Campaign to Save Pen Meadow in East Ilsley – September 2021 Update

Amanda Dee invites residents who share her objections to the development of 12 dwellings by Manor Oak Homes on Pen Meadow in East Ilsely to join her facebook group SAVE PEN MEADOW.

She believes this development to be contrary to the Core Strategy Development Plan set out by West Berkshire Council (2006-2026) and object on the grounds of:

1) HIGHWAYS SAFETY
The proposed development would inevitably increase the volume of traffic going through East Ilsley’s narrow roads with inadequate pavements and would endanger pedestrians (many of whom are elderly), disabled travellers on motorised vehicles, cyclists and groups of ramblers visiting our village. It may also affect/obstruct the use of the neighbouring public footpath.

The proposed site entrance would be regularly obstructed by the farm traffic, which often includes large agricultural and industrial vehicles.Limited and insufficient local public transport service, poor infrastructure and remoteness of any available shops in the surrounding villages/towns and health/care centres would result in the new residents’ high car dependency, contributing further to local traffic, which is contrary to the Local Plan, seeking to reverse this trend.

The proposed site (and its entrance) are likely to have inadequate space for the parking, loading, turning. The potential development of 12+ dwellings is likely to require parking spaces for at least 20+ cars for the residents and their visitors. Limitations of the available space mean that no adequate parking facilities are likely to be provided and the vehicles may end up parked along the pavements of Fidlers Lane.Frequent road traffic accidents in the vicinity of East Ilsley A34 slip roads and Gore Hill already result in the heavy A34 traffic being regularly diverted through Fidlers Lane, which is seriously congested at certain times of the day, being the main route to Compton and the neighbouring villages. Any new development, during its construction and potential use, could effectively block completely Fidlers Lane at the times of such frequent congestions, making the village inaccessible for the emergency vehicles, which regularly visit its increasingly aging population – this would directly contradict the West Berkshire Council vision (as stated in the Local Plan): “caring for and protecting the vulnerable”.

When personally asked during the public consultation for the assurances that the construction works and the use of the new development would not block/affect significantly the traffic in Fidlers Lane and whether there are any provisions to ensure that the new residents and their guests would not be parking along Fidlers Lane, the developers replied that such issues are out of their competence and would have to be tolerated by the village residents as inevitable side effects of the construction and use of the new development.Although, according to the developers, the Highways Agency has agreed to them using the proposed entrance for the construction and residential access to the site, the risks outlined above remain valid and we may need to launch an appeal against this Highways Agency decision on the grounds of the overlooked highway safety and the local population wellbeing issues.

 

2) HARM TO AN AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY

Contrary to the West Berkshire Council’s vision, outlined in the Local Plan, which is said to be “driven by the primary purpose of AONB designation – conservation and enhancement of natural beauty”, the new development is likely to cause irreparable damage to Pen Meadow, an acknowledged historic beauty spot, and cause a detrimental effect on the neighbouring properties, resulting in their loss of visual amenity, damaging the character of an area and, as a result, even bringing down the house prices.

Despite being often overlooked, “the loss of visual amenity” remains a valid objection and a reason for the refusal of a planning application.A new development would result in a higher density of the housing and a much higher level of the noise pollution, both during the construction works and the potential use of the site by its new residents. Presently, all Pen Meadow houses already suffer higher than average noise coming from A34; any additional noise and disturbance resulting from the construction and use of the new development would significantly cause a detrimental effect on the lives of the local residents, many of whom are elderly/retired and/or disabled.

It is also inevitable that the new development would generate more litter and pollution in Pen Meadow, which may be blown by the wind all over the area, not just within the development boundaries.The developers argue that the part of Pen Meadow earmarked for the development is outside the boundaries of the “conservation area” in the village, but, in our view, Pen Meadow in its entirety is an integral part of the historic rural landscape of East Ilsley, which coincides with the West Berkshire Council view that it “provides important views to and from the countryside beyond the Conservation Area”.We may need to seek further changes of the boundaries of the designated Conservation Area to reflect that and include the entire meadow.More importantly, when personally asked during the public consultation for any assurances that no further development would affect the rest of Pen Meadow, the developers refused to rule it out in the future, saying any further housing demand in the village would have to be addressed in the usual way and, although there are no immediate plans to build anything else on Pen Meadow, they cannot guarantee anything about the future plans.

 

3) ECOLOGICAL HARM

The new development and the access road to it would replace a part of the historic meadow. Although still being used as an agricultural land, the meadow also became an enclosed wildlife sanctuary to commonly seen in this area bats, owls, amphibians, small reptiles, hedgehogs, rabbits, moles and many other small local animals and birds with an occasional deer wandering in now and then. Many of these species will be disturbed and displaced by the construction works. Moles may also move to the gardens of the neighbouring properties, causing further problems.

The air quality over Pen Meadow is strongly affected by the proximity of A34, but in 2019 the levels of NO2 and PM10 pollutants were brought down to the recommended/acceptable limits. Construction and use of the new development would upset once again this delicate balance and cause health problems to all residents in the area. Residents of the new development would suffer most, being also exposed to the dust and agricultural pollution from the farm on the other side of Fidlers Lane.

Equally, the new development may affect the volatile levels of the ground waters in Pen Meadow, which also has natural springs, leading to occasional flooding of the area.

 

4) DEMAND AND SUSTAINABILITY

In 2011 the population of East Ilsley was reported as 1,571 residents, we may assume that now, ten years later, it may have increased by 200-300 people, most likely still remaining under 2,000.

Only eight surveys out of the distributed 250 identified a need for the local housing immediately and in ‘the near future’, which is likely to be estimated between 0.4% and 0.5% of the residents.

During the public consultation, the developers stressed that the local housing needs have to be met or “the families will end up torn apart”, which is an overdramatisation of the actual situation: scores of the new developments built in the recent years in the neighbouring villages with the better infrastructure and within minutes of travel are presently available.

East Ilsley was not included in the West Berkshire Core Strategy district settlement hierarchy which identifies the most sustainable settlements for development for the very reason that the village has poor infrastructure and high car reliance of its residents.

Limited access routes, inadequate roads and pavements, lack of shops, health/care centres, regular problems with the electricity and water supply, close proximity to A34 and regular heavy traffic diversions through the village are not the factors favourable for any new developments.

 

5) REFUSALS OF PREVIOUS SIMILAR PROPOSALS

This is not the first proposal for a housing development in Pen Meadow.

Previous planning applications 16/03088/FULMAJ, 16/00049/INQ were refused by the West Berkshire Council as contrary to its Policies and Core Strategy / Local Plan.

Presently, the developers argue that, unlike the previous application, the new development is proposed outside the “Conservation Area” and shall not affect the historic part of Pen Meadow with the trees protected by the Tree Preservation Orders and the area where the sheep pens and, later, Sheep Fairs were held.

Nevertheless, many of the earlier constraints to any new development remain active and valid as well as many of the reasons which the West Berkshire Council quoted in its earlier refusal. Constraints, inter alia, include: the area being A34 road buffer, MoD land buffer, Agricultural Land, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Archaeological Site, etc. The West Berkshire Council refused the previous application saying that “proposed development would detrimentally harm and alter the setting… by replacing the rural landscape with a suburban/modern housing development, causing the loss of connection between the village and its rural hinterland and the character”.

Having viewed the sketch of the new development, it is evident that, despite the assurances of the developers that it will be built in a rural style and would appear as an integral part of East Ilsley, in reality, the layout of it, its density and the size of properties are still similar to those in the suburban hamlets, thus damaging and destroying the character of Pen Meadow and East Ilsley.

 

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