Monday, 16 December 2019

Farmers want to diversify with equestrian course

Farmers want to diversify with equestrian course

AN equestrian cross-country course could be built on farmland near Woodcote.

The Hildred Partnership, a family-owned farm business based in Wallingford, has applied for planning permission to convert an
11-hectare field between Tidmore Lane and Oxford Road to the north of the village which has previously served as the Woodcote Rally site.

It says the facility would have between 80 and 100 jumps, which could be moved, and would meet British Eventing standards.

There would also be a permanent water obstacle with the appearance of a pond to ensure it fitted with the surrounding landscape.

The Partnership, which already runs the pick-your-own farm off Wallingford Road in Goring, also wants to lay a small patch of hard-standing with 16 parking spaces in the north-western corner of the site, where the entrance would be, and erect a portable cabin with welfare facilities for visitors.

The course would be in use for nine months of the year, from February to October.

It would be open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 8am to 5pm at the weekend.

Users would book slots by the hour online in advance and would be expected to leave within an hour of finishing. Only 11 vehicles would typically visit daily and there would be no “walk-up” admissions. There would be a maximum of eight horses on the course at any time.

There would be “low level” lighting run on a timer at the cabin for staff safety but no floodlighting.

The facility would have two part-time staff, one to look after customers and the other to maintain the site, with an office administrator based off site.

The Partnership says the scheme would provide a sustainable income to complement its agricultural business.

It says farmers face major financial problems exacerbated by Britain’s likely withdrawal from the European Union, which means subsidies could be reduced or scrapped.

Most are seeking new sources of income and work opportunities for their staff who might otherwise be unemployed in the off-season.

The Partnership says the nearest equivalent course is 13 miles away and there are only seven within a
42-mile radius, some of which aren’t as well equipped, so “significant” demand exists and the venture could be profitable within two years.

Its agent BCM, of Winchester, says: “The impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the amenity of local residents will be minimal, if any. The site is surrounded by well-used bridleways with numerous stable yards within a five-mile radius.

“This type of use is not uncommon in the locality and makes up a large proportion of the outdoor sport in the countryside, therefore activity in this location will not cause detrimental impact from noise and smell compared with other equestrian sites.

“The land is low-grade pasture so there will be no loss of high-grade agricultural land.”

It says the development would not affect any sites of archaeological, historical or conservational importance.

The Partnership had put the land forward for housing development under Woodcote’s neighbourhood plan but the offer was rejected due to the potental impact on views of the AONB.

Two years ago, Hildred joined forces with developer McAdden, of Spencers Wood, to offer a new primary school for Goring on land off Springhill Road in exchange for a nearby field being earmarked for housing. This was refused on similar grounds.

South Oxfordshire District Council will decide the latest application by the end of the year. Woodcote Parish Council is yet to comment.

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