Last night (6th July) it was announced that planning has been declined on the development on the Benson Road corner of Rowley Fields. Although this is a tucked away part of the fields that most of us don’t use many of us were concerned that The Trust would use this as a jumping off point to develop the fields in parcels. I fully expect this to continue and an appeal to be lodged so now is not the time to sit back and think that anything has been won. This land will be under attack for generations to come but what the whole Rowley Fields episode has shown is that when people get together and co-operate then they have power. The cost of this aborted development, a speculative punt using money that should be for the people of Stratford, should be published and I hope to cover this off at a later date. We should also consider the damaging effects to the reputation of one of the UK’s oldest charities which seems to have set itself against the very people it purports to act on behalf of. I would urge everyone to join The Trust so that we can hold them to account and hopefully avoid this happening again.
Many of you will know about the derelict house (which continues to get more derelict with each passing week) on Benson Road which the Town Trust purchased speculatively in 2014 with a view to knocking down and accessing a little-known corner of Rowley Fields for the building of a housing estate.
With the turnaround last year, where The Trust realised that they had completely underestimated the town’s willingness to be steamrollered, it would be a significant blow to the organisation’s management if this part of the development were not to go through. Many of the people who protested against the development last year were asking why the Trust was using vast sums of the charity’s reserves to take a punt on buying a house which is the gateway to a development that doesn’t have planning permission. Significant sums have already been spent on the aborted main development proposal, consultation events (anyone remember the bouncers?), PR agents, lawyers and the general high costs that come with the business of property speculating. Well, we’ve reached crunch time, because the planning application has been submitted.
One could argue that it’s only five houses and what harm could it do, but any building on this land should be a concern to all of us who love The Welcombe Hills and the countryside and nature that reaches right into this part of the town. I have written before that this corner of Stratford will always be vulnerable to developers and that history tells us that once there is a toehold then it’s simply a jumping off point to do it again.
So have the TT just changed tack? Rather than just pile in with a full development, the development happens in a small trickle – a death by a 1000 cuts – right under our noses. Dramatic, possibly, but at the same time the shenanigans we all witnessed preventing new members joining and generally trying to push the development through quickly at all costs, shows us that we have to keep our guard up. The simple truth is that Rowley Fields isn’t safe and never will be. It’s going to be a continual battle to keep this space, which we own collectively as Stratfordians, safe and open to all.
So I received this morning from our friends over on the other side of Rowley Fields (The Benson Road side), the following message. I would urge everyone who wants to protect this land for their children and future generations to object to the planning permission. Remember, this is more than a handful of houses. It’s a continuation of our battle to protect our fields. If this goes through they will be back for another little corner.
You can object to this development by sending your comments – you can do it from the comfort of your own chair, right now, without even having to print anything or buy a stamp! Follow this link to see the planning application and lodge your opposition: Benson Road Application
Rowley Fields Forever / Benson Road Planning
You have previously indicated your support in helping to save Rowley Fields from development. The purpose in emailing you now is to let you know that the Town Trust have submitted a planning application (16/00739/OUT) to develop land to the rear of Avenue Road, part of Rowley Fields, and we would very much like to enlist your support in fighting this planning application. We are sure you might be thinking with all the development going on round Stratford, what makes this piece of land so special? There are a number of very good reasons:
· The land borders a conservation area to the south and green space including the Welcombe Hills to the north. Development of this land will further encroach on a beautiful part of Stratford.
· Contrary to the 5 year housing supply. Stratford District Council must ensure that sufficient additional homes are built each year to meet housing needs. They do this through the 5 year housing supply which compares the number of homes (and sites) which are planned to be completed . The land at the rear of Avenue Road is not included in the 5 year housing supply. Go to www.stratford.gov.uk/5yearssupply
· Contrary to the draft neighbourhood plan. A key plank of the Government’s policy is the development of a neighbourhood plan at the local level, in our case by Stratford Town Council. Such a plan is designed to represent the views of the community. The current draft of the plan identifies Rowley Fields (which includes the land included in the planning application) as designated green space ( policy CLW4) and as such protected from development. Go to www.ourstratford.org.uk and read the updated highlights of the plan.
· Puts highway safety at risk. Access to the site will be gained via 7 Benson Road which is close to the very sharp bend on the corner of Benson Road and Welcombe Road. In 2013, a planning application from 18 Avenue Road (opposite 7 Benson Road) for one additional dwelling was turned down on highway safety grounds. There are five dwellings proposed in the current application.
· Outside the town boundary. The town boundary identifies the boundary within which development can take place. This site is outside that boundary.
· Conflicts with current local plan Policy EF2 of the current local plan identifies special landscape areas. The local plan remains in force pending completion of the core strategy. This planning application is contrary to that policy.
And finally, whilst not a planning consideration, we find it unbelievable that the Town Trust repeatedly fail to take into account the views of its beneficiaries, the residents of Stratford. The Town Council have already objected to this application and you can see their response online under reference 16/00739/OUT under the consultations section. Other responses are included under the comments section.
So if like us, you want to object to this planning application, do so by writing to Stratford District Council or by commenting online at https://apps.stratford.gov.uk/eplanning/ reference 16/00739/OUT. The deadline for objections is 15 April 2016.
Rowley Fields Forever
Also, please see below formal objection to the development from the Town Council.