Saturday, 28 November 2020

Residents win right to stop equestrian centre

RESIDENTS have won their fight to stop a farm being turned into an equestrian centre.

RESIDENTS have won their fight to stop a farm being turned into an equestrian centre.

They claimed the plans to develop Valentine Farm in Skirmett would be unwanted development of the countryside.

Last week, Wycombe District Council refused planning permission.

This was the second attempt by Neil Woodford to develop the site after he withdrew his original application a year ago following protests by neighbours.

Mr Woodford, who is head of investment at Henley finance company Invesco Perpetual, re-applied to demolish the existing agricultural and equestrian buildings and replace them with stables, a riding area, tack rooms, feed and rug room, wash rooms, an office, store rooms and a horse-walker.

He and his fiancée, Madeline White, are keen amateur showjumpers and say the purpose-built centre would enable them to ride all year round.

Mr Woodford held a meeting with neighbours before submitting his latest application.

Despite this, the Open Spaces Society, Chiltern Society, Chilterns Conservation Board and Natural England all recommended refusal and there were more than 120 written objections.

Jerry Unsworth, head of planning and sustainability at the district council, said the scale and mass of the riding arena and stable building would be harmful to the scenic beauty of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

He said: “It would damage its special character, appearance and natural beauty and, due to its location in public viewpoints and adjacent to the public rights of way network, would damage the future public enjoyment of the area.”

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Henley-based Open Spaces Society, said: “This is wonderful news. The proposed development would have been a huge eyesore in this outstanding, unspoilt landscape. It is a peaceful area of immense beauty.

“The site is highly visible from the many public paths which criss-cross the area. We are relieved that the planners have refused the application in such clear terms and we hope this will be the end of the matter.”

Former England rugby international and BBC presenter Nigel Starmer-Smith, whose garden backs on to the site, led the protests against the proposed development.

He said: “This will be a great relief not only for the local residents but significantly for the ramblers, cyclists and visitors from far and wide and those organisations which endeavour to protect this area of England’s outstanding natural beauty.”

Mr Woodford has until March 31 to appeal.

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