Saturday, 15 August 2020

Villagers upset over plan for holiday ‘pods’ at farm

Villagers upset over plan for holiday ‘pods’ at farm

RESIDENTS of a rural village have opposed plans to build six holiday “pods” on farmland.

Terry Daniel has applied for planning permission for the “couples’ retreat” at his farm in Patemore Lane, Pishill, which is in the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

He says the development would be “minor in nature” but would have a significant economic benefit and provide much-needed tourist accommodation in the area.

Opponents say it is unsuitable for the area and would cause “irreparable” harm.

The application says the site is currently in agricultural use but is an “eyesore” with large, metal-clad barns and outbuildings, some of which are dilapidated.

The pods would blend into the landscape by mimicking the hilly nature of the area and would be covered in grass.

A planning statement by SF Planning, of Cheltenham, says: “It is felt by the applicant that this will greatly improve the visual appearance of the site and increase the value it contributes to improving the AONB.

“The current state of the site is a blot on an otherwise attractive rural area and the proposed development would result in a betterment over the site’s present condition.”

The pods would be fixed and permanent with a “high quality” interior and “excellent” broadband connection.

The statement says: “Each pod will have its own private terrace area with a gravel finish, which will be screened by hedging to maintain privacy. The windows of the pods are to face north, towards the forest.” The pods would be contained within the existing built area but would represent a significant decrease in building volume and the surrounding pasture would remain in agricultural use.

The applicant has committed to using materials from local suppliers and plans to reduce waste going to landfill through “material efficiency, recycling and sustainable construction methods”.

Bird and bat boxes would be created and safety precautions taken during construction to protect badgers.

The statement adds: “There is a strong demand for more tourist accommodation of all types in the area, especially in rural locations.

“Economically speaking, the proposals will contribute to the vitality of the area in terms of providing accommodation that will encourage tourist activity and thus will be of benefit to the local economy.

“The applicant has discussed the development proposals with local businesses, including pubs and wedding venues, and they are very welcoming of the proposals.”

But Arthur Judge, who has lived opposite the site for 60 years, says the development would be in the open countryside and would be create a “disturbing change” to the valley.

“My property runs alongside the top two or three of the pods,” he says. “The valley and my garden are very steep-sided. Accordingly, I will be above the pods and will be able to see the whole site. Therefore, any excessive noise, for example, from shouting, music, barbeques and stag and hen weekends, will potentially be a nuisance and interfere with my use and enjoyment.

“I have been informed that there will not be any employees permanently on the site, which could make it very difficult to get problems quickly resolved.”

Mr Judge adds: “There is already plenty of holiday accommodation and B&Bs in the area, which are struggling.”

Ingemar and Jane Jonsson said the development would not protect the countryside as it would generate more traffic and would prevent the field from being viable as agricultural land.

Jeffery Courtney says it would go against the rural character of the AONB, adding: “It would introduce light, air and noise pollution to this rural area of the Chilterns and be totally unsuitable for the agricultural ambience of the surrounding Chiltern Hills.”

Andrew Ingram, who runs the Tree Barn at Greenfield Farm, which is adjacent, says the development would be “completely inappropriate”.

“It is hard to find any single benefit with the proposal,” he says. “It is a greenfield site rich in Chiltern flora, which would be put at risk by the development.

“At no time in my life of living at Greenfield (72 years) has there ever been any building other than the existing farm buildings on the site.

“The creation of these pods would seem to me to be totally contrary to all AONB and green belt guidance. The visual impact on the valley of the pods and associated cars, paths etc would be devastating.”

The residents are supported by local parish councils. Watlington council says: “There is a very real probability that there could be irreparable damage to the biodiversity, access and enjoyment of the local area.”

Pishill with Stonor council says the development would be a “wholly inappropriate” and there would be potential for expansion.

Swyncombe council says the development would an “unnatural intrusion” into the landscape.

It adds: “It can be assumed that the pods are intended for short-term use only. This would mean frequent turnover, resulting in increased traffic movement, noise and air pollution and the inevitable risk of light pollution in a valuable dark-sky area.”

The committee of the South Oxfordshire district of the Campaign to Protect Rural England says the site is unsustainable.

It says: “The proposed holiday pods are permanent structures on concrete bases. They would create unusual features in the landscape and have a negative impact on the landscape. They would not easily be removed should the enterprise fail.

“The new pods, the accompanying domestic clutter, car ports and management building would be highly visible to walkers and riders using the Chiltern Way and bridleway.”

The committee also says Mr Daniel has not submitted a business plan and the need for further holiday accommodation has not been proved.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, is due to make a decision.

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