Wednesday, January 14, 2009

So what went wrong with the planning application

Bonds Garage development which was granted planning application on January 2008, but why?

Regulatory Committee 10th January 2008 Planning Services , will give some idea of the strong opposition to the building of these houses in a World Heritage Site.

Note the fact that the "stand of horse chestnuts on the opposite side of the Swindon Road are dying from bacterial growth". See latest news on this one as the trees are to be chopped down;[...]95.Avebury_trees_for_the_chop/ making even more visible the houses that are to be built..

The following quotes will underline some of the strong opposition:

"KDC Landscape and Countryside Officer: No objection in principle - the planting scheme should be designed by a suitably qualified professional who can address the issues related to such a sensitive site……

The stand of horse chestnuts on the opposite side of the Swindon Road are dying from bacterial canker and once they have gone there will be open views from the site to Windmill Hill. Therefore, the dwelling design and landscape design must consider the intervisibility between the two and the need to integrate the design into the village. ......

KDC Conservation Officer: The garage was constructed to provide local services following the clearance of established houses and businesses from within the henge. It seems that the need for the garage has diminished over time and the current condition of the site is less than satisfactory. The prospect of some mitigation is therefore generally welcomed but the location is of the utmost archaeological and visual sensitivity and the Council needs to take account of the long term. Not sure that redeveloping this remote site with new housing provides the best solution.
The new houses will be seen from the bank of the henge monument and other key locations within the historic landscape. The construction of three houses well forward on the site, in particular, will significantly alter the northern approach to Avebury. In terms of the principle the scheme appears to fall foul of the Local Plan policy which states “proposals which would harm the historic landscape, archaeological features or visual setting of that part of the world heritage site … will not be permitted”. This policy echoes Objective G in the original WHS Management Plan......

As regards the detailed design of the proposed development I do not consider this to be very convincing. The terrace fronting the main road is relatively modest but the wide span of the houses produces box-like proportions. … Similarly, the units 4 and 5 appear to be designed in the form of barn pastiche with a high number of roof lights which are likely to be visible in hours of darkness from the henge. The cramped parking yard also suggests that the proposal is an over development of the site..........

World Heritage Site Officer: Objection; the proposal contravenes a number of policies within the local plan not least HH3 designed to protect the World Heritage Site from harm. The Local Plan states clearly that at paragraph 6.16 that the “protection of the World Heritage Site should take precedence over all other demands for development and the use of the land in the inscribed area”. It follows, therefore, that this planning application should be refused.
The site is located within the Avebury world Heritage Site. The UK, as a signatory to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO, 1972) must provide adequate legal protection and management mechanism for conserving the site and ensuring its outstanding universal values are transmitted to future generations. The Avebury World Heritage Site Management Plan (AMP 2005) fulfills this condition and is recognised as a material consideration in deciding planning applications.

HH3, the local plan policy on the Avebury World Heritage Site, states that developments that will harm the historic landscape, archaeological features or visual setting will not be permitted. In paragraph 6.16 it is stated that the protection of the WHS should take precedence over all other demands for development and the use of land in the area. The development could potentially harm the site in a number of ways.

World Heritage Site Landscape and Setting of Monuments ;

HH3 prioritises the historical landscape visual setting of the monuments. Management Issue 16 in the Avebury Management Plan 2005 (AMP 2005) states that the visual sensitivity of the monuments within the WHS extends to a broad area and that careful and particular consideration should be given to the visual impact of new developments affecting the WHS and its setting. The AMP 2005 emphasises the importance of the wider setting and its visual sensitivity. It draws attention to the importance of panoramic views. Objective H of the AMP 2005 is to enhance and protect the visual sensitivity of the key monuments and their settings. It highlights the retention of views from Windmill Hill as key.

The proposed development is clearly visible from the banks of the Henge monument and would have a major impact on its setting, particularly during the winter months when the beech trees are without leaves. It lies only 200m from the Henge. Although the current garage and its outlying buildings cause a certain level of intrusion, there is no justification for replacing them with housing. The WHS is of international significance and its sustainable management is key to safe-guarding its values. Simply replacing one visual intrusion with another is not a way to ensure that the site is not harmed. The AMP 2005 Issue 16 (AMP 2005) requires careful consideration of the visual impact of new developments affecting both the WHS and its setting. It also encourages the removal or screening of currently intrusive features, not simply their replacement with relatively intense housing development. The development also seems to challenge PD1 of the Local Plan which requires sensitivity to the relationship to historic features.

