Reminder On Fairfields, Owens Farm Lane

Reminder On Fairfields, Owens Farm Lane
Fairfields

The details that follow are the HAAO submission to Hart DC Planning on 6th December 2021 where we objected to the original planning application (21/02750/FUL) that is now subject to Appeal APP/N1730/W/22/3298102. If you wish to use these topics for your own objection for the appeal, please use your own words.

Planning Application 21/02750/FUL : Objection (Erection of 4 Bedroom Dwelling at Fairfields, Newnham Road, Hook)

1.         Introduction

Hook Action Against Overdevelopment, HAAO, represents the interests of almost 1000 Hook residents. Many residents will have responded independently but as a group we wish to make the following representations on behalf of those unable to respond personally.

HAAO has reviewed the applicant’s documentation. We do not usually object to such small developments but are making an exception in this case primarily as we consider it threatens the continued existence of the Hook / Newnham gap, However, there are many grounds for objection as listed below and explained in the remainder of this document

  1. Degrades landscape
  2. Reduces amenity value of Hook / Newnham Public Right of Way, PRoW
  3. Proposed landscaping ill-defined and inadequate
  4. Inappropriate development outside the Settlement Boundary
  5. No justification for this development within the Hook/ Newnham gap
  6. Information Shortcomings
  7. Ecological Issues
  8. Disillusionment with the planning process
  9. Risk to future of gap
  10. House not needed

Further, the details below also clearly show that approval of the application would contradict a number of planning decisions previously made by both Hart District Council and the Planning Inspectorate.

In particular last year application Ref:20/01486/FUL was submitted to build 2 houses at Fairfields. 233 people objected and Hart emphatically rejected it. Annex A highlights its differences to this application clearly showing that this application should be similarly refused.

We trust that having considered the information provided below Hart District Council will reject this planning application

2.         Degrades Landscape

Hart Local Plan Policy NBE2 Landscape states

“Development proposals must respect and wherever possible enhance the special characteristics, value or visual amenity of the Districts landscapes.

Development proposals will be supported where there will be no adverse impact to:

b) the virtual amenity and scenic quality of the landscape”

Hook Neighbourhood Plan Policy HK7: Views amplifies this stating “Development should respect views …….. from the east side of Newnham (within the Neighbourhood Area) towards the west side of the Hook settlement”

The image displayed shows the site location and PRoWs.

Approaching Hook from Newnham on the PRoW shown above one currently sees the Fairfields house which is farmhouse / barn like, the single storey outbuildings and fencing around the manège, a rural scene giving the feel of being in open countryside. This is reinforced by the fact that the footpath continues on past the site into the next field before leading into Hop Garden Road.

If this application is granted then the view will be of two large houses in a row. This is much more like an urban scene on the edge of a settlement. It will visually move the edge of Hook nearer to Newnham.

Policies NBE2 and HK7 make such a degradation of landscape unacceptable.

Previous planning decisions by Hart District Council and the Planning Inspectorate with respect Fairfields and Hop Garden confirm this.

Fairfields

The initial application to rebuild Fairfields, 07/00899/FUL, was refused because “It is considered that the proposal would be harmful to the character of the open countryside and is disproportionate to the existing. In addition…..”.

Subsequently application 07/01954/FUL was approved. This reduced the height of the dwelling by 0.56 m and reduced the length of the new garage/store/tack room building by half.

Obviously, the scene with a new house would be much worse than that proposed in rejected application 07/00899/FUL and hence this application should be rejected for the same reason

Hop Garden

Planning application 14/00867/MAJOR to build 48 dwellings in the field between this site and Hop Garden Road was rejected by both Hart and at appeal. Paragraph 52 of the appeal decision states:

“In my judgment this clear visual intrusion into the Gap, when viewed from the PROW, would result in a significant diminution of the graduated sense of arrival at Hook from Newnham and foreshorten the sense of open rurality and separation experienced when moving between the two settlements. It would reduce the Gap as experienced on the PROW by around a third and advance Hook some 180 metres forward of Newnham Park. This would increase its prominence in relation to Newnham and result in a much harder and more visible edge to Hook. Seton Drive already extends out from Hook, and the appeal site would border it, but Seton Drive pre-dates the establishment of the Gap and is built on the site of a former country house. As such, development in this location has long been a feature of the area and is not, in my judgment, a compelling reason to further exacerbate the Gap’s erosion.”

