Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Neighbours fight couple’s ‘awful’ wall of mirrors for GB dressage rider

Neighbours fight couple’s ‘awful’ wall of mirrors for GB dressage rider

VILLAGERS have protested at plans for a huge wall of mirrors for use by a Great Britain dressage rider.

Adam and Susie McConkey have submitted a revised planning application for permission to install the training aids in the riding arena at their home in Orchard Close, Britwell Salome.

The couple’s 17-year-old daughter Jessica, a pupil at Shiplake College, is a dressage rider with the GB junior team and competed at the European championships in Italy last month.

The mirrors would be 20m (65ft 6in) long and up to 2.6m (8ft 5in) high.

The McConkeys’ planning application says: “Equestrian training mirrors are an essential part of the training process as the rider needs to see how a horse is performing as commands are given.

“The proposed mirrors would be positioned at the western end of the riding arena as this end is already cut approximately 1m  below ground.

“The maximum height of the mirrors would be 2.6m above the finished riding surface level, therefore visible mirror structure would be dramatically reduced.”

It adds that extra tree planting behind the mirrors would help to reduce the visual impact for neighbouring properties.

Residents are also objecting to the couple’s plans to replace an existing entrance gate with an electrical sliding one. Neighbour Cecilia Akerman Kressner says: “I would like to stress that the development is out of character and is not enhancing in any way our rural community.

“We are in an area of outstanding beauty and it should be preserved and respected.

“Furthermore, the backside of the mirrors will be seen from my property and will look out of place.”

She adds that the development would cause light pollution.

Sarah Miller says the couple have proposed “very little” mitigation since their previous application, which prompted 22 objections.

She calls the mirrors “awful, out of keeping structures” which would be visible from the highest parts of Britwell Hill and also when entering the village by the lane next to the Priest’s House.

She adds: “The fact that the mirrors are to be at the lower ground level end of the manège is irrelevant. The huge metal struts that would support the mirrors would be very ugly, out of keeping with the rural and agricultural setting.

“Very little has changed from the original application with little or no more consideration paid to the site being a conservation area and AONB. We all need and want to preserve, not cause visual detriment to, this beautiful part of the Chilterns.”

Ms Miller also says that the couple’s proposed reduction in the size of the new gate is a “token offering”, adding: “An agricultural five-bar wooden, non-electric gate is far more acceptable within the surroundings of a tiny country lane and farming setting.”

Chris and Susie Bidgood say: “This is a truly crazy idea and wholly inappropriate to the local environment and circumstances.

“A video camera set-up would surely serve as a useful way of assessing one’s horseriding skills... such a system would be unobtrusive and is used in many sports for development.”

Christopher and Katy Thomson say the mirrors would be visible to passers-by, cars and neighbours.

They add: “This is a conservation area and AONB and should be respected as such.

Paul Sargeantson calls the proposed gate “hideous”.

He continues: “For those who care about the character of our village and the AONB, these amendments do not in any way allay our fears.

“To grant planning consent for these awful proposals would, in my opinion, severely undermine the credibility of the local planning authority on which we rely for protection against just such development.” The Britwell Salome Parish Meeting (council) has objected, saying the development does not conserve or enhance the land within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the village conservation area.

Watlington Parish Council also supports the objectors.

It says the mirrors would be of “almost unfathomable size” and “incredibly inappropriate”.

The McConkeys say that because the manège is sunk into the ground at the western edge, the mirrors would sit below the permitted height of a boundary wall or fence and in time below the height of the hedge currently growing there.

They also say the mirrors would not be visible from any public ground on Britwell Hill.

Mr McConkey told the Henley Standard: “Unfortunately, because of a mix of trespassing, vandalism and theft common to many rural communities, we have had to look at improving our security across the property, including a new gate.

“These particular plans have been revised in consultation with South Oxfordshire District Council following feedback from the village.

“It’s just disappointing that the equestrian mirrors are causing so much noise as their location has been carefully selected to ensure they won’t be visible from any village property or public space.”

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, will decide the application.

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