1. Holycombe House
The Birtwells have made two planning applications. One for the House and one for the Campsite. Below is what they have asked for for the House, The Studio, The Lodge and the surrounding grounds:
1. A mixed use of dwelling;
2. Residential study course; and
3. Holistic retreat business - as defined in Appendix 1 - Business operations dated 6th February 2017
4. Additional use of Studio and Lodge accommodation as holiday lets
5. Retention of:
4 no. storage outbuildings
+ To be used for overnight accommodation
What does this mean for the people in the village?
Planning application ref: 15/02005/FUL
Holycombe House will no longer be classified as having residential use. If granted, the planning consent will cover various classes of commercial activity – C1, C2 and D1 such as a residential school, a bingo hall or an area for outdoor sports. We could be saddled with a large holiday camp which has noisy outdoor activities which we can do nothing about.
The Birtwells say they will operate:
Holistic retreats for up to 31 people
Therapy services provided by them and other visiting therapists
Classes for yoga, pilates and dancing
These are their own limitations. There is nothing to stop someone from increasing the figures if the business is sold.
Possible Increase in Activity
There is no restriction offered:
On the numbers of people who come to use the facilities and hence the level of traffic.
On the hours of operation.
The application clearly states that “people may use the grounds for outside dining at any time”. This could develop into a full blown restaurant. How will the noise it creates be controlled? Will a licence to serve alcohol be required? If people from Holycombe can use this dining facility they will not need to go to The Norman Knight or the Straw Kitchen.
Compliance with Regulations
It appears that there are facilities that do not currently comply with building regulations or fire regulations.
It is not clear if Stratford District Council will insist that the facilities are upgraded to comply with these rules.
We have not yet seen any planning conditions that Stratford District Council might seek to impose on the operation of the Holistic Centre. Although these are important, they will not ensure that the activities on the site are limited as they have been in the past.
The planning conditions will not be as extensive as the Birtwells' self-imposed restrictions which they have operated in the past.
The change to commercial use means that any buyer, having paid a premium for such use, will want to maximise the return on their investment. They are likely not only to make the full use of any permission granted, which would go beyond what the Birtwells have done in the past, but also to intensify activities seeking retrospective planning permission afterwards if pushed.
This is why, to protect the village, although the Covenants are separate from the planning consent, we need them to be entered into by the Birtwells to limit the activity to what has gone on in the past.
The conservation officer has said that the proposal is likely to result in substantial harm to the environment. We should not allow this to happen.
Core Strategy - SDC's guidelines to protect the local environment
The proposals do not comply with SDC's Core Strategy. This is Government Policy and should not be ignored. In its Enforcement Notice, Stratford District Council referred to breaches of:
CS11 - development within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty must conserve and enhance the special landscape qualities and scenic beauty of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It also identifies areas such as Whichford as “tranquil areas” where the minimisation of noise, traffic congestion and light pollution is a priority.
CS8 - seeks to protect and enhance the historic environment of the District and the specific heritage assets that contribute to the character and identity of the District.
AS10 - the Countryside and Villages Policy which allows for a range of activities and development in rural parts of the District provided proposals are thoroughly assessed against the principles of sustainable development including:
Minimising the impact on the character of the local landscape, communities and environmental features.
Minimising impact on the occupiers and users of existing properties in the area.
Avoiding the level of increase in traffic on rural roads that will be harmful to the area.
CS24 - provides that consideration has to be given to the potential for nuisance to be caused by a particular type of activity to other people seeking to enjoy the area.
CS15 – concerns the Distribution of Development within the District and states that development should be restricted to small scale community led schemes which meet a need identified by the local community.
It’s natural our community will change over time. We’re not against change; we’re passionate about protecting our villages against proposals which could leave Whichford and Ascott open to irreversible harm. It’s clear that we need, at the very least, the Birtwells to enter into the Covenants to protect the village into the future.
Clink on this LINK to see SDC's Core Strategy