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Controversial East Ilsley workspace plans refused by West Berkshire Council

Concerns over social and environmental effects of Beeswax Dyson proposals

Charlie Masters

Charlie Masters


07964 444701

Controversial East Ilsley workspace plans refused by West Berkshire Council

Plans to convert a redundant former agricultural research facility in East Ilsley into a state-of-the-art workspace have been rejected by West Berkshire Council.

Applicant Beeswax Dyson Farming Limited sought permission to renovate barns at Sunrise Hill into modern business units. The proposals were submitted at the end of April last year and were met with considerable objections by villagers.

Until 2015, the complex was owned by the Pirbright Institute, which undertakes animal and agricultural research.

Beeswax Dyson is a land management firm, part-owned by billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson, which has other local interests.

As the proposed development is located within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the applicant argued that it had made concessions to local sensitivities and Beeswax Dyson said that the units would only be rented out for small-scale purposes, such as artisanal, office or light industrial operations and ruled out storage or heavy industry use.

Nevertheless, council officers were unconvinced by the plans.

In a rationale outlining their decision to reject the proposals, planners said that the development would exponentially increase traffic through East Ilsley. They also felt the rural character of the community would be disturbed.

They said: "It is considered that the proposal fails to conserve and enhance the existing character and appearance of the surrounding AONB area.

"The proposal fails to conserve and enhance the prevailing pattern of development within the site.

"The proposal will provide some net gain in planting and habitat creation.

"However, the proposed new access road will introduce non-characteristic feature into the open download setting.

"The proposed use is considerably more intensive than that existing use of the site, with a significant increase in vehicle movements above the existing permitted use, from 24 existing use vehicle movements to 174 proposed vehicle movements.

"The site is not sufficiently sustainable for the proposed uses and there will be a heavy reliance on the private car.

"Whilst the buildings are redundant, they represent an acceptable agricultural use within this rural area."

Consultations in May and June 2020 generated dozens of responses from East Ilsley villagers, mostly centred on the development’s traffic impact, which they said would compromise safety.

The council did acknowledge that the build would come with economic benefits.

However, these would be outweighed by social, environmental and aesthetic considerations.

They concluded: "The proposal makes no significant contribution to the wider social dimensions of sustainable development.

"Due to the significant environmental and social disbenefits, which would not be overcome by the more limited weight of the economic benefits, the proposed works are contrary to the presumption in favour of sustainable development."

East Ilsley Parish Council was approached by the Newbury Weekly News, but said it is currently not commenting on the matter.

Beeswax Dyson had not yet responded to the NWN's enquiries on the refusal.

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