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'Delight' as Sungrove Farm development in East End gets go ahead

Emily von Opel's plan polarised opinions in the hamlet

Jonathan Ashby

Jonathan Ashby

jonathan.ashby@newburynews.co.uk

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Friends of East End celebrate Sungrove Farm reversal

EMILY von Opel has said support from members of the East End community had kept her going after her application to convert Sungrove Farm into a multi-purpose development was given the green light.

The proposal – which was unanimously approved by Basingstoke and Deane borough councillors on January 13 – has polarised the hamlet since it was unveiled in 2019, with campaign group Friends of East End vehemently opposing the development.

However, Mrs Von Opel said she had also had lots of support from the community which had encouraged her to press on with her plans to convert a farmhouse on the site into a mixed-use building housing a farm shop, bakery, café and education space.

Mrs von Opel, who has lived across the road in the Malverleys for the past 10 years, said: “There were definitely moments where I thought ‘Should I still be doing this?’

“I have heard stories of people being stopped in their country walks and told to say no to the project and I’ve felt very guilty that I was causing this unsettlement for the locals.

“When I first came up with the idea, I was really thinking locals would embrace it and actually there are many people who do, who have continued to support me and encourage me to carry on.

“There are many people who want this to happen and they’re delighted.

“I’m confident that people will come round to it.”

Despite concerns of the effects of the project on the area’s dark skies and that it would overly-urbanise the countryside, Mrs von Opel – who is married to billionaire Georg von Opel – insisted that the scheme would be small scale, using local produce and would help keep the village thriving.

She continued: “In my heart of hearts I’m only thinking I’m doing well for the community.

“Sungrove is a farm and it’ll remain a farm, but it will be an outlet where people can embrace being together over a cup of coffee or a slice of cake.

“People don’t like change so their imaginations likely run wild – it’s not going to be a hideous, commercial concept, it’s going to be a quiet, family-run business, and gentle.

“I think it’s a good way to keep the village going, and I’m hoping it’s the village who uses it the most.

“We have to think of the next generation as well – one friend told me they were going bonkers over what to do with their teenage children.

“If the farm shop was up and running I could give them work experience for example, and they can learn different skills.”

One of the concerns raised over the scheme has been the ability of the surrounding roads, many of which are single lane, to cope with an increase in traffic.

However, Mrs von Opel said she hoped people would use the building sensibly and residents from neighbouring villages would walk or cycle to East End.

She added: “I certainly don’t want an M25 outside our door.

“There are enough locals from Woolton Hill, East Woodhay, East End and Heath End that can walk or bicycle to the building, or as a place where they can stop off.

“I’m hoping I don’t encourage a lot of cars.”

Building work is expected to start in late 2021.

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Article comments

  • O'Shaughnessy

    30/01/2021 - 12:33

    It's hard to know whether to laugh at the developer’s comments (and people do) or to cry at the lack of support for the AONB, brushed aside by district councillors - e.g. Cllr Sanders in Nov 2019. A late 2021 start gives time to vary and return to the much bigger 2018/19 plans. The draft Neighbourhood Plan, coming in May 2021, will force councils to support such expansion and redevelopment of "community facilities" and ancillary land. That proposal can and should change. The Tory rosette will always win this Ward, particularly the expanded Evingar, but maybe the party could put up candidates who have a track record and commitment to protecting the AONB and who will stand up to Basingstoke's indifference. With a PC of co-optees, undermined by inconsistency, undeclared conflicts, a preference for “Notes” over minutes and behind-the-scenes private meetings over public consultation. Locals said no to Sungrove and were ignored. That is our wake-up call, we heed it or become Manydown West.

    Reply

  • brunin the bear

    30/01/2021 - 11:28

    Should read" Delight as Billionaire's wife destroys her reputation and shoots herself in the foot.

    Reply

  • brunin the bear

    30/01/2021 - 10:27

    Welcome to a land where unicorns roam- inside this persons head!

    Reply