Thu, 21 Jan 2021
SUNGROVE Farm in East End will undergo a transformation after plans to convert a farmhouse into a multi-purpose commercial development were given the green light.
At a Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council planning meeting last Wednesday, councillors unanimously approved the scheme, dismissing concerns by a campaign group that the development would cause significant harm to the community.
Instead, councillors said the scheme – which will see a farmhouse demolished and a multi-purpose building housing a farm shop, bakery, café and education space built in its place – would bring employment opportunities and help keep the village thriving.
Councillor Michael Bound (Lib Dem, Baughurst and Tadley North) said the application – put forward by Emily von Opel, who lives across the road in The Malverleys – was on a small scale and suited the site well.
He said: “Everything seems to be there on a fairly small scale.
“There doesn’t seem to be much within this area that is very attractive to anybody else except for the people who live there and like their tranquility. I can appreciate that but to me that’s a way for a place to die.
“Who wants to live in a place where there’s nothing other than pretty buildings? The world moves on.”
Much of the debate focused on whether the development should be considered “major.”
In January last year, the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) opposed the scheme on the grounds that it was “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.
Campaign group Friends of East End also argued the project was in open countryside, would result in continuous noise and that the single track roads around the hamlet wouldn’t cope with the increase in traffic.
However, a report by the council’s planning officers, which recommended the application for approval, said the project “would have an acceptable design and impact on the local landscape”.
Councillors chose to side with the planning officers.
Councillor David Potter (Basingstoke & Deane Independent Group, Popley East) said: “I don’t dismiss the AONB commentary – having said that I think it’s pretty rare for us to get the AONB supporting anything of this nature really, so this doesn’t surprise me.
“Notwithstanding that, there are lots of things which are compliant with our own planning policies and the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] which I think well justify the recommendations the officers have made.
“I genuinely understand the concerns of the local people, although I’m not privileged enough to live in such a hamlet, but I don’t think this will have the disturbing effect the local people are suggesting, and I think this will be a benefit to the community in many ways.”
Councillor Dave George (Con, Whitchurch) added: “Physically this isn’t a major development, it’s quite modest – I think the key issue is are the impacts major?
“I know this is a sleepy place and people like to keep it that way, and I do have some sympathy, but I do believe it is small scale and the impacts will be fairly modest.
“I really feel we do need to support the local communities and employment in rural areas and I think this is a very good example of that.”
Mrs von Opel said: “I am thrilled by the outcome of the committee meeting and want to thank all those people who supported the project.
“I look forward to working with small businesses, bringing employment to locals, and delivering a place which will operate with integrity and offer artisan products.
“We should be proud of our English countryside and rural way of living, but we need to keep it alive too.
“Foremost, we will focus on protecting and increasing biodiversity, improving sustainability and enhancing the sense of community.
“The learning aspect of our plans will enable us to share knowledge of the plant world through an esteemed gardener who knows and values the local landscape wholeheartedly.”