Report of meeting with Wycombe District Council 20th June 2017 & reply to P&TGRS

 

GOMM VALLEY & ASHWELLS

Notes of Meeting with Penelope Tollitt 20 June 2017

The meeting had been requested by Penelope Tollitt (PT) to brief the Ashwells Forum on the current status of the Development Brief (DB). Representing the Forum were Miles Green, Gill Markham, Gerry King and Ken Cooke.

It was agreed that the following list of topics would form an agenda for the meeting:

• Cock Lane/Spine Road
• Size of gap between Parcel 8 and Ashwells
• The Copse
• Density
• Hammersley Lane access to Parcel 1
• Traffic levels in P&TG
• Bus Routes
• Construction Traffic Access to Ashwells site
• Car Parking
• Green space in perpetuity

The DB will be considered for adoption at the 10 July meeting of the WDC Cabinet. This final version of the DB will ‘go live’ on the Council website 5 days in advance of the Cabinet meeting.

It is not clear what the timetable will be for the presentation of planning applications. It is likely that the overall plan for the GVA reserve site is currently being reviewed by AVIVA as the new landowner, and although there have been expectations of an OPA being submitted for over a year, so far there has been no request for a Pre-application meeting. Proposals for the Ashwells site will be reviewed in-house with the property section of WDC (Charles Brocklehurst), but again there is no timetable for this.

As for a development implementation timetable, PT would not be surprised if the overall GVA scheme became a 10-year project, but this would depend on how many separate developers were engaged and what the phasing and overlap would be. However, it became apparent later that PT expects Ashwells to be built before the Spine Road is constructed for the GV housing.

Cock Lane/Spine Road

• Notwithstanding the objections received during the public consultation, it had been decided that the top end of Cock Lane should be widened, from the new Ashwells access road to the junction with the Spine Road. The main driver of this decision had been safety. We suggested a pedestrian/cycle route outside the eastern hedge.
• The widened section of Cock Lane would be retrofitted with traffic calming measures. PT agreed that these needed to be spelled out.
• Reference was made to the unsatisfactory response received from Mark Shaw to the representations made by the Forum on local traffic issues, including Cock Lane. It was hoped that the changes to Cock Lane would include other measures (eg better warning signage for HGV drivers) to deter its use by through traffic.
• The text would make it clear that the widening of Cock Lane was not to encourage its use as a through route (eg. by deleting the reference to “accommodating additional traffic generated by the development”), and expanded to include specific design requirements that will slow traffic and ensure the retention of its ‘country lane’ character.
• The DB now included detailed design criteria for the Spine Road (closely following the text proposed by KC).
• The cost of road widening would be borne by the developer.
• PT explained that two options had been included for the alignment of the Spine Road. Option 1 showed a meandering alignment as per the draft DB, but PT felt that this had not properly taken into account the site contours, and therefore a more indicative straight line alignment had also been included to simply illustrate the principle of connectivity within the GV development, leaving it to the developer’s master planner to propose a detailed alignment solution that responded to the disposition of the houses and the contours of the site.

The Gap
• PT advised that it had been intended to shrink Parcel 8 in order to increase the gap, but at 180M, the text and graphics had not been revised to reflect this. PT would therefore look at this again.
• Additional woodland would be planted alongside the widened stretch of Cock Lane, on the Ashwells side to suggest that Kings Wood extended over the lane, and to emphasise the rural character of the gap.
• To further mitigate the visual impact of Parcel 8, it was agreed that there would be specific requirements set out in the text for further planting to screen the edge of the housing development when viewed from the environs of Parcel 9.

The Copse
• PT was categorical that the Copse would be kept, but the DB was not specific about whether the copse was in public or private ownership, which would need to be resolved with regard to woodland management.
• Ownership and the need for surveillance were important issues, and this might be dealt with by allowing the back gardens of the new houses to extend right through the Copse. PT agreed that it might also be possible to apply the same principle to the existing houses on Carter Walk and that this was a useful suggestion.
• PT would have favoured a footpath connection between Ashwells and the top end of Wheeler Avenue to encourage community integration and ‘good neighbourliness’ if this had been possible, but accepted that it would not happen.
• PT was unaware of the issue of the pending DMMOs to formalise the existing footpaths running parallel to but outside the Copse and the intention for these to form the basis of a Greenway around the development. The alignment of a footpath alongside the copse had not been fixed, but would have to be along the newly created estate roads.
• The area occupied by the copse would not be included in density calculations.

