Wed, 04 Mar 2020
THE planning team behind the proposed Sungrove Farm development in East Woodhay has defended the scheme following objections from the North Wessex Downs Area of Natural Beauty (AONB).
In January, the AONB opposed plans put forward by Emily von Opel – wife to billionaire Georg von Opel – to redevelop the East End site with a large multi-use, garden centre-style development, featuring a farm shop, gift shop, bakery, café, plant nursery and educational space.
A dilapidated barn would also be demolished and replaced with a much smaller agricultural dwelling.
The AONB, however, said the proposals were a “major development due to the magnitude of change within a sensitive location and the intensification of the use of the site” resulting in a “detrimental impact” to the surrounding area.
It also suggested that the scale of the development would “overly urbanise this isolated and tranquil locality to the detriment of the natural beauty of the AONB and its special qualities”.
In a six-page response to the AONB’s concerns, Planning Potential – the agent behind the proposed development – defended the proposals and reiterated its argument that the development would be of overwhelming benefit to the hamlet.
It said the application shouldn’t be considered a major development as the scale of the plans were well below what was typically considered major – around 1,000 sq m – while the new building would not be out of scale “with either its immediate setting or East End as a whole”.
It also argues that the scheme would only reintroduce commercial and community facilities to the hamlet, which has lost two pubs and a post office in recent years.
Planning Potential also responded to concerns from the AONB that light pollution from the proposed project would cause “a permanent change to the dark sky environment”, stating that there was already a farmhouse on site emitting a fairly substantial amount of light – and so any increase would be negligible.
The project has attracted a substantial amount of controversy since it was first put forward by Mrs von Opel.
Original plans for the site had to be downscaled following a considerable backlash, while the consequent application – submitted in October 2019 – has received 177 comments objecting to the proposal, with 55 in favour.
East Woodhay Parish Council marginally backed the proposal by a majority of five to four.
For full details of the proposed development, visit https://planning.basingstoke.gov.uk/online-applications/ and enter the reference 19/02956/FUL.