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Planning - July 2017
The pace of change continues. Each week the WDC Planning Portal shows the planning applications received week by week. On 20 July the list included 26 applications for changes in Marlow varying from complete demolitions and replacement to the installation of new window in a listed property. Many are for extensions both sideways and upwards. Your planning group looks at all applications but we focus on those that have an impact on our conservation area and the general problem of parking.
Many of you will have looked at the Portlands development as it begins to tower over the site. It bears very little relationship with the rest of our town and will be a lasting testament to the inability of the planning approval process to protect us from developers. More examples came into view when I attended the excellent Quality Counts Tour organised by the WDC planners on 18 July. Along with developers, architects and other civic society representatives the WDC planning staff took us to 10 recent local developments. These varied from excellent places to live to eyesores. I was very impressed by the redevelopment of the former Broom and Wade site north of Morrisons in High Wycombe. This includes residences, student accommodation, a major charitable residential development for the over 55s and the Star and Garter home for the elderly. Through the centre will run a green corridor providing space and vistas. I was similarly impressed by the redevelopment of the former RAF Daws Hill site, now named Pinewood reflecting its former occupancy by the Unites States forces. Some of the architecture is a bit over the top but well worth seeing. In contrast we saw what I called "houses in a car park." There is an increasing trend to lay paviours to create shared spaces combining roads and pavements. When combined with parking spaces right up to front doors and no relief from front planting the end result seems to me to be a total submission to the car. At Pinewood all parking is off road and what difference this makes to the street scene.
On to some specific issues. I am unhappy with the proposal to put a very modern design of sports hall in proximity to the traditional and listed buildings of Sir William Borlase's School. As the school continues to expand the pressure to build on this limited site creates tensions, especially with neighbours. The commercial use of such facilities out of school hours is an increasing consideration particularly because of the increase in vehicle movements that follows. On behalf of the Society I objected on the grounds of the proposal's impact on the conservation area, inadequate parking provision and the failure to properly define to materials to be used.
I have been made aware of a plan to build a new boathouse for the combined use of Gt Marlow and SW Borlase's Schools on land abutting the Thames close to the By-Pass bridge at Gossmore. It seems strange that with boathouses at Marlow Bridge and Longridge that another structure is required. We will see.
In contrast to the drawn out redevelopment by Beeks of the Jolliffe site in Chapel Street (eighteen months and the pavements still obstructed) Sorbon is cracking on with the Windsor House replacement. After some initial difficulties, including the demolition of the Belisha beacons, I have to say that the impact of the work on the surrounding area has been minimal. Credit is due to the site management. I hope that the replacement of the Police Station will proceed with equal precision.
On 25 April together with Anthony Cox, the Chairman of the Marlow Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Cllr Richard Scott and our Secretary George Lawrence I met with Cllr Mrs Julia Adey, Cabinet Member for Environment, and Caroline Hughes, Head of Environment, to raise the long standing issue of parking provision for Marlow.
I led with a résumé of the initiatives and changes that had taken place since 1999. I then described the four proposed changes that had found the greatest support from Society members and the Chamber. They were:
- Additional off road parking - extra decks
- Increased on road short stay provision
- Improve usability of existing parking - period car passes for local workers
- Introduce an ANPR based intelligent monitoring with dynamic pricing
- It was agreed that without the provision of additional off road parking in the town centre the introduction of further parking restrictions would merely result in pushing the problem elsewhere. The WDC representatives agreed to find out how far the reported option of adding upper level car parking at Riley Road (Central) had progressed.
The Chamber and Society representatives then explained other issues namely:
- The role of independent business and their contribution to Marlow and the economic headwinds they face - notably business rates increases. The lack of both short term quick fixes and long term plan is damaging trade through lack of parking capacity and the perceived difficulties of parking in the town.
- The advantage of the introduction of a residents' on-road hybrid parking permit scheme phased after additional off-road parking has been made available for the displaced demand.
- The impact of increased street and verge parking following the granting by the WDC of planning permission to BCC standards when the obvious consequences are ignored. The expected overflows from Windsor House, the Churchill Flats and the Ivy Restaurant will all exacerbate the parking difficulties in the central area.
- The long term problem created by the pupils of Wm Borlase's School.
- The obstruction of the central roads by all day parking that has turned them into single tracks with passing places.
- The trashing of verges by vehicles too wide for the available space.
We were promised a reponse by the end of July. On 21 July I received the following from Caroline Hughes:
Further to my email of 7 June 2017, I write to advise you that unfortunately I'm not yet in a position to provide an update as discussions within WDC are still taking place. I will come back to you as soon as possible. I apologise for this delay.
Eighteen years and still counting!
The Ivy Restaurant has opened but no additional parking provision was required. The plan to convert the "Crown Hotel" envisage another 130 plus covers and 30 staff. The planning application makes no provision for parking. Meanwhile day after day drivers drive round and round the roads and car parks looking for spaces. Regrettable we have a planning process that is unable to link the consequences of decision to the social impact. I recently asked the head of Planning at the WDC how she ensured that appropriate improvements to public transport were made as a consequence of the approval of major developments, the Daws Hill / Pinetrees development being a good example. She replied that the WDC has no ability to influence the choice of routes used by bus companies or the frequency of the service. Each new development generates even more traffic with no amelioration. Why did I look for joined up government?
NEW LOCAL PLAN 2013-33
The plan has been finalised by the WDC Planning Team. It will go to the WDC Cabinet for scrutiny on 18 Sep 17 and to full a Council meeting for endorsement at the end of September. The public consultation will be in Oct/Nov. It will go to the Inspector in Mar 18 and the inspector's hearing will take place in Jun/Jul18. Final endorsement is expected in early 2019. The Plan determines where the 13,200 homes mandated by the government for the Wycombe district are to be built. Between 1750 and 2100 houses are scheduled for Princes Risborough and 300 for Marlow.
Highways England is studying improvements to the roads in the Thames Valley including a new Junction 3A on the M40 and Handy Cross. A revised green belt definition expected in Oct 17.
It is essential that we repeat our support or rejection of specific items in the plan when we have the opportunity to respond to the inspector during the forthcoming consultation period. Your objections sent previously to the WDC will not go to the Inspector. I have been asked to collate the opinion of Society members and to submit a joint response. If you wish I will ask to present our comments to the Inspector when he inspects the Plan next year.
At present I see the key issues as:
Protection of Oak Tree Road and Seymour Plain
The rejection of commercial development east of the bypass in the Country Park.
I am concerned by the placement of the bulk of the WDC's allocation in the Vale of Aylesbury remote from the local centres of employment.
MB - chair TMS Planning Group