Density
• We were not able to persuade PT to reduce the density for Ashwells below the 25dph set out in the Development Brief of July 2016. The final version of the DB will state a uniform density of 25 dph across the whole GVA Reserve Site area, except for Parcels 1 and 2 which will be of a higher density. PT maintains that 25dph reflects what is generally regarded as a typical density for a suburban development and that a lower density would be unacceptable to an Inspector in the current climate of satisfying housing needs.
• PT did not anyway accept that density should be the definitive starting point for design and maintained that 25dph would not necessarily produce a less attractive street scene than 15dph. The densities of the surrounding areas were reference points, but each of these areas had densities that had responded to the needs at the time. There were other important factors that would affect the quality of development and the number and type of dwellings always needed to be determined in relation to housing needs at the time.

• PT agreed that additional text would be inserted to provide guidance on the development of Parcel 9, recognising that this was a prime site with outstanding views. It was also highly visible from the south, and therefore the density and massing should be treated accordingly. It was also noted that P9 was under different ownership from the Ashwells site.
• The two earth-covered houses that had been proposed in the Savile’s scheme had not been included in the DB.

Hammersley Lane Access
• BCC and WDC had reached a decision that there should be an access in/out of Parcel 1 from Hammersley Lane. Discussions with BCC were still on-going and no final decision had been made on the design. However out of the options under consideration, PT preferred the creation of a roundabout at the Robinson Road junction, which she thought would have traffic calming advantages. She appreciated that the construction of a roundabout on a steep hill presented challenges, but thought it achievable.
• The Hammersley Lane access road would probably serve Parcel 1 only, with the possibility that a bus-only road might connect Parcel 1 to the Spine Road (subject to this being viable as a bus route); there were also ecological and gradient issues to be addressed. A footpath connection would, however, be provided from P1 to the Spine Road.
• There would be no traffic lights at the railway bridge.
• PT agreed that there was still an alternative option for full vehicle access to the Spine Road but apparently the gradients at the Spine Road end were thought to be too severe (although not as steep as many roads in High Wycombe)
• Regarding footways along Hammersley Lane, these would be added as and where it was feasible to do so, recognising that there are sections where this would not be possible.

Traffic

• PT was not in favour of the two access roads serving separate areas of the Ashwells development (ie the ‘bollard’ solution). She believed that there should be connectivity throughout the site.
• It was pointed out that the existing footpath leading down to the Horse and Jockey was not suitable for use as a cycle way and reference to this should be deleted from the text.
• PT was asked to note the disappointing outcome of the briefing meeting in January 2017 with Mark Shaw and Sarah Gibson on local traffic issues. GK was still concerned that the issue of increasing traffic volumes in and out of the village had not been addressed, and indicated that he was still awaiting a written reply from PT to his written questions presented at the P&TG Res Soc Meeting..
• PT confirmed that her department’s responsibility for transport issues covered only the impact on planning decisions. Otherwise BCC were responsible for all transport policy and implementation.

Bus Routes
• There was no appetite on the part of the bus company to make any changes to the existing 31 bus route
• Any additions or changes to bus routes serving the southern end of GV had still to be agreed with the bus company. The Planning Authority cannot require a bus route.
• As there were concerns about the viability of the #27 bus route, GK outlined to PT a better route that would collect more passengers and avoid many of the problems of the existing route. PT confirmed that they might adopt this proposal to route the bus up a new link from Cock Lane to the Spine Road, above Pimms Close, but only once the development had started and there was no longer any issue with the small plot of land not owned by AXA / AVIVA.

Access for Ashwells Construction Traffic
• Access for construction traffic remained of serious concern to residents. Access via Tylers Green and Ashwells would be unacceptable and conflict with school traffic, and access via the new road would still involve construction vehicles using the single track section of Cock Lane. It was suggested that the best option would be to create a route using a temporary extension of the Spine Road through Gomm Valley, though this would be affected by the GVA development phasing. However, PT seemed to expect that Ashwells would be completed before the Spine Road was built.
• Regarding concerns over building noise, PT advised that Environmental Regulations covers working hours – so not before 8am or after 6pm M to F, not Sat. pm or Sun.

