Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Bedford Borough Council draft Allocations and Designations Plan Consultation Response

29th June 2010

Martin Tidy
Bedford Borough Council
Planning and Housing Services
Town Hall
St Pauls Square
MK40 1SJ

Dear Mr Tidy

Bedford Development Framework – Allocations and Designations Plan, Consultation Draft, May 2010

Land adjacent to 156 High Street, Riseley (Riseley Site 29)

I am writing on behalf of Mr and Mrs Davies with regard to their proposal for a single house on the above site in Riseley. I have been asked by their architects to formally submit further representations to respond to the consultation draft plan which was published in May 2010. 

Overall, we are disappointed that the Council have not taken the opportunity to secure the allocation of the site for a single dwelling. It is felt that insufficient weight has been given to the arguments put forward and the sustainable nature of the proposed dwelling has all but been ignored. There are a number of specific areas that my clients would like to address, which are as follows:

·         Need;
·         Sustainable Assessment of the site; and the
·         Important open Space Review.

The consideration of this proposed site, has resulted in mixed messages, on the one hand the proposal is not considered to be sustainable, yet it is recognised as being a proposal for an eco house. The settlement policy area review states that the reason for its identification as a village open space is that it provides an important transition from the built up area of the village to the open countryside, yet the site is surrounding by other houses with the exception of its south eastern boundary and furthermore the Sustainability Assessment recognises that the “Site easily incorporated into existing settlement pattern” which suggests that this proposal could be developed without having a material impact on the village, open space or the surrounding countryside which runs wholly contrary to the decision not to allocate the site due to the fact it does not comply with rural policy.

The site is clearly a plot of land that sits between existing built up areas and its development for a single “eco house” would not result in a harmful impact on the village or the “open countryside” and would result in only a marginal impact on the village open space, given that the majority of the site would be a laid out as an enhanced meadow, thus retaining its openness.


Our previous submission highlighted sound arguments for allowing a single dwelling in the village as part of the organic and incremental growth of the village and that the Council’s own policy made allowances and exceptions for such growth in villages and rural areas. Whilst I do not wish to repeat all of what has been previously submitted on this matter, I will set out some of the arguments here again as although there is a personal need, the Council’s response seems to have discounted the reasons previously given that relate to the Councils own policy guidance on local need.

“The advice note states that in interpreting “proven need” regard should be taken of three things: advice in PPS7 in relation to maintaining the vitality of settlements; the fact that there will always be a need for incremental development within settlements; and the fact that need will have to be interpreted  differently owing to the type of use proposed and location of development, i.e. the need for large scale development on the edge of a large town will be easier to demonstrate need than say a large scale development on the edge of a village (our example).

My clients’ proposal does sit outside the SPA, but in reality it falls within the general built form of the village. It forms a very logical infill plot on which a property can be developed in such a manner that would respect the linear character of the village, without having a detrimental impact on the visual character of the village or impacting on the neighbouring properties. Furthermore the nature of the site ensures that there would be no unacceptable physical incursion into the open countryside as the boundaries of the site are strongly defined. A single dwelling therefore that lies within the historic building line, accords with the advice contained within PPS7 and the objectives of Policy CP14.

Under Section 2 of the Council’s advice note, sub section A it states:

In order to meet the PPS7 requirement for vital settlements it is implicit that within the SPAs some incremental growth may be acceptable to maintain vitality. This means that appropriate development proposed within SPAs consistent with saved policies H24 and E17 should proceed.”

It is clear that both national government advice in PPS7 and PPS3 and as set out in the Councils own supplementary advice note that there will always be a need for incremental growth in villages to maintain vitality of that settlement. It is our belief that this proposal offers such incremental growth in a location that sits comfortably within the historic village built form, where it won’t have a harmful impact. It will release a larger family home onto the market providing an opportunity for a family in the village to move thus releasing a smaller, perhaps more affordable house onto the market.

The Sustainability Assessment of the site clearly accepts that development on this site would fit the existing form of the village stating “Site easily incorporated into existing settlement pattern”

Therefore, it is strongly argued that the need for an additional dwelling in the village is demonstrated by the fact that a) my clients desire to stay in the village (i.e. personal need) and b) planning policy readily accepts that there will always be a need for incremental growth in villages. The fact that this site is not technically within the SPA should not preclude proper consideration for such development, as the site forms a suitable infill plot which could be developed without having a harmful impact on the surrounding village or countryside.

Sustainability Assessment

The Council’s Sustainability Assessment of the site seems to have completely missed the point of this proposal. My clients are seeking the reallocation of part of this land to be a) within the SPA and b) excluded from the Important Open Space, for the development of a single eco house. It is proposed that this new home would be for a Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 property. This quite simply is the most sustainable development that is possible and as you will be aware will be carbon neutral. The Sustainability Assessment has not properly assessed the impact of the proposal correctly. Below I will review each of the criteria used in the assessment.

