Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Billionaire’s polo complex extension would spoil our lives, say residents

RESIDENTS claim that plans to expand a polo complex on an estate in Remenham would ruin their quality of life.

Andrey Borodin wants to build a new stable block on the Park Place estate following the demolition of existing outbuildings.

The estate is home to his Park Place polo team, a “top level” side which made the finals of two national tournaments this year.

Representatives of the wealthy Russian exile say the development would allow horses, players and grooms to spend more time on the site, helping them to concentrate on training and playing.

The new stables would allow the estate to accommodate 76 ponies, a typical roster for a high-level polo team. The 52-acre estate already has a stable block which houses 40 horses, along with tack and feed rooms, after being extended last year.

There are 35 other horses in an adjacent stable block and around 15 grooms who work during the polo season, which runs from March to September.

A new polo field was created last year and is expected to be “fully operational” for the first time this season.

The planning statement says that while the site is in the green belt, the plans qualify as “special circumstances” as they relate to outdoor sport use.

It says: “Competing at the top level of any sport requires every possible advantage you can achieve.

“Other high-goal polo teams tend to have their grooms living on site because of the long days and this has a knock-on effect upon the horse’s performance. Park Place polo team got to the Queen’s Cup and Royal Windsor Cup finals at Guards and the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup. These results show the depth of ability for the team to be successful at winning the top prizes in the sport.”

Last year, permission was granted for the polo pitch, practice area, exercise track, stables and pavilion in the grounds of the Park Place house.

Wokingham Borough Council gave consent, subject to conditions including a limit on the number of matches played each year and use of the facilities by the occupiers and guests of Park Place only.

An application for an accommodation block for grooms was refused earlier this month.

Residents claim that expansion of site would be to the detriment of locals and would attract more visitors, in contravention of the planning permission.

Mark Phillips, who lives in Dairy Lane on the Park Place estate, says his own plans to enlarge his home have been deemed unsuitable in the green belt and the same should apply to a “professional sporting facility”.

He said: “It is not an appropriate use of green belt land. It could never be appropriate for the owner of a professional football team to build a football stadium on green belt land, even if that land was on grounds that made up part of his private estate.

“How is an elite professional sports facility an appropriate outdoor sporting facility ‘for the occupiers and guests of Park Place’? The answer is that it plainly is not. What started out as a polo field, ostensibly for the occupiers and guests of Park Place without public access, has become a large elite professional sports facility that does not preserve the openness of the green belt and that also conflicts with the purposes of including the historic Park Place land within the green belt.”

Mr Phillips, a barrister, added that competitive polo matches would attract about 100 supporters while visiting teams would need transport for horses, grooms and support teams and it was “unclear” where these vehicles would be parked on match days.

He said: “There are no plans to deal with the additional traffic this will generate, even during the summer when the queues into Henley run past the entrance to the polo facilities. The noise and inconvenience this will generate for residents is obvious.

“The development is entirely for the benefit of one man but causes inconvenience to all other residents and will impact upon the enjoyment by the residents of their land.”

Alex and Julia Wilks, of Remenham Hill, said: “We already encounter great noise disturbance 12 hours a day, seven days a week from the management of the horses in the existing stable.

“The privacy of our garden has been hugely compromised with groom staff often working right next to our boundary fence cleaning up after the horses.

“Since the installation of the new stable block, the flies we endure in our house and garden have become a massive inconvenience.

“The problem of being plagued with large flies can only increase with the addition of extra horses being stabled close to our house.”

Nigel Williams, also of Remenham Hill, said he had to put up with noise pollution, smells and horse flies from the site and worried that these problems would be worse if the plans were approved.

He said: “I have lived in my house for 14 years and have seen the whole area of green belt to my south, east and west change from peaceful empty fields to the current intensive use as a polo facility for the owner of Park Place.

“Dairy Lane used to have occasional residents’ vehicles going up and down it, but now there is a constant stream of employees and delivery vehicles to and from Park Place and associated properties.

“This whole complex seems to be inappropriate development of sensitive green belt.”

Remenham Parish Council has objected to the application.

It said: “The facilities previously introduced plus those now proposed on site appear to be resulting in a much larger, more commercial venture than just a private facility, as required by the existing consent.

“No very special circumstances have been put forward to justify such inappropriate development in this instance.”

Developer Michael Spink sold Park Place house and 40 per cent of the 500-acre estate for a record £140million in 2011 after spending four years renovating and modernising the property, which is almost 300 years old and Grade II listed.

Billionaire Mr Borodin was chief executive and co-owner of the Bank of Moscow but fled Russia in 2011 after being accused of fraud and was granted political asylum in 2013.

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