Car Parking
• As a general principle, car parking would meet the BCC parking standards guidelines, which would result in 2.0 to 2.5 average spaces per dwelling. This would be translated into 2 spaces per house, with 0.5 element provided in shared parking areas. PT agreed that these standards were not adequate.
• Where provided, garages would be attached, and there would be no stand-alone garages, in order to avoid excessive built mass (as recommended by the Design Review Panel).

Green space in perpetuity
• The development of GVA would be restricted to those areas shaded orange on the plans. PT understood the need to have certainty over the status of the undeveloped land. She said that once the ‘ecological’ part of the undeveloped land (ie excluding that designated for recreation) had been defined, a formal Trust needed to be set up that could guarantee that this would remain undeveloped in perpetuity, and be responsible for managing all future planning decisions affecting its status. A Trust would need to be endowed by the developer. The Ashwells green space (excluding the Copse) could perhaps be managed separately by CWPC.

Penelope Tollitt’s, Head of Planning and Sustainability – replied to Miles Green on 22nd June

Many thanks to you and your ‘team’ coming in on Tuesday to go through the Gomm brief again. I’m sorry that I was not quite as well able to find bits in the document as I had thought I would be able to.

I sat down with Cllr Johncock yesterday and went through the final changes. He has asked that ‘the gap’ is described as 200m at its narrowest part, rather than 180m. You may feel that this is such a small change as to be worth little, as compared to your aspiration, but looking at the impact on housing numbers – on land that is relatively flat and with relatively little landscape impact – the balance tips in favour of a smaller gap.

We have also drafted since we met the text of the section about the top of Cock Lane, which was a huge omission – and given the importance of this to both the gap, and traffic – I am copying in below the text that has been drafted – had it been drafted before we met I am sure I would have read out large chunks of it to you in the meeting.

We also talked a little about the tiny parcel to the south of the Ashwells boundary hedge and the need for it to have its own description. I realised afterwards that that was one of the changes that Rebecca had already made, and I think it will help to satisfy your concerns.

We have also inserted a new paragraph as a direct result of our meeting, ensuring that the new planting both in the new areas of ‘screen’ planting and within the development, contains both semi-mature and smaller specimens, to ensure that there is an immediate landscape impact. So many thanks for making that observation!.

The new ‘cock lane’ text is below.

Many thanks once again for taking the trouble to come in and meet.

Penelope

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The spine road will joint Cock Lane about 200m south of the edge of the current development at Tyler’s Green. Cock Lane is a single track rural lane, with irregular passing places and limited forward visibility. For reasons of highway safety is it necessary to widen the section of Cock Lane for the short section from the point where the Spine Road will join it, northwards.

However, it is important that this highway improvement does not lead to a significant increase in traffic using Cock Lane and the new spine road, because of the detrimental impact that would have on the village of Tylers Green. The widened section of Cock Lane will, therefore, be fitted with traffic calming, to keep traffic speeds low, and limit the attractiveness of the spine road to new traffic from further afield, whilst achieving a safer road with planned passing places with good forward visibility. The aim is to ensure the spine road delivers traffic slowly, but steadily, through the site.

The introduction of the spine road means that it has removed the need to widen the majority of Cock Lane, thereby preserving its rural character. But it is important that the rural character of the lane is maintained in the section that is widened. This is also important because this stretch of the lane represents the ‘gap’ between urban High Wycombe and the rural village of Tylers Green. Emphasising the rural character in the detailed highway design is therefore essential.

In widening the lane a new hedge is required on the eastern side of the lane. The current hedge is slightly raised above the road along this stretch of the lane, as the land rises to the east. The new hedge should similarly on the top of the bank, with appropriate hedgerow margin planting on the bank to maximise the ecological benefits.

Walking and cycling should not be accommodated within the widened section of the lane, but instead be taken on the eastern side of the new hedge, extending the main cycle and walking route that passes down the valley, up to the new entrance to the Ashwells site that will be created at the top of Cock Lane.

To emphasise the rural nature and maximise the sense of the gap, the woodland planting required to the east of parcels 7 & 8 should be extended up, alongside the widened part of the lane, to the new Ashwells access – in effect allowing the Kings Wood to ‘jump’ the lane, and create, at canopy level, a continuous woodland belt from the Kingswood, down through the new planting to the two existing ancient woodlands of Gomm Wood and Pimms Grove.

It will also be important that the junction of the new access road into the Ashwells site with Cock Lane is carefully designed. The profile of the land may need to be modified to avoid the need for high retaining walls at the entrance, which would undermine the aim of maintaining a rural character.

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