1 – Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
the assessment puts a + against this criteria which is welcomed but it makes no reference to the fact this is a proposal for a carbon neutral home.
2 – Reduce the risk of flooding including adapting to the impacts of climate change
the assessment gives this proposal xx claiming that it lies within Flood Risk areas 2&3. The assessment fails completely to recognise the use of rainwater harvesting and the green roof technology that will be employed as part of this proposal which will ensure that the potential for run off at a rate which will result in potential for flooding is minimised. It should also be noted that although the Riseley High St  and brook some way away from this site floods on occasion, the site has never flooded and given it sits 1 – 1.5 m higher than the road, is very unlikely to flood. Therefore in light of the green roof and rain water harvesting technology to be implemented as part of the proposal and the flooding history of the site, the sustainability assessment should not have placed a double x against this criteria but actually should have given this a + in recognition of the proposals commitment to reducing the potential and the fact it will adapt to climate change.
3 – Protect and enhance the built historic features and cultural heritage of the Borough.
The assessment again gives this criteria a x as the site is not previously developed and lies within the Conservation Area. This assumes that all development would not protect or enhance the built historic features or cultural heritage of the borough. This assumption is clearly wrong there are many examples of where new development is allowed within conservation areas or adjacent to listed buildings as it is recognised that development can enhance the historic nature of an area. The proposal is for a low impact / carbon neutral house which will be dug in to the ground slightly and will have a green / living roof, therefore it is unlikely that the building will have a material impact or will be overly visible to the surrounding area, as such in light of the above factors it is argued that this criteria should not be given a x but should be neutral or even a + score.

4 – Create, conserve, protect and enhance the Boroughs natural features, distinctive local environments, habitats and species
Again due to the fact this is a Greenfield site the assessment has given a x negative score. It is accepted that we are seeking the part development of this site for a single dwelling. However, the majority of the site will remain in an uncultivated state and will in reality enhance the bio diversity of the site. The development of the site will also provide a strong barrier to any possible future development of the wider site. Thus protecting the majority of the natural features of the site. Overall therefore it is considered that this criteria should again have been scored either neutral or positive with a +.

5 – Promote sustainable lifestyles, use resources efficiently, maximise recycling and reuse.
The site was given a negative x score, the principle reason given being that the site is not previously developed. This wholly disregards the Code Level 6 nature of the proposal and the fact it will be carbon neutral. Promoting sustainable lifestyles is at the heart of this proposal. It also should be noted that on the suggestion by students at Bedford College, the clay that will be dug out of the site is proposed to be used as part of the construction of the proposed dwelling in the form of “cob”. This clearly demonstrates the efficient use of resources and maximising the recycling / re-use of materials. As such it is considered that this criteria should be scored positively with a +.

6 – No issue with the assessment

7 – Provide a range of quality homes for all, especially affordable housing
a neutral score was given for this criteria but it is argued that the house being proposed is a code level 6 home which will also be designed to full mobility standards so that the owners will be able to continue to live in the property should their circumstances change as they get older, thus ensuring that this property will help towards providing a range of accommodation for all. Therefore the assessment should have scored this as positive with a +.
8 – No comment

9 – No comment

10 – Meet the needs of a changing population
we agree with the positive score given but for the reasons outlined in some of the above points, this proposal is being built to full mobility standards and is to be a carbon neutral home thus fully meeting the needs of a changing population.
11 – Agree with the score and comments provided in the assessment.

12 – Deliver low carbon buildings, whatever their use.
Although we agree with the positive + score, it is felt that the absence of any comments on the carbon neutral aspect of the proposal strange. This sort of proposal should be applauded and welcomed and recognised in a Sustainability Assessment.
13 – Support the borough’s economy and specifically encourage the high value knowledge based industries
The assessment scored this aspect neutral which is felt to be unfair. A Code Level 6 proposal will lead to greater understanding of sustainable technologies and will allow where possible local builders the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of such technologies which is where the future of development has to go. The owners of the site are also working closely with the staff and students at Bedford College and other local schools to expand peoples knowledge of sustainable building techniques. Therefore the site and proposal should be given a positive + score in this respect.

14 – Improve the skills of the labour force
Again the assessment only gives this a neutral score. For the reasons mentioned in the above point, it is argued that this proposal give the opportunity for local builders to enhance and expand their skills and knowledge of such proposals. It is our understanding there is not another example of a Code Level 6 home in Bedfordshire and certainly not in North Bedfordshire. As such this criteria should be scored positively with a +.
15 -  Minimise growth in car usage, reduce the need to travel and promote the shift to more sustainable modes of transport
This criteria has been scored xxx which seems to be based on the fact this is a village and therefore is not as sustainably located as a site in the urban area which is of course self evident. This also suggests that no site in the rural area should be allowed to come forward on this basis. However, this runs contrary to national policy in that it is recognised that some housing development should be allowed in appropriate rural locations. It is also argued that we are only talking about the impact of an additional single dwelling, and this would not lead to an unacceptable increase in the number of private vehicular trips. Whilst some would be made, there are local services and facilities in the village and bus services are available with an enhanced evening service from Bedford back to the village. Therefore it is argued that this criteria has been unfairly weighted and to give it xxx is not justifiable. Finally as a potential additional way to overcome this matter, my clients are willing to invest in an electric car so that any vehicular trips are at least low carbon ones and thus reduce the environmental impact of any private vehicular trips. Any planning permission that is forthcoming could have a condition requiring the need for a charging point for an electric car to be installed prior to occupation. In light of this the assessment should have scored this neutral or even as a positive (+).
16 – Strong local identity and sense of place
we agree with the positive score and comment.
17 – No comment to be made.

