/01213/OUT ] and the more recent application for a house in the grounds of 1 Gazeley Road [17/.

By contrast, the 28 High Street site is not appropriate for the village, does not meet the require-ments of the National planning framework to be sustainable, and is not in accordance with the ECDC Local Plan 2015 or as envisioned in the new draft ECDC Local Plan now under considera-tion (“the DLP”). Furthermore it is entirely against the wishes of the residents of Ashley as ex-pressed in the Ashley Parish Plan (2005) and more recently at a meeting in June 2017.

We understand that the Applicant acquired the site in 2016 with the express purpose of demolish-ing the existing house and taking advantage of the absence of a local plan, and therefore planning restrictions in Ashley, to profit from the site. As such this application is purely speculative and is not what was envisioned by East Cambs District Council in its original ‘call for sites’ which was aimed at local landowners keen to assist their local communities with sympathetic development.

We note that the foreword to the March 2016 first draft of the Local plan, by James Palmer, then leader of the council. This said: the call for sites would enable the council to find additional sites

“in places we want such growth to take place (and not in places where speculative developers pick and choose).

The 2015 Local Plan and the DLP preclude any development for Ashley other than infill. We there-fore do not think that the 28 High Street site is what ECDC envisage or want.

The Applicant claims repeatedly that East Cambs is unable to demonstrate a 5 year housing sup-ply. We agree that East Cambs has not published any data in the last 6 months to demonstrate whether it can meet the 5 year land supply. However, our understanding, based on the East Cambs Five Year Land Supply Report, published in January 2017, is that there is every likelihood that that requirement will be met. At that time, East Cambs forecast an excess of more than 400 houses compared with the 5 year need, though it acknowledged that 25% of that supply was on sites identified in the DLP but not yet formally approved. Since the DLP was issued in January 2017 we understand that a further 69 sites have been put forward for consideration.

The DLP envisaged no development for Ashley indicating strongly that Ashley is not a village in which ECDC wishes growth to occur. No sites in Ashley were put forward in the second round of site submissions (the 69 sites).

We believe that there is every likelihood that the 5 year land supply will be met from the sites put forward in the Local Plan and the 69 sites submitted in the second round with no need to take up sites put forward much later by a speculative investor seeking to profiteer from land in our village.

The main objections to this development are on matters of principle in terms of planning policy, change of use from equestrian to residential, financial damage to The Plough restaurant, damage to conservation area and listed buildings and sustainability. We are also specifically concerned about the impact on the ancient right of way, the Icknield Way, and problems relating to draining and sewerage.

The Parish Council looks forward to discussing these issues with the planning department at East Cambs District Council and representing them at a meeting of the Planning Committee in due course.

Objection in principle – 28 High Street site does not offer sustainable development

We believe that any development on the site is not in accordance with national planning guidelines and fails to meet the policies and requirements of the ECDC 2015 Local plan and the DLP. Specif-ically, the site does not offer sustainable development and does not meet policies contained within the local plans.

The National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) has at its heart the need to create sustainable development in the UK. Sustainable development is defined in National Planning Policy Frame-work as development which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The ECDC 2015 Local Plan (“the 2015 Local Plan”) follows the requirements of NPPF and explains that development and the achievement of the growth objectives of the plan should be by way of sustainable development. It defines this as “In essence it means trying to provide growth which meets the needs of local people, whilst minimising adverse social, environmental and economic impacts (now and in the future).

The DLP shifts the emphasis to one which has a presumption in favour of sustainable develop-ment: development and growth which is for the benefit of all sectors of the community: for existing residents as much as new [Policy LP1].

In our view, the site is not sustainable because the costs / damage to the local community and res-idents outweigh the benefit (if indeed it brings any benefit), inter alia, it

• cannot be supported by the local primary school

• is not supported by adequate public transport meaning that the vast majority of journeys from the site will be taken by car

• risks damaging The Plough restaurant which will no longer be seen as sitting in a rural setting

• brings no financial / economic, social, emotional or environmental benefit to the existing resi-dents of Ashley

Each of these is explored in more detail below.

In addition, we do not believe that any of the 12 core principles which support and underpin deci-sion making are met. In particular:

• high secure quality design and good standard of amenity. This is unproven as the application is outline only

• take account of different roles and character of different areas: Ashley is a small rural village and it is important that planning and development leaves our rural settlements distinctive

• Allocations of land for development should prefer land of lesser environmental value: this is land currently in equestrian use

• encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brown-field land): this land is not a brownfield site

• actively manage patterns of growth to make the fullest possible use of public transport, walking and cycling, and focus significant development in locations which are or can be made sustaina-ble: by its own admission, the applicant acknowledges that residents will be dependent on cars for journeys to school, shops and work.

