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Sungrove Farm scheme in East End will have "short and long-term economic benefits" says report

Controversial plan recommended for approval at next Wednesday's meeting

PLANS to convert Sungrove Farm in East End into a garden centre-style development have been recommended for approval after planners deemed it wouldn’t have a “significant impact” on the North Wessex Downs Area of Natural Beauty.

Emily von Opel – who lives opposite the site in the Malverleys – is planning to demolish a 1980s farmhouse and construct a new building, which will house a farm and gift shop, bakery, plant nursery, café and education space.

The scheme – which has split opinion in the hamlet since being unveiled – will be voted on at a Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council development control committee on January 13.

A report put together by council planning officers ahead of the meeting has now been released, recommending the application for approval.

In the 59-page report, planners give a list of reasons for approving the scheme, arguing that it would create “short and long-term economic benefits” from the construction phase of the development through to supporting the rural economy via jobs.

The report also states that the development “would have an acceptable design and impact on the local landscape” and that the design and scale of the new building would not result in overdevelopment of the site.

It also states that the proposal doesn’t go against the borough council’s Local Plan, which provides the guidelines for developments in the borough.

The project drew criticism from the North Wessex Downs Area of Natural Beauty in March last year, which said that the location of the project would be detrimental to the surrounding area and have a negative effect on the local character – causing the local parish council to perform a U-turn on its support of the scheme.

These concerns have been dismissed by planners, however, who say the development shouldn’t be considered major as it is not disproportionate in scale to other buildings close to the site, would have limited space for retail and that the level of activity wouldn’t be significant enough to cause demonstrable harm to the location.

The report concludes by saying that there wouldn’t be any harmful impacts on the AONB, including its dark skies, and wouldn’t result in traffic issues on the surrounding roads, while also arguing it would bring about important benefits including enhanced landscaping, improved biodiversity and support of the rural economy.

The report will come as a blow to many local residents, such as the Friends of East End group which has opposed the development since it was first put forward in 2019.

A final decision on the proposal will be made on Wednesday.

To view the report, go to the borough council’s planning portal, enter the reference 19/02956/FUL and the report can be found in the documents.

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