Questions and Answers
We understand there is a lot of information supplied. Below are questions and answers that we hope will answer any queries you may have but you can email us through the contact page and all questions and answers will be published anonymously.
Why does Holycombe need planning permission?
Planning rules exist to protect communities from over-development, ensure safety standards are maintained and to allow local communities a say in how their area develops.
At present, Holycombe has permission for residential and agricultural use. The current commercial activity is against the rules designed to protect communities, which is why SDC want to decide the appropriate use for the site through the planning process and has issued an Enforcement Notice to stop illegal use of the land.
Aren’t the planning applications just a formalisation of what’s currently taking place at Holycombe?
No. Without planning conditions and other legal undertakings to guarantee the site’s future impact on Whichford and Ascott, the applications open the door to further commercial exploitation by future owners.
If the two planning applications are approved, it would mean the legal use of the House and Campsite would change from residential and agricultural to commercial. That means the house could readily become a hotel, the campsite a training ground etc.
We’re not against change, but we need protections and detailed restrictions to ensure our tranquil way of life is not damaged forever.
Won't Holycombe operate in exactly the same way as today?
As commercial activity is currently taking place without planning permission, it’s impossible to know what conditions the Council might place on operations.
1. Under the proposals it would not be business as usual as the permission applied for involves greater use than we have seen over the last two years. For instance, the planning application fails to limit the number of daily visitors or traffic movements, The House could legally operate as a fully-fledged restaurant, threatening the existing businesses of The Norman Knight and The Straw Kitchen.
2. Once the site has commercial use granted, any new owner is likely to want to maximise their commercial return by using permitted levels of activity as a new base from which to expand the business.
Won't more traffic create problems in Whichford?
Warwickshire Highways Authority is already unhappy with heavy traffic accessing the site on the corner of Roman Row, with large campervans and trailers making a turn at a dangerous corner.
The planning application proposes to move vehicle access to between the north end of Roman Row and the campsite, meaning traffic will use the Green Lane with people living in houses parallel to the Green Lane and the Campsite impacted. Traffic movements after dark will involve bright head lights shining straight into Roman Row houses. There is no indication as to how current pedestrian use of the Green Lane will be protected from 66 people coming and going in vehicles.
Haven't the Birtwells pledged to operate the site sensitively?
The welcome voluntary undertakings regarding types of activity, operating hours etc have no status in law, so they won’t protect the villages into the future.
Andy Birtwell did propose a set of legally binding covenants which would also bind future owners (The Covenants). Those Covenants have still yet to be adopted and are subject to negotiation with the Birtwells’ legal team.
The Birtwells received planning consent for a house in 1997. Initial planning consents for the House and Campsite for commercial activity were overturned by the High Court and so SDC issued an Enforcement Notice to stop such activity in January 2017.
We know the planning history of the site is quite complex, so we’ve prepared a timeline (Link).
The Birtwells received planning permission, so isn’t everything above board?
The site has been operating for a number of years without complaint, shouldn’t it just be allowed to continue?
The site has been operating without planning permission for commercial activity. Due to complaints of noise and traffic disruption, SDC opened an ‘enforcement file’ in June 2011, noting illegal activity. This culminated in an Enforcement Notice being issued in January 2017 to stop illegal uses on the site. The problem is that the permission the Birtwells have applied for exceeds the usage that we have seen over the last couple of years. Further, any new owner will want to maximise commercial profit by using the permission granted as a new base from which to expand acvtivites.
Doesn’t opposition to the Campsite comes from just a select few in the villages?
No, a broad range of local people have concerns about the planning proposals in their current form. Many people have responded to the Council’s formal consultation to state their opposition, with many others expressing opposition in private.
The applications have the potential to cause irreversible damage to the villages and so are understandably opposed by a wide range of people. Much of the support comes from people who want to see the current usage continue but that is not the issue. The threat is as to what will happen once the permission applied for is granted.
Isn’t all this dragging on a bit?
We appreciate that concerns surrounding Holycombe have been circulating for quite some time. It’s vital, however, that we all stick to the rules, so it’s right that decisions on planning issues which could cause irretrievable damage to our community are only made with all the facts disclosed and consequences understood.
Isn’t a Campsite and Holistic Retreat exactly the type of development we want?
The Council’s Core Strategy, which is designed to define acceptable types of development, is clear that development within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty must conserve and enhance the area.
The Core Strategy (at CS11) defines areas such as Whichford and Ascott as ‘tranquil’, where the minimisation of noise, traffic congestion and light pollution is a priority. The application does not protect these features.
Alongside no cap on daily visitor numbers and a significant increase in campers and glampers, the planning permission offers no security that local planning policy will be respected and that irreversible damage to the villages will be avoided.
Do the applications comply with planning policy
It’s clear from Council’s Enforcement Notice of January 2017 that large elements of the planning applications are not compliant with the Stratford District Council Core Strategy.
The specific policy references can be viewed here Link.
Doesn’t government policy support rural small business?
Government policy rightly supports business which is appropriate to the community in which it operates. Policy is clear that suitability should be considered on a case by case basis, so approval is not automatic.
How and when will the planning applications be determined?
The planning applications will be determined by local councillors at the SDC East Planning Committee. The likely date for the meeting at which the applications will be decided is 23rd May 2017.
How do I make my views known?
You can submit your views directly to the Council. It needs to be done before 26th May 2017.
For Application One, Holycombe House 15/02005/FUL here
For Application Two, The Campsite 16/04039/FUL here
Or if you would prefer to write, send them by post to the case officer, Alice Cosnett, at Elizabeth House, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HX.
2. There is an independent government public inquiry in October 2017. Any objections (must be
three copies) need to be sent to:
Kevin Carpenter ,The Planning Inspectorate Room, 3E Temple Quay House, 2 The Square,
Bristol BS1 6PN by 8th May 2017 quoting references APP/J3720/C/17/3169166 and APP/
Financial implications of the different classification of land use
Land which has planning permission for commercial use is usually much more valuable than a house with residential use and land used for agricultural purposes. If the Birtwells are granted their permissions they will be able to sell the House and Campsite as going concerns. Any new owner is very unlikely to want things to stay as they are, so the village is likely to face increasing commercialisation with more people and traffic around. The Birtwells are no longer willing to agree that if they get planning permission they will ensure that when they sell Holycombe it will return to residential and agriculture use to prevent any new owner intensifying their current businesses and ruining our villages.
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.
I have already written in and supported the planning applications to the SDC. Can I change my mind and now object?
Yes you can. You can’t physically remove your original letter in support but you can make a new one, either by writing in or online via the SDC Planning Application portal. You can make it clear that you are changing your position in the light of new information. For example; "I have previously written in support but I have had more thought and I wish to withdraw my support and instead object. I am concerned that….”. If you have any questions or need help, please contact us on our contact page here.