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East Ilsley registers conditional objection to farm conversion

Decision was made at landmark digital meeting last week

Charlie Masters

Charlie Masters

charlie.masters@newburynews.co.uk

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07964 444701

East Ilsley registers conditional objection to farm conversion

East Ilsley Parish Council has conditionally objected to plans to convert a former agricultural research farmstead into a business space.

At a virtual meeting on May 14, members of the public had the opportunity to put forward their views on proposals by Beeswax Dyson Farming Limited as councillors discussed the revised plans and questioned Beeswax Dyson estate manager James Dawson.

The site was formerly operated by the Pirbright Institute as a farm that was part of the animal disease research centre.

Beeswax Dyson, part-owned by billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson, owns large areas of farmland adjacent to the village.

The proposals involve the conversion of barns on the site into workspaces.

These would be retained by Beeswax Dyson and rented out to private businesses.

Criticisms of the plans have centred upon the potential increase in traffic through East Ilsley, as well as the risks posed by the proposed access arrangements, particularly by Sunrise Hill residents.

Beeswax Dyson had put forward an alternative access road in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Villager Mark Richardson echoed these points in a representation submitted to the developer on the day of the meeting.

He said: "We are living in a village with discontinuous pavements for safe pedestrian travel and no safe road crossings in the form of pelican or zebra crossings.

"This business traffic would reasonably be expected to be passing through the village during those hours our children are travelling to and from The Ilsleys School and the bus stop for The Downs School bus.

"The proposed access road cuts across green fields and runs the risk of creating future parcels of land that will only be useful for further commercial development."

Some at the meeting were more receptive, however.

Councillor Andrew Sharp, while stressing his own reservations about the scheme, urged villagers to approach it with an open mind.

In particular, he highlighted the need to consider the impact of the expected economic recession upon local life.

Mr Sharp said: "There is a serious degree of unhappiness with what's currently being put towards us.

"There just seems to be a strength of feeling coming from different parts of the village that wasn't here before.

"But I equally do say, we have to be mindful of the damage the economy has sustained. I don't think people have realised what it is yet.

"The other key considerations we've got to think about are what's going to be happening in 20 years' time and where we are with this Covid nightmare.

"The damage it's done to the local economy, the national economy … we don't know where it's going to be.

"Things that might potentially benefit the village should be a balancing factor, as well.

"I hate to be the angel of doom on all this, but you know, we do equally have to look at how we move forward positively."

Mr Dawson emphasised that his employer was willing to cooperate with villagers, while defending the existing plans.

He said: "We've been looking at it for a long time now and we think the proposed route offers the least ecological impact in the AONB.

"The other routes on the other side of the skyline would offer a lot more metal track into the AONB.

"Obviously, the proposals include planting on either side of the drive, for some screening – I'm very happy to look at options to improve that screening."

Following the debate, councillors drafted a notice objecting to the plans.

However, this was contingent upon a number of factors that may be addressed by Beeswax Dyson, including access, concerns over opening hours at the work units and the size of vehicles using the access road.

Parish and district councillor Carolyne Culver (Green) said she would request for the application to be called in when it goes to West Berkshire Council for decision.

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