Viewed from the PRoW, the Hop Garden development would be behind and somewhat screened by the hedge / tree lines on both sides of Owens Farm Lane. This new house will be much more prominent and hence for consistency with the Planning Inspectors decision the application should be refused.

3          Reduces Amenity Value of Hook/ Newnham PRoW

Paragraph 8.16 of the Hook Neighbourhood Plan highlights the “well-used public right of way (PRoW) across the gap between Newnham and Hook……….which provide a much valued and pleasing view of the west side of Hook adding to the enjoyment of this leisure route”. As described in Section 2 building another house will considerably degrade the pleasing views and hence reduce the attractiveness of this healthy leisure facility.

Further, the PRoW known as Church Path, is historically valuable. This has been recognised by its inclusion on the Hampshire County Council Heritage Register. For historical reasons also it should not be degraded.

4.         Proposed Landscaping Ill-defined and Inadequate

Section 2.44 of the Planning Statement states “Below is a comparison between the existing characteristics and landscape impact compared to the proposed, which shows the enhancements to the landscape quality that will be achieved.” Four pictures follow.

Two pictures are ariel views of existing and proposed which seem to show new trees along the edge of the remaining Fairfields grounds on the far side of the manage from the new house. These are shown in the figure in Section 2 above.

The other two pictures are existing and proposed views from the PRoW looking at the side of the proposed property.  It is difficult to identify exactly what landscaping is proposed except for what appears to be a row of ten large fully grown poplar trees.

No further details of proposed landscaping is given and it is not clear whether the applicant will plant fully mature trees or young threes and his illustration represents the expected scene after many years.

Irrespective of this the applicant recognises that this house will be prominent in the landscape but only proposes planting trees along the side of the development as shown in the figure. They will only offer partial screening from a very limited part of the PRoW. 

Consideration of Paragraph 52 of the Hop Garden appeal decision reproduced previously shows that the lack of screening at the back is completely inadequate,

Hence the new house would significantly degrade the views from The PRoW. This degradation of the landscape and amenity value of the PRoW is unacceptable.

5          Inappropriate Development Outside the Settlement Boundary

The whole site is outside the Hook Settlement Boundary. The applicant argues that it should be allowed by Hart Local Plan Policy NBE1 and the National Planning Policy Framework, NPPF.

NBE1 Development in the Countryside

The applicant claims that the development should be allowed under Policy NBE1 as the site is previously developed land. Part j) of the policy states “located on suitable previously developed land appropriate for the proposed use”. The implications on landscape and PRoW make the site neither “suitable” nor “appropriate”.

Reproduced below is amplifying text in the Hart Local Plan to Policy NBE1 with the parts that demonstrate that that the proposed development is not suitable or appropriate underlined:

“220. It is recognised that some development can take place which is beneficial to the countryside and the people that live and work there. Development in the countryside will therefore be permitted where it can be demonstrated that a countryside location is both necessary and justified. Inappropriate types and scales of development will not be supported. It is possible to maximise opportunities to strengthen the rural economy by encouraging uses related to the land, including appropriate forms of agriculture and other land-based business, forestry and sustainable rural tourism without harm.

221. There are a number of facilities in the countryside such as educational and training institutions, Ministry of Defence facilities, and Blackbushe Airport, where there could be a need for new development for operational reasons. Any such proposals should be located, designed and mitigated in a way that minimises their impact on the countryside, for example by siting new buildings within the existing built envelope.

226. The impact of a replacement building is likely to increase with its size especially in relation to its impact on surroundings and being out of scale with its plot. A replacement dwelling should be positioned within the site where it would result in no material harm, including to the local landscape or amenity.

228. The redevelopment of suitable previously developed land in the countryside will be encouraged provided that the proposal would not cause harm to areas of high environmental value and that the proposed use and scale of development is appropriate to the site’s rural context.

230. Hart comprises a high proportion of attractive rural countryside with a range of different landscapes. The special qualities of the District’s landscape must be respected in planning for future growth.”

NPPF

The applicant quotes in support of his application Paragraph 79 which states:

To promote sustainable development in rural area, housing should be located where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities. Planning policies should identify the opportunities for villages to grow and thrive, especially where this will support local services. Where there are groups of smaller settlements development in one village may support services in a village nearby”

We would argue that that the degradation to landscape and PRoW will depress the local community thereby reducing vitality.