Schools

The ability of our children to attend a primary school close to their own home is essential in build-ing communities. Both the children and their parents/carers get to know one another and build lasting relationships which bring community cohesion. Ashley has no primary school of its own but

the children fall into the catchment of Cheveley School, some 1.5 miles away. We understand that Cheveley school is already at capacity with no scope for expansion.

The Planning and Access statement is almost silent on the provision of primary schooling. 8.16 simply states “Ashley is 1.2 miles to the East of Cheveley and its High Street with services and fa-cilities including the primary school.“ However, the statement fails to draw attention to the fact that there is no space at the school; a key element of sustainability.

Significant housing development has occurred in Cheveley in the last 2 years and further develop-ment is proposed. We do not believe that additional housing in Ashley could be supported by Cheveley school. We believe that there is a real risk that children of existing and new residents would have to go to school elsewhere, perhaps, as already happens in some instances, with chil-dren at different primary schools. This would be bad for our community.

For at least the past two years, the reception class intake at Cheveley School has not only ex-ceeded the Published Allocation Number (PAN), but the legal class size of 30 children has been reached. Copies of the Cambridgeshire County Council reception class allocation figures for 2015 and 2016 which show this data are attached.

It is also significant that all the adjacent schools that could be used as an alternative for children from this area are also shown to be in a similar situation, so it appears that there is no extra capac-ity available.

No primary school places at the local school was one of the reasons identified by ECDC when re-jecting sites 01/01 and 02/01 put forward in the original ‘call for sites’ as a potential site in the DLP.

Damage to the business of The Plough

The Plough is a well know village restaurant which draws its clientele from all over Cambridgeshire and beyond. Meals at The Plough are legendary ! The dining room sits at the rear of the building, away from the noise of the High Street and opens on to a terrace which looks out onto the pad-docks behind 28 High Street. The outlook is rural, tranquil, attractive and holds great appeal for the customers of The Plough.

If this development was to go ahead, the attractive outlook onto the paddocks would be replaced by an outlook onto a housing development. This would hold no attraction for diners at The Plough. In addition it is all too likely that noise from cars, people and a small community in the new devel-opment would disturb the calm of the dining room set in the very traditional setting of The Plough.

We believe that this development would have a damaging impact on The Plough, reducing its ap-peal to diners as an attractive, quiet, traditional restaurant in a small rural setting.

Transport

Policy COM 7 in the 2015 Local Plan: Transport impact, states that:

Development should be designed to reduce the need to travel, particularly by car, and should pro-mote sustainable forms of transport appropriate to its particular location. Opportunities should be maximised for increased permeability and connectivity to existing networks.

Development proposals shall:

a. Provide safe and convenient access to the highway network.

b. Provide a comprehensive network of routes giving priority for walking and cycling.

By the Applicant’s own admission, residents of the new development would be forced into their cars for the primary school run and for any journey to work [Design and access statement 8.16, 8.17].

We are concerned about the Applicant’s assumption that new residents could simply use the train from Newmarket and wonder whether they appreciate that the pressure on this rail line is such that at times passengers are turned away from the train because of overcrowding. In addition with a car park for only 9 cars at Newmarket, parking on local roads is at crisis point.

Cycle access to Newmarket is hazardous and Ashley is too far from any nearby town to allow resi-dents to walk to work, shops, GP, hairdresser etc. As a consequence, we anticipate that, as for the current residents of Ashley, almost all journeys to work, school, shops or for social reasons would be taken by car.

We believe that this site would not meet the requirements of Policy COM7. Sustainable develop-ment looks for options which reduce the reliance on the car and gets people off the roads. By con-trast, this location forces people into their cars, increasing pollution and congestion on the road system.

Employment and facilities

Employment opportunities in Ashley are limited to The Plough, the village shop and The Crown with some work in local studs. For work, residents have to travel out of the village, perhaps to Newmarket or Bury St Edmunds, but more probably to Cambridge or London. The 28 High Street site would bring no new employment to the village.

Other than a local shop, public house and restaurant, the village has no facilities. Importantly, there is no post office and no doctor’s surgery which can support residents, meaning that they would need to travel to Newmarket for such services (or Moulton or Cheveley for a post office though this would still require transport by car).

The Applicant suggests that this development would bring economic benefit by providing meaning-ful employment during the period of construction. However, we do not see how this brings eco-nomic benefit to the residents of Ashley. Indeed, we question this statement if, at least in part, the proposed houses are self build as the Applicant suggests.

We believe that the potential economic damage to The Plough far outweighs the short term eco-nomic benefit that this development could make to the construction industry.

