Residents’ anger at plans for up to 500 houses in Southwater

Plans for up to 500 houses in Southwater
Plans for up to 500 houses in Southwater

Anger has erupted after an application for up to 500 homes to the west of Southwater was re- submitted to the local authority.

The original planning application by Berkeley Homes had to be dramatically amended at the eleventh hour on February 21, when English Heritage upgraded the listing of Great Farm House building [WSCT 23/02/2012].

Now, the amended plans changedto comply with English Heritage’s criteria are being branded as ‘obnoxious’, with new concerns raised over loss of privacy and degradation of the environment.

Berkeley Homes’ amended plans include a reduction in houses from 550 to ‘up to 500’, with none proposed to be built immediately to the south west of the historic farm house.

Turley Associates, the applicants’ heritage consultant, has reported that the plans ‘meet the objectives of NPPF policy’ and ‘whilst there would be a change in part of the setting of the designated heritage asset, that the impact would cause little harm’.

Andrew McPhillips, land and planning director for Berkeley Homes, said: “We have taken English Heritage’s concerns on board and made a number of alterations to the application as a result. These are positive changes which reflect our commitment to work with all parties involved in the planning process.”

However, the amendments do not overcome the objections of local campaigners, and some residents.

Peter Kindersley and Ian Thwaites, from Keep Southwater Green - the organisation devoted to saving Southwater’s countryside and opposing overdevelopment - are strongly oppossed to the development which they believe will prevent the listed building from being able to continue as a working farm.

Mr Kindersley argues that if the farm house cannot continue as a working farm, the English Heritage listing might be downgraded again.

The agent for the application, Bell Cornwell, said in the covering letter dated May 4: “The amendments relate to the reduction in the developable area resulting from the exclusion of the field lying immediately to the south west of Great House farm from the developable area. This part of the site is now to be retained as agricultural land in conjunction with Great House Farm.”

Further consideration of the application is needed before it will return to committee for members’ consideration and determination of the application.

Comments from English Heritage are yet to be received. The date that the planning application will go to committee has not yet been decided and will depend on an assessment of all the new material and what arises from the consultation.

Keep Southwater Green concerned for farm’s viability:

The viability of the farm has been put into question with the new planning application, a Keep Southwater Green representative has warned.

Peter Kindersley, from the campaign group aiming to protect Southwater from over-development and representing over 4,000 people, said the new plans are ‘basically the same’ as the old ones.

Mr Kindersley is worried that the loss of agricultural land will mean the farm will no longer be able to continue as a working farm, which could cause its listing to be downgraded.

“We are concerned about the viability of the farm,” he said. “They originally asserted it remained viable even though it lost 40 per cent of its income.

“I would like to see a proper assessment of the viability of the farm.”

Mr Kindersley also wants to see extra land allocated to the farmers so they can continue their work, living in the listed building, which will enable them to continue to maintain it and keep the English Heritage status.

“It’s a concern which would be easily relieved in the short term by giving the farmer equivalent land from somewhere else which they are seemingly refusing to do.”

Future uncertain for cherished farm:

The Great House Farm building, which has been a working farm for about 200 years, is facing a daunting future.

Aubrey Charman started the dairy farm with only a handful of cows but four years ago the farm converted from dairy farming to meat farming.

The next generation of the Charman family may find it hard to continue making a success of selling naturally reared beef without the full use of the 200 acre farm land.

English Heritage upgraded the listing of the farm house building when it realised that several hundred years ago it was a monastery, giving it historical importance as well as local endorsement.

Comments made on HDC’s online planning portal:

Ian Thwaites, of Marlpost Road, and Keep Southwater Green, said: “The amended proposal is as obnoxious as the previous ones and I object most strongly.

“The loss of productive farmland which is much cherished and a valued amenity for the village is an overwhelming ‘harm’ and there are no balancing benefits.”

Robert Laker, of Woodfield in Southwater, said: “Southwater has grown in population from 1,306 in 1961 to nearly 11,000 today. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, before our village becomes a town!”

Stephen Bourne, of Woodlands Way, said the development is unsustainable due to a lack of jobs and rail transport in the village.

“The loss of privacy is the greatest concern, followed by the loss of environmental heritage.”