Mediation and a potential end to the dispute
At the suggestion of Glen James, the Birtwells and Herrtages entered into a mediation process in November 2016.
As a result the Birtwells offered to enter into Covenants (legally binding guarantees) to ensure that Holycombe House and the Campsite continue to be operated in a quiet way so as to ensure that their neighbours in Roman Row and on adjoining land are not unduly disturbed.
The key Covenants (which were read out by Glen James at the pub meeting on 16th January 2017) have been drafted by Andy Birtwell.
What is the current position?
The Birtwells have still not signed the Covenants and are now taking legal advice on what they are prepared to agree to. This is being negotiated by both sides. Everyone hopes that the legal agreement will be agreed and signed before the planning decisions for Holycombe House and the Campsite are made. It is likely that SDC will impose conditions on any planning permissions that are granted. These conditions (if any) have not yet been made publicly available – so we do not, as yet, know what they will cover. In any event, planning conditions will not provide sufficient protection. 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.
Unfortunately due to the timeline for the SDC planning process and the fact that the Covenants are not yet signed, although agreement on the wording has almost been reached, we need to take ACTION NOW.
Until the Covenants are signed, we need to oppose the applications for planning permission; without the Covenants, planning permission will threaten the longterm future of our village.
It should be noted that the Birtwells are no longer willing to sign a number of the key Covenants which they confirmed at the pub they would sign.
Notably, the Birtwells will no longer agree to apply for the House and the Campsite to be returned to residential use when their involvement ceases. This makes it all the more important that the other key Covenants are entered into because the commercial use will continue after the Birtwells have sold to a new owner.