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Controversial Sungrove Farm scheme in North Hampshire approved

"I don’t think this will have the disturbing effect the local people are suggesting"

Jonathan Ashby

Jonathan Ashby

jonathan.ashby@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886637

Farm plan backed by parish council

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.”

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Article comments

  • O'Shaughnessy

    21/01/2021 - 11:28

    This had the whole-hearted support of Ward Cllr Sanders and strong support from the Parish Council Chair and cricket club President, Cllr Mitchell. His decision in November 2019 to vote twice to overturn the Parish objection to Sungrove undermined the PC’s later position. He and Cllr Sanders were behind EW2020, a PC sub-committee of local sports clubs and the East Woodhay Society which promoted the AONB as a site for a major £10m sports project. In 2017 that fed into the Neighbourhood Plan, due for referendum in May 2021. So if our Councillors have been telling planners East End can handle the EW2020 project its no surprise the planners see Sungrove as small fry by comparison. With no developer CIL or s.106 contributions the taxpayer will pay to fix the roads and sort out bottlenecks at Woolton Hill and Ball. Worse, this development overturns arguments used to refuse infill development for decades on the basis the area is unsustainable, over-reliant on the car, without facilities etc.

    Reply

    • Henry Oliver

      21/01/2021 - 16:24

      This is a very disappointing decision. It does not reflect well on the Council's appreciation of its legal responsibility to look after the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on behalf of the nation. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 the local authority has a statutory duty to have regard for the purposes of AONB designation, which are to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape. It has also adopted the statutory AONB Management Plan, which has clear polices to resist this sort of overdevelopment. In the carefully considered professional view of the AONB Unit, which operates on behalf of BDBC and other members of the North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership, this development is not compatible with AONB purposes or the AONB Management Plan.

      Reply

  • brunin the bear

    21/01/2021 - 09:37

    LOL

    Reply