No benefit to the residents of Ashley

At the heart of the strategy for East Cambridgeshire is a desire to deliver sustainable growth; growth that is not for its own sake, but growth that brings benefits for all sectors of the community – for existing residents as much as for new ones.

As will be apparent from what has already been said and what follows in the rest of this submis-sion, this new development would bring no benefit to the community of Ashley or its residents. Ashley is a popular village and demand for houses here is high with houses frequently going ‘un-der offer’ within a very short time of being marketed. There is no risk of the village becoming mori-bund. Ashley does not need new development to keep it vibrant and to prevent the village empty-ing of its population and falling into decay.

The site is likely to damage The Plough financially, would bring no employment to the village, bring little if any financial benefit, would add to the traffic on the roads and reduce the opportunities for our children to get a place in their local school.

Para 9.09 of the Design and Access Statement sets out the Applicant’s assumptions of how this development would help the residents of Ashley. It concludes by saying “The development deliv-ers a significant benefits package that will contribute to social, economic and environmental sus-tainability.” By contrast we see no ‘benefits package’ for Ashley attaching to this development. The Applicant, who is a purely speculative investor, has no involvement with the village or knowledge of what might be of benefit to its residents.

Objection in principle – does not meet national or local planning policy

We believe that the 28 High Street site does not accord with national or local planning policy and falls outside development allowed in the 2015 Local Plan or as envisioned in the DLP. Our rea-sons are set out below.

Para 3.3.7 of the 2015 Local Plan states that “Outside the development envelopes there will be a strict policy of control over development.” and the developments will be assessed against Policy GROWTH2. That states, inter alia, that:

Outside defined development envelopes, development will be strictly controlled, having regard to the need to protect the countryside and the setting of towns and villages. Development will be re-stricted to the main categories listed below, and may be permitted as an exception, providing there is no significant adverse impact on the character of the countryside and that other Local Plan poli-cies are satisfied.

The Parish Council is of the view that the site, which sits partially inside the conservation area for Ashley and, with the exception of the house to be demolished, sits wholly outside the development envelope of Ashley, does not meet any of the exceptions given in Policy GROWTH2 and therefore should not be permitted.

At a more detailed level, the 2015 Local Plan is very clear on the limited nature of growth that it sees as appropriate for Ashley. It describes Ashley as a small village and says of it:

“Ashley is likely to continue to grow at a slow rate, with new housing being built on suitable ‘infill’ sites within the village. No new housing allocation sites are proposed on the edge of Ashley.

A ‘development envelope’ has been drawn around Ashley to define the built-up part of the village where infill development may be permitted. The purpose is to prevent sprawl into the open countryside.”

In the ‘call for sites’ made by ECDC in 2016, two sites were put forward in Ashley. In the event and after due consideration, ECDC determined that “However, no housing allocations were identi-fied for Ashley in keeping with its rural nature. The draft plan envisages that new housing would be on infill within the village [emphasis added] and should comply with LP321”. We do not believe that the 28 High Street site could be deemed to be ‘within the village’.

By contrast, the Parish Council has raised no objection to the proposal for 3 new houses on the junction of Gazeley and Dalham Roads or a single house in the garden of No1 Gazeley Road. The

houses on the junction of Gazeley and Dalham Roads are to be sited on a piece of disused land while the house in the garden of No 1 Gazeley Rd could be considered as infill. All these proposed houses sit outside the conservation area of Ashley.

Objection in principle: this would involve the conversion and removal of private equestrian land

The 28 High Street site sits on land used at the current time for private equestrian use. With the huge dominance of the racing industry in an around Newmarket, there is a dearth of suitable land available for private equestrian use. Development of this site in the way proposed would convert the land from equestrian use to residential and thus reduce this type of land even further, reducing diversity in our local communities.

The 2015 Local Plan and the DLP presume in favour of equestrian development and LP9: Equine development indicates that restrictions are likely to be put in place to prevent the subsequent con-version on new equestrian properties to residential use. In light of the presumption in favour of equestrian development, it would seem perverse if, in this instance, equestrian land was taken out of use and allowed to be converted into a housing development.

Objection in principle – development would negatively impact the conservation area and ad-jacent listed building

Ashley conservation area was designated in 2005 and a detailed appraisal carried out in 2008. Thereafter the conservation area was confirmed in order to retain and preserve the architectural and historical importance of Ashley.

ECDC Design Guide states that:

“Any development that affects the historic environment should make a positive contribution to the area and have sufficient regard for the surrounding buildings and features. Development that does not respect the character, detracts from, or has a negative impact on the area, will not be sup-ported”.

