Thursday, 05 August 2021

Neighbours lose first round of fight over marina homes

PARISH councillors have not objected to plans for two new homes on land near a Wargrave marina despite concerns by neighbours about their height.

David Bushnell, who runs Bushnells Marina in Thameside, wants to demolish two properties, known as Meadowsweet, and a garage on land next to the marina and to build a pair of four-bedroom houses.

Each house would have a garden, double garage and parking space for at least four vehicles and would be accessed from Loddon Drive and Watermans Way.

They would be raised on stilts to prevent flooding from the River Thames and River Loddon nearby.

The houses would have no connection with the marina business.

In 2015, Mr Bushnell was refused permission by Wokingham Borough Council to build three three-storey houses on the site.

The council said the size of the houses would create “a prominent and incongruous form of development that would erode the existing spacious and verdant character and appearance of the area”.

Mr Bushnell subsequently lost an appeal.

His latest application says the scale of the two houses has been influenced by the concerns raised previously as they have a smaller footprint and are not as high.

But neighbours raised the height and other concerns at a meeting of Wargrave Parish Council on Monday.

Philip Meadowcroft, who lives in Watermans Way, said that while the plans indicated the houses would be 7.37m in height, the need for a gap of 1.5m underneath to allow floodwater to flow through meant they would actually be almost 9m tall, when the average height of properties in the area was 7.7m.

Mr Meadowcroft said: “It all hinges on the height of the building in relation to surrounding properties.

“The cramped development objection we made has been met by putting just two houses there but the height issue has not been met.

“There was an overbearing nature on neighbouring properties and I’ve come to the view that the overbearingness is still relevant.”

Jo Malone, whose mother  lives in Watermans Way, said: “These houses would face us.

“We raised some exceptions last time and they have all been addressed very well apart from the height of the houses.”

Mr Bushnell said he had revisited the plans following his appeal and had reduced the height of the properties as much as possible.

He said: “The appeal officer gave some conditions and my architect and planning consultant followed those. We have reduced the height of the buildings to two-storey houses and unless we go to bungalows, that’s what it has to be and that’s what Meadowsweet is now.

“Both properties have been moved into the middle of the site to be further away from neighbouring properties.” 

Mr Meadowcroft said that if permission was granted, site access should be from Loddon Drive rather than Watermans Way.

But Mr Bushnell said this was not possible as Loddon Drive was a private road.

He said: “Watermans Way is a normal double road whereas Loddon Drive is a single track. The access from Watermans Way services the marina. We often have very big boats delivered to the marina so that would make sense for site deliveries too.”

Jeff Gosling, of Loddon Drive, supported the application.

He said: “The development will enhance the area. Two homes currently vulnerable to flooding will be out of reach of flooding.”

Councillor Terry Cattermole said: “A lot of work has been done to alleviate the previous comments. It has gone down from three dwellings to two and they have been spaced out.

“The inspector said the height should be reduced to reflect the local context.”

Councillor Andrew Luckwell said he thought the houses were too high for the area and the impact would be too much.

But Councillor Philip Davies said: “I think they have addressed most of the concerns we had last time and have done a good job.

“I understand the height issue but I think it might look a bit strange to start lopping off stuff.

“I understand the height could have an effect but it’s significantly further from the border than last time.”

Chairman Richard Bush said: “The topography is almost irrelevant because the flood level is the mark they have to go to.”

Councillor Marion Pope said: “There are similar designs in the area of that height but it’s got to have the flow ingress for water to pass underneath.

“Is it possible to lower the roof height even more on both developments? It’s just the height that’s going to be a problem.”

Councillors agreed not to object to the application but suggested that if the plans were approved that permitted development rights should be removed to prevent further expansion and that working times and construction traffic should be monitored.

They also said they would like the height of the properties reduced “to ensure that the development is more in keeping with the locality”.

A decision will be made by the borough council later this month.

The Bushnell family has been running a business at the boatyard for almost 100 years.

Mr Bushnell joined the company to run the repair and maintenance operation known as Bushnell Marine Services. He now owns the business with his father Paul.

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