We would refer you to Paragraph 117 which starts “Planning policies and decisions should promote an effective use of land in meeting the need for homes and other uses, while safeguarding and improving the environment….”.

 Far from “safeguarding and improving the environment” this house would degrade it.

Other paragraphs of the NPPF highlight the need to protect and enhance the environment and PRoWs. Two such paragraphs, 98 and 170, are reproduced at Annex B.

Similar to the arguments with respect to NBE1, we do not believe that the NPPF justifies this development.

6.         No Justification for this Development Within the Hook/ Newnham Gap

Sub-paragraph e) of policy NBE2 states:

 “It does not lead to the physical or visual coalescence of settlements, or damage their separate identity, either individually or cumulatively with other existing or proposed development”

Neighbourhood Plan Policy HK6 clearly defines the Hook/ Newnham gap.

Paragraph 57 of the Hop Garden appeal decision clarifies visual coalescence with respect to the Hook/ Newnham gap as follows:

“Clearly, development on the appeal site would not result in the physical coalescence of the two settlements. However, if that was to be regarded as the ultimate benchmark then, taken to its conclusion, the Gap could have been much more narrowly defined in the first place, with development of the two settlements being permitted to advance to within metres of each other provided a gap were maintained. It was not, however. The Gap’s function, as noted above, is wider than that. Given the impacts from the PROW the proposed development would, in my judgment, undermine the function of the Gap and result in an increased perception of coalescence, with the further advance of Hook towards its smaller neighbour. This would, in turn, further erode the distinct identities of the two settlements, notably with regard to Newnham’s sense of rural isolation and separation. I conclude, therefore, that the appeal proposal would have an adverse impact upon the Local Gap between Newnham and Hook.”

The current relevance of this paragraph is confirmed by the fact that it is quoted verbatim in the Hart decision dated 5th June 2020 with respect to 20/00199/PREAPP for a Retirement Village.

The site is totally within the Hook/ Newnham gap. The applicant’s Planning Statement acknowledges this in Paragraph 1.9. It reproduces the following from Hart’s response the pre-application Ref:20/03101/PREAPP in Paragraph 1.9:

“It would result in development encroaching into in the designated area, extending sizeable development form in to the Local Gap, which weighs against the proposal.”

Despite this the application does not even try to justify this development in the gap

The Hop Garden development would have only advanced the perception of Hook to Owens Farm Lane. This development advances the perception further, across Owens Farm Lane and then on to the rear of the houses. Clearly, as the Hop Garden development was unacceptable then this development must be even more unacceptable.

7.         Information Shortcomings

The application contains incorrect, and contradictory information. It also provides inadequate information in certain areas.

Incorrect and Contradictory Information

Section 22 of the Application Form asks:

“Can the site be seen from a public road, public footpath, bridleway or other public land?”

The applicant has responded No which is obviously incorrect as it is clearly visible from the footpath/PRoW.

Paragraph 2.36 of the Planning Statement casts doubt on the historical value of the Church Path. As stated in Section 3 its historical value has been recognised by its inclusion on the Hampshire County Council Heritage Register.

Three of the applicant’s documents show the proposed site boundary.  They all show different boundaries,

The differences which are with respect to the areas in front of and behind Fairfields garage are detailed below

DocumentArea in Front of GarageArea Behind Garage
Location PlanIncludedIncluded
2021-10-21 TN01 CCNot includedIncluded
Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Part 2Not includedNot included

Inadequate Information

The Proposed Site Plan states:

“Existing access to be widened to provide separate access to the existing dwelling. Existing culverted to be widened to facilitate widened crossover”

The extent of the widening is not defined and could have ecological implications as detailed in Sectio 8 below,

As explained in Section 4 the description of the proposed landscaping in the Planning Statement is not adequate.

8.         Ecological Issues        

The applicant’s Ecological Appraisal recommends:

“should there be a need to remove all, or a significant portion of hedgerow H1, use of this hedgerow by commuting/foraging bats be first more adequately established through additional survey/ monitoring of the bat activity associated with it across the summer months (April/May to September/October inclusive)

and

Consideration be given to planting new native hedgerows along some or all site boundaries along which they are currently absent.

Hedgerow H1 runs along the eastern boundary of the site. The actual hedgerow continues south along the front of Fairfields House. From the Proposed Site Plan, see Section 7 above, it appears that it could be intended to cut back some undefined amount of this hedgerow to improve access. It does not appear that this section of hedgerow has been ecologically surveyed nor the implications of cutting it back considered. This must be done if there is any intention of cutting it back.

