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Farm plan backed by parish council

Chairman's casting vote gives support to mixed-use scheme

Jonathan Ashby

Jonathan Ashby


01635 886637

Farm plan backed by parish council

PROPOSALS for a new multi-purpose development in East Woodhay have been supported by the parish council despite fierce local opposition.

Emily von Opel – wife to billionaire Georg von Opel – bought Sungrove Farm, East End, in 2016, and is now proposing to build a mixed-use building on the land to go alongside the farm.

The application includes plans to demolish a 1980s farmhouse and erect the new building, which will house a farm shop, gift shop, bakery, plant nursery, café and education space.

The plans also include proposals to demolish a dilapidated barn and erect a much smaller agricultural dwelling on the site of the barn.

Mrs von Opel – who has lived across the road at Malverleys Garden for nearly 10 years – said the proposals for Sungrove Farm were socially rather than commercially driven, environmentally-conscious with a focus on local produce and could act as a community hub for the hamlet.

“I love the area and how it’s rural and quiet and I wanted to give something back to the community,” said the mother-of-four.

“I think it’s a wonderful meeting place – it’s nice to have a place to walk to and have a cup of coffee, a slice of cake and a conversation with others.

“I think people are afraid of change, but this will be a good change.”

In order to keep visitor numbers down, seating in the proposed café and dining area will be limited and there will only be 24 customer spaces in the car park.

Mrs von Opel said: “We don’t want the new building to be too overwhelming.

“I’ve always wanted the scheme to incorporate a range of uses, but I’d also like to create a friendly, comfortable and homely atmosphere, which is much more achievable on a modest scale and entirely appropriate for a rural setting.”

The planning application – which had been downsized considerably after criticisms of the scale of the original plans – was given the support of the East Woodhay Parish Council on Monday, December 2, with chairman James Mitchell casting the deciding vote after the original vote was tied with four votes apiece.

Despite this reduction, many East End locals are still angry at the prospect of the enterprise coming to the village.

Residents have produced a leaflet opposing the development, citing that it was in an area of natural beauty, the traffic congestion caused by service lorries and increase in vehicles, the danger of increased traffic on horse riders, dog walkers and cyclists, and the effect of noise and light pollution on the hamlet.

East End resident Christine Crerar said: “The roads are far too narrow – the road that’s outside my house, which is less than 100 yards from the entrance to Sungrove Farm, is nine-feet across. You can’t pass.

“There are no passing areas, it’s all single track roads. There are no pavements or lights.

“The area is completely quiet so we have an awful lot of horse riders, cyclists and walkers. All these people will be endangered by having a lot of traffic from outside the area who don’t know the roads.

“If it’s to be commercially viable, 95 per cent of the people will have to come by car – which is totally against what everybody is trying to do at the moment. If it’s not commercially viable, why bother?”

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Article comments

  • leggy

    24/03/2020 - 09:17

    I think it's a marvellous idea. Would be so lovely to have somewhere to pic up local products and where children can come and meet ! would do so well for our community


  • East Ender14

    19/12/2019 - 16:44

    After little debate and the majority of comments being against the proposals (175 vs 55 - with majority against living within a couple of miles radius and majority of support living at least half hour drive away) do not understand why the casting vote was in favour. The proposals may have been well put together - not too tricky when you have the resources to hire many advisers and consultants - but unfortunately this is totally the wrong location for a development of this size in a small rural hamlet. 24 parking spaces is probably enough parking for all the residents of East End - not to mention the impact of traffic, noise and light on this AONB. If this is socially driven, why does Mrs von Opel not listen to her ‘neighbours’ - those who will be affected by the day to day operation?


  • brunin the bear

    19/12/2019 - 12:21

    Nice idea but totally wrong place. Been following this one for a few weeks and there are 175 letters of objection which says it all really. Most of the letters of support look like they are from the applicant's Christmas card list of mates.