As you can see, it is our view that the Sustainability Assessment of this site has not fully taken into account the proposed nature of the development and as a consequence, and for the reasons outlined above, the proposed development scores a lot more highly in sustainability terms and would therefore be an acceptable form of development.

Important Open Space Review

It is acknowledged that the site is currently allocated as an Important Open Space and as a consequence, other policy issues aside, its development would be contrary to policy. However as explained in our previous submission the site is in private ownership, is barely visible, does not perform a useful function and does not hold any special merit. On this basis it should not be considered as an Important Open Space.

It is argued that the precedent for reallocating Important Open Spaces has been previously established when the Inspector for the current local plan recommended that the land adjacent to the Old White Horse PH, Riseley should not be allocated as Important Open Space, as it did not hold any special merit which was subsequently changed in the adopted Local Plan. It is argued that the same conditions that applied to that site equally apply to this site and as such the site should not continue to be identified as an Important Open Space.

It is recognised that as part of this draft plan, the Council have reviewed all the Important Open Spaces, judging them against a list of criteria for establishing whether they should continue to be recognised as important open spaces or not. This review has also renamed these spaces as Village Open Spaces. Although just a simple name change, it does seem to indicate that these spaces are no longer “important” or vital to the character of the villages they are located in.

In the case of the review of open spaces the Council assessed the suitability of such spaces against a list of criteria, which are as follows:

a)      they are publicly accessible and valuable to the local community for sport recreation or as amenity space;
b)      they give identity to a settlement or village by helping to retain its form and reflect past history (examples include village green);
c)      they for a gap or break in the frontage which contributes to the character of a settlement for example providing a view into a village which forms part of the village setting, or a view into open countryside establishing the relationship between the form of the village and the countryside beyond;
d)     the gap provides visual relief in an otherwise built up area punctuating the street scene;
e)      the open space assists the transition between village and countryside providing a soft edge to the village which is pleasing visually.

In the case of the proposal site, the Council has reviewed it against the above criteria and have argued that the site should continue to be allocated / designated as a Village Open Space. The background paper states that the open space known as Riseley Site G should be designated as it complies with reason E.

By only referring to the single criteria, it is logically assumed that the Council felt that the paddock does not warrant designation for the other four criteria, i.e. it is not publicly accessible and is not valuable to the local community, it does not give identity to the village in terms of its form or past history, it is not a gap or break in the frontage that contributes to the character of the village and finally, it doesn’t provide a visual relief in an otherwise built frontage, presumably as it is not visible from the road.

This leaves criteria E, however, this does not seem to tally with the sites context or its location in the village. It is accepted that the site has a boundary to the open countryside, but the site lies well within the historic building line of the village, it is not on the edge of the village with no development beyond it, i.e. where a new building would extend the village. But it forms an infill plot. The “open” space does not assist the transition between the village and countryside or provide a soft edge to the village which is visually pleasing. It is not located on the edge of the village.

As such we argue that none of the criteria used in this assessment warrant the site being continued to be designated as a Village Open Space. It is not publicly accessible, it is barely visible except along the footpath and as a site, it holds not special merit either in landscape and visual terms or historical significance to the village, much like the land adjacent to the Old White House PH. Therefore, its development for a single low impact carbon neutral house should be viewed as acceptable.

It should also be noted that the design of the building with its green roof, the fact it will be dug in to the site together with the retention of trees along the frontage and the other boundaries will ensure that in visual terms there will be minimal changes to the site, with the exception of a more formal driveway and hardstanding area for vehicles close to the road. Although in reality even these areas will be largely hidden from view. The majority of the site will remain as open space / meadow therefore minimising any impact or changes.

It should also be noted that the village contains a significant number of areas of open space which are far more important in terms of their contribution to the village, with regard to amenity space, visual relief, and overall importance to the village. They are also located in the heart of the village.

As a consequence, we request that the Council reconsider the sites continued allocation as a Village Open Space and remove the designation from this site. In addition and in light of the arguments put forward above and in our previous submission, we also request that the Council amend the SPA boundary to include a portion of the site as shown on the plan previously submitted in May 2009 to allow the development of a very exciting Code Level 6 home.

If the Council feel a meeting would be useful to discuss the implications of the above, we would be more than happy to visit the Council offices.

Yours sincerely

James Luntz

ClearView Planning Ltd