9.         Disillusionment with the Planning Process

Paragraph 16 c) of the NPPF reproduced below makes clear that there should be community involvement in planning.

Plans should…. be shaped by early, proportionate and meaningful engagement between plan-makers and communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure providers and statutory consultees”

Public Consultations

Over the last few years there have been many consultations related either directly or indirectly to the Hook / Newnham gap.

The Hart Local Plan Regulation 18 Refined Options for Delivering New Homes consultation was held between 4th February and 18 March 2016. Respondents were asked to rank their preferences between a new settlement, dispersal and strategic urban extensions such as building on the Hook/ Newnham gap. An overwhelming majority of 59% voted for a new settlement as their first choice.  29% voted for dispersal and only 12% for strategic urban extensions.

Planning application Ref:17/02317/OUT for 700 dwellings on the gap went out to consultation twice receiving a total of 1595 objections. Four Parish Councils also submitted objections. Planning application Ref:21/01048/OUT for a 160 dwelling Retirement Village received 418 objections and the application Ref:20/01486/FUL to build 2 houses at Fairfields 233.

Following a meeting attended by over 400 people organised by the then MP James Arbuthnott the planning minister Brandon Lewis held an open meeting on planning. He stressed the importance of producing a Neighbourhood Plan to define the wishes of residents. After much effort and many consultations, a Neighbourhood Plan was produced including Newnham/ Hook gap policy HK6 and Views policy HK7. At referendum an overwhelming 96% of the high turnout voted in favour.

The people of Hook have very clearly expressed their wish that there should be a gap between Hook and Newnham. Through due process this is reflected in the Hart Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan. Approval of this application would completely undermine public faith in the planning system thereby failing to meet the objectives of NPPF paragraph 16 c)

Precedence

Hart recently refused application Ref;21/02177/HOU to convert a barn at Owens Farm within the gap to a house extension for the following reason.

“The proposed development, by virtue of its size, independent living facilities and lack of connectivity to the host dwelling, would be tantamount to a new dwelling in the countryside and in the strategic gap between Hook and Newnham. As such this would be contrary to Policy NBE1 of the Hart District Local Plan (Strategy & Sites) 2032 and Policies HK1 and HK6 of the Hook Neighbourhood Plan and advice in Sections 2 and 5 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2021.”

To approve this application would be totally inconsistent and similarly undermine public faith in the planning system.

10.       Risk to Future of Gap

If this development is allowed it would create a precedent for further development in the gap.

The Hook Neighbourhood Plan which defines the gap is valid until 2032. However during that period, it has to be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure it remains valid. A developer has already tried through a Judicial Review to remove the gap from it. We greatly fear that if this house is built then developers will try to use its existence at the first review to try to remove the gap. As described in Section 9 this would be completely against community wishes.

Further, the demolition of the stables makes the manège redundant. If this application is approved any subsequent application to build another house on the manège would be more difficult to refuse. With the degradation caused by this the planning application the subsequent planning balance between the advantages and disadvantages would not be so clear cut and we could end up with two new houses as per Ref:20/01486/FUL which was so emphatically rejected last year.

11.       House Not Needed

The Hart Local Plan clearly shows that Hart can meet its housing need. During the Local Plan Examination in Public the Planning Inspector closely questioned developers proposing further developments as to why they were needed. He did not receive satisfactory responses and hence did recommend adding any such developments to the plan. Whilst this is only for one house it is not needed and hence building it provides no advantages that could possibly compensate for the disadvantages.

Further, Hook is currently undergoing a massive expansion in dwellings and facing the great challenge of improving its infrastructure to cope. Whilst admittedly this is only one house it would slightly but unnecessarily increase the challenge.                                                              

12.       Conclusion

This document justifies the ten reasons for refusal listed in Section 1.

It clearly shows that the development does not meet the requirements of the NPPF nor planning policies NBE1, NBE2, HK6 and HK7.

It also identifies in Sections 2, 4 and 9 that approval of this application would be totally inconsistent with previous planning decisions made by Hart District Council and the Planning Inspectorate with respect to Fairfields build, Hop Garden appeal and the Owens Farm barn conversion.

It further shows that the reasons for refusal of the two dwelling application Ref;20/01486/FUL are equally valid for this application.

Hence we would request Hart District Council refuse this application.

Thank-you.