As this is an outline application, with almost all matters reserved, we have no way of knowing what design plans are intended. Indeed the Applicant himself has no idea of the design and suggests that some of proposed houses might be self build. In light of this, it is not possible to determine what impact the design of the individual houses in the proposed scheme would have on the local area. Our comments, therefore, focus on the impact overall of the development.

Adjacent to the site is The Plough restaurant; a listed building. Village records show a building on this site since around 1764. Buildings of this age are, by their nature, fragile with shallow founda-tions which are liable to damage from vibration. The Plough is already subject to the effect of large vehicles to its East side on the B1063 and the building is supported internally by two vertical steel beams. There are concerns that this vibration will be multiplied by heavy vehicles on the access road to the proposed site not only during the construction period but in perpetuity thereafter.

In addition, since the building of 28 High Street, subsidence has been caused in the ground along-side the boundary fence with The Plough believed to be caused by run off from the driveway of No 28. More recently a sink hole opened up at the front of The Plough, approximately 1 m deep. Both these matters suggest weakness below ground level. Without further detailed exploration, there is no way of knowing whether these are weaknesses which would be exacerbated by the vibration of construction traffic, refuse vehicles and residents’ cars on a daily basis.

Importantly, this proposed site does not represent infill. It sticks out at the side of the village, is not an integral part of the village, sits outside the development envelope and on green land.

Objection relating to negative impact on the Icknield Way, an ancient right of way

The Icknield Way, part of an ancient right of way stretching from Wiltshire to the North Norfolk coast runs along the North boundary of the site. Approaching Ashley from Cheveley to the West, the traveller walks through attractive and well maintained stud lands, then alongside the paddocks of 28 High Street before emerging on to Ashley High Street. If this development was allowed to go ahead, the traveller would walk through studs and then alongside a modern housing development. The sense of peace of the surroundings would be lost and the views across to The Plough would be blocked and replaced by back gardens, cars, tarmac and garden toys.

We believe that it is important to preserve our rural heritage and rights of way.

Objections relating to concerns about sewerage

The proposed site lies on land that falls away to the West such that the entrance road is higher than the land itself. The application is silent on the issue of foul drainage or whether the intention is to join the foul sewer to the East on the High Street or to the West at the far end of the plot.

If the intention is to join to the foul sewer along the High Sreet, we envisage that there will be the need to pump the effluent. The Applicant should be asked how it intends to deal with the issue of sewerage and foul drainage and what guarantees can be put in place to ensure that drains of other residents and The Plough are not blocked, damaged or affected in any way by the proposed devel-opment.

Objections on grounds of design

The East Cambs District Council Design Guide 2012 states that “High quality and inclusive design should create well mixed and integrated developments that avoid segregation and have well planned public spaces”

From what we have seen of the plans submitted, contrary to this requirement, the High Street site would be an isolated community, cut off from the rest of Ashley. It would be accessed only through the road from the High St. No one other than the residents of the development and deliveries would have any reason to go down this road. Indeed, we anticipate that anyone going into the site would be viewed with suspicion and would not be welcome.

We believe the site fails to meet any of the design and access criteria envisaged in Manual for Streets (and Manual for Streets 2) which seeks to improve and integrate our local communities.

Other matters

On going cost to the village

The proposed development contains a substantial amount of greenspace and open spaces. The Parish Council is deeply concerned about the on going maintenance and upkeep of these areas; a subject on which the application is silent.

The two biggest items of expenditure which the Parish Council faces each year are the upkeep of green spaces, including the playing field and road verges, and repairs and maintenance to the playground.

Conclusion

This response by Ashley Parish Council is necessarily long in order to deal adequately with the large number of objections which we believe can legitimately be made about this application.

We are aware that there is a significant housing shortage in the UK and that additional housing is needed in East Cambs. The 2015 Local Plan falls just short of the 5 year housing supply (approxi-mately 4.7 years) that is needed and therefore the DLP sought to find additional sites

“in places we want such growth to take place (and not in places where speculative developers pick and choose). [Foreword by James Palmer, then leader of ECDC, to Draft local plan Mar 2016 re-porting on the call for sites].

The call for sites in 2016 was not intended to reward speculative investors but to help ECDC iden-tify sites in suitable places. If this development was permitted, it would absolutely fail to meet the vision expressed in 2016. ECDC has already determined that development in Ashley is not appro-priate.

We believe that the proposed design of the site has been done so as to maximise the chances of securing planning permission rather than benefitting the residents of Ashley.

The residents of Ashley are not against appropriate, sympathetic development. The 28 High Street site is neither of these: it is an attempt by an absent landowner, who has no connection or affiliation with the village, to take financial benefit from a temporary loophole in planning regula-tions. We do not believe that this development would bring any benefit to our village.