The Local Plan states clearly at paragraph 6.16 that ‘the protection of the World Heritage Site should take precedence over all other demands for development and the use of the land in the inscribed area’. It follows, therefore, that this planning application should be refused.

NR6 states clearly that development will be restricted to locations within the Limits of Development; this application lies outside this area in the countryside. The development would benefit neither the rural economy nor the social well-being of the community to any measurable extent. The plan contains no provision for affordable housing and there is no longer any school in Avebury that needs to raise its intake of children to remain open. Furthermore, the additional houses in Avebury will increase the need to travel and thereby compromise sustainable development.

In addition, the proposal fails to meet the requirements laid out in PD1 under B2 due to its scale and height which is not at all compatible with its position in a WHS on the approach to one of its major monuments, the Avebury Stone Circle. The barn-like development in particular is of such a scale that it will detract from the setting imposing a tall, mass across the field of vision of visitors approaching the banks of the Henge. It is crucial that the impact of the approach to the monument is maintained.

PD1 B7 clearly states that any proposal must take into account its relation to historic features, while B3 requires consideration of the relationship to landscape context. The elevation and angle of the barn building in particular is opposed to the character of a landscape internationally important for its clearly visible, outstanding monuments. The current proposals would detract markedly from the Henge’s setting. The current simulations do not accurately portray the impact of the developments significant scale and height having been done from a bird’s eye perspective. They also fail to set the development in context i.e. within close range of the banks of the Henge.

Although the removal of the garage forecourt may take away what is perceived as an eyesore locally, the seriousness of the very wide departure from local plan policy cannot be justified. It far outweighs any benefit to be gained from removal of the cars. I have mentioned in my previous comments the range of other policy the proposal does not comply with, most notably HH3; the requirement to avoid harm to the World Heritage Site. As the World Heritage Site officer I must strongly recommend that the long-term protection of the internationally recognised significance of the site is not compromised.

International Council on Monuments & Sites UK: ICOMOS-UK is recognised by government as having special status with regard to World Heritage Site. Its parent body, ICOMOS, is official advisor to UNESCO on cultural World Heritage Sites, as set out in the World Heritage Convention.

The UK has an obligation, under the terms of the World Heritage Convention 1972, to protect the Avebury part of the Stonehenge and Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage site. This does not exist as a planning entity, rather its boundaries reflects a collection of designations such as scheduled monuments, listed buildings, and conservation areas as well as parts that do not have discrete protection. Its overall protection delivered through agreed policies in local plans and in accordance with the agreed Management Plan for the site.

As has been set out clearly in the response to the application from the World Heritage Site Officer, this application is not in line with local planning policies. English Heritage has stated in their letter that this application must be determined in accordance with local and national policy guidance.
If this application is approved against the policies of the local plans, then the overall protection of the World Heritage Site is put at risk as these policies can no longer be relied upon to deliver the necessary protection as set out in the approved Management Plan for the site.

ICOMOS-UK appreciates that the existing garage may be considered an eye-sore and that development may be perceived by some to deliver ‘benefits’ in tidying up the site. However, it is in ICOMOS-UK’s view not acceptable to approve proposals that are against local policies on the grounds that they deliver benefits when the disbenefits they deliver are identified as being adverse impact on the values of the World Heritage Site.

Protection of World Heritage Sites means a commitment to sustaining the values for which the site was inscribed in the long term: these may be compromised for short-term gains or expediency. There seem to us to be other ways to tidy up this site than approving a development that is out of line with policies to protect the World Heritage Site and which could through setting a precedent undermine future protection through planning policies.

Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society: Objection, for archaeological and conservation reasons.

The proposed development lies close to the Avebury Henge; it is visible from it and whatever is built here will affect its wider setting. Five new houses built in close proximity and forward of the established building line would look out of character here and adversely affect the setting of the Henge and the village, contrary to Local Plan Policy HH3 and Structure Plan Policies HE1 and HE5 - all of which relate to the WHS as a whole; and Local Plan Policy HH1 and Structure Plan Policy HE2 which here apply in relation to the setting of the Henge. If the present tree screen were to go at some future date, the new build would also be conspicuous in longer views from the Henge towards Windmill Hill.

Similar objections from CPRE, The National Trust and The Avebury Society

And what does the local Avebury parish say....

Avebury Parish Council: no objection. The proposals represent good design and will look much better than what is there now, especially as this is one of the main routes in the World Heritage Site. It will improve the area, bring new life to the village and make a very run down area much nicer. The area can be well landscaped and it will soon lose the newness of the build.

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