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Planning - Dec 2018
The New Local Plan
When the Inspector's hearing of the New Local Plan as it affects Marlow was held early in September, I attended. I did not discern any issues that are likely to cause us concern.
There was a brief discussion on the allocation for development of land lying to the west of Seymour Court Road just after the last houses. Fortunately, our position remains protected by AONB and the Green Belt.
The inspector is now formulating questions and proposed changes to the plan. I am advised that WDC will have a further six week consultation in February/March so we will have the opportunity then to respond to the Inspector's proposals.
The application by the Royal Bank of Scotland to embellish the NatWest Bank with garish plastic signage was opposed by our Conservation Officer and I had a few words to say.
Thanks to her the compromise that we now have is acceptable but it was clear from the outset that the bank cared little for the adverse impact of its original proposal on our High Street.
The proposal by Red Kite to build houses at Foxes Piece for sale hit the buffers when Bucks Highways decreed that the plan did not offer sufficient parking. Originally the applicant suggested that there were sufficient spare parking spaces on Maple Rise and on the A4155 to accommodate the cars displaced by their plan. David Putnam provided us with an excellent analysis of the Red Kite figures and we now await a more sensible and well thought out way of using the available site for much needed accommodation.
When we engaged with the developer and planning authority on the Portlands development we stressed the need for a public throughway from the High Street to Portlands Alley. The approved plans showed a pedestrian access point by the converted Portlands Cottages and a second access for pedestrians and cyclists close to the rear of Côte Restaurant's garden.
As suitable for cyclists we were happy that those using mobility aids would also have unfettered access. It was not to be. The upper gate remains locked and the layout is totally unfit for purpose as it incorporates a step and is narrow. We are extremely disappointed by the failure of Crest Nicholson to build to the approved plan. Our councillors and WDC enforcement team have been on the case for months.
A walk down Lower Pound Lane leads to Low Grounds Farm. There you can see the attractive scrape on private land installed by the Environment Agency as a compensatory depression necessitated by the flood prevention measures lately completed.
Unfortunately, this scrape will make no difference to the flooding risk in Marlow. Nice to see public money spent on moving large volumes of soil and covering archaeology going back thousands of years. The birds are enjoying it!
When WDC sold New Court house and surrounding land to Red Kite who subsequently sold the site to developers nobody realised that the power supply to the local street lights came from the house. This is why the path through to Cromwell Gardens became very dark at night. Thanks to our Town Clerk, Hilary Martin, some power has been restored and the way through has reasonable illumination. Hilary has also been instrumental in getting a right of way formally established across this formerly publically owned space.
What a pity that Marlow TC and the Society had to point out the failure of WDC to think through the consequences of the original sale.
I took part in the annual Wycombe District 'Quality Counts' visit to see new developments in the South East. This time we visited Bicester. A small town in the 1950s,
Bicester has grown enormously and is now expanding on 4 sectors outside its ring road.
We saw three sites, one of which alone has 1700 new homes. Much of what we saw was soulless. The repetitive designs sat in groupings that provided little communal social space. The developers have, understandably, made maximum use of the available land but when we looked for cycleways, bus stops and local shops we searched in vain. These are developments in which the inhabitants will come and go by car. I left grateful that Marlow has not gone the way of Bicester.
There was one bright light. The former RAF airfield of Bicester, latterly a storage depot, has been listed and transformed into a centre of excellence for vintage vehicle restoration. Where else might one see in one workshop six green 1920s vintage racing Bentleys? From a planning - and a petrolhead perspective - it was a wonderful reuse of a piece of history that might otherwise have fallen to the developers' bulldozers.
Sorbon Estates does not seem to have had much success in leasing its retail area in Windsor House. Whether it is to be a singleton or 3 shops this must indicate that the market for retail outlets in Marlow is quiet.
A current planning application to convert the storage facilities at the rear of the building, which were designed as storage for a single shop, into additional apartments would change the approved design significantly. I have supported David Putnam's well argued rebuttal of this application for additional apartments. He points out consequential parking issues and also a conflict with WDC's policy on limiting additional retail space in Marlow. Meanwhile the prominent impact of an empty shop at the entrance to our town does us no favours.
A long outstanding application by the Esso Garage owners for the removal of restriction on opening hours has been refused by the WDC on the grounds of impact on the amenity of neighbours. Amongst the reasons given by the applicant in support of the requested hours change were "environmental benefits for the local community in terms of providing a 24 hours shopping option for local residents thus negating the need to travel to access similar facilities". I am grateful that WDC considered that the currently available late night shopping facilities in our town suffice.