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Councillors approve Winterborne redevelopment at Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty

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COUNCILLORS flew in the face of planning policy last week and overturned officer's recommendations to refuse the redevelopment of a corner of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The proposal involves the demolition of redundant farmyard barns on land north of Winterbourne Farm, in order to build a single dwelling together with paddocks, and extensive nearby landscaping, including the provision of a car park for use by the local community.

The North Wessex Downs AONB objected to the proposal, citing planning policy, and West Berkshire Council officers also recommended the application be turned down because of its location within the AONB.

However, Winterbourne Parish Council argued that the plans were "critically important" to the hamlet, adding that the current site was dangerous and unsightly.

Speaking at a planning meeting last Wednesday, parish representative John Hayward said of the proposal: "Aesthetically, the area is a mess at the moment and it's used for undesirable behaviour.

"The provision of a car park would be used to support community events and community spirit. The provision of public benefits are very considerable."

Another supporter of the development was resident Charles Flower, who said that the application "represents a considerable planning gain for the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in an otherwise very bleak area.

"The application will greatly enhance the AONB.

The agent for the planning application, Mark Cherrington, also told councillors that the redevelopment would bring significant improvement to the area.

He added that it would not be intrusive if it was approved and said: "We are landscaping around it, so in time it will reduce the impact further. We are not looking at putting up a mansion here."

Paul Bryant spoke favourably of the developer's intention to renovate the area and called it "a package deal". However, referring to planning policy he added that it was a question of whether members were prepared to stretch this interpretation or go by the strict letter of the law.

"Unfortunately what people want to achieve doesn't always join up with the rules and regulations.

"On balance, I rather like the scheme, but it's on balance and the rules and regulations are against it."

Debating the application, Anthony Pick (Con, St John's) was the first to go against the officers' recommendation and proposed that the redevelopment go ahead.

He said: "It tidies the land up, it's a single dwelling, and part of a complete package.

"I am considerably influenced by the degree of local support, there has been no opposition made by the local residents against it."

Planning officer Derek Carnegie then reminded councillors: "The impact on policy is significant."

Regardless, Anthony Stansfeld (Con, Kintbury) seconded the motion. He said: "If I can remind everybody that at a previous planning meeting we accepted a proposal for an ugly house with no benefits to the village, against the desires of officers and members of the parish and we still accepted it.

"For this one, the parish council supports it energetically and the village do too. There is considerable benefit to the village and I think we should accept it."

Councillors ultimately voted to approve the scheme in spite of officers' recommendations. The application will now face further scrutiny at a district planning committee.

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