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Planning - July 2019
Sir William Borlase Sports Hall
Approval for the construction of a new sports hall building at Sir William Borlase's Grammar School was approved in June. This contentious project spent two years in the planning process. In my submitted objection I wrote "Wycombe District Council has an obligation to apply its Conservation Area Character Study for Marlow 2004. In so doing it must recognise that the application fails to meet the criteria for the Architectural Character and Quality of Buildings [pages 7 -11] which specifically lists Borlase School as one of 'The finest buildings on West Street'".
In addition to the School's Chapel, adjacent buildings such as Remnantz and Western House are Grade II and II* listed. This is not a suitable location for a building of a design that fails so clearly to be in sympathy with its surroundings in terms of quality, design and materials. The application fails to show any circumstances that would justify not applying Policy DM12 of WDC’s current adopted Delivery and Site Allocations Plan. The site is designated as green space and should remain as such.
WDC's Conservation Officer noted: "The proposed sports hall is located within the curtilage of a Grade II* listed building, nearby to other Grade II listed buildings fronting West Street and within the Marlow Conservation Area. The sports hall is identified as part of an area of significant open space in the Marlow Conservation Area Character Study 2004. This means that it is inevitable that there will be a degree of harm caused by this development. A substantial element of green space will retained and its character and quality would be largely maintained. Given the consolidation of built form on the site the development is acceptable in terms of its impact on the setting of the listed buildings and the Conservation Area."
Clearly the unquantified degree of harm was acceptable. Divergent views are inevitable when change is needed in our conservation area. I will be seeking a review of the WDC Conservation Area Character Study 2004 when we become subordinate to the new Bucks Council and I will insist on its reinstatement as an adopted policy.
I reported in April that the upper gate between the Portlands estate and Portlands Alley remained bolted. It has now been unlocked but it does not allow level access for mobility equipment. We continue to press WDC to insist that this access is modified to bring it in line with the development’s approved drawings.
Two alternate applications have been made for the redevelopment of the property at 4-6 Station Road.
Sorbon Estates applied to demolish Regal House and redevelop the site to provide twenty-five apartments (6 x 1 bed and 19 x 2 bed) with associated parking (including basement parking), access and landscaping. This application has been refused by WDC on 3rd July in a most comprehensive report. The key elements of the refusal were
• Loss of employment use
• Impact on Grade One listed Marlow Place
• Failure to reflect good design and to reinforce and improve the character and quality of the area - due to bulk, scale and mass
• Overlooking, overbearing scale and impact on privacy
• Inadequate provision for parking and for manoeuvring of vehicles
• Highways, traffic and transportation aspects
• Lack of affordable housing provision
WDC is clearly prepared should this application go to appeal. In parallel the planning application to convert the existing buildings for residential us remains on the table.
The prospective operators of a new café, Strawberry Grove, are planning to open in the former Perch café at 91 High Street. The proprietor has shown us the changes planned for the façade and we were pleased to offer some minor recommendations. We wish this business every success.
Planning Community Panel
WDC held its first Planning Community Panel on 30 July which I attended. Penelope Tollitt, the Head of Planning and Sustainability, is seeking a better contact with members of the community who have an interest in the planning process with the aim of creating more efficient and cost effective service. I will report in more detail in the next Newsletter.
New Local Plan
As you know the New Local Plan, the development of which we have followed closely since July 2013, went to the Inspector earlier this year and her comments are available on the following link: www.wycombe.gov.uk/ ... /New-local-plan-examination.aspx
I have read the report and I cannot find anything that causes alarm. Marlow hardly figures in her comments. As expected she agrees with the removal of the Seymour Court Road site from the AONB and green belt. This parcel of land comprising some 0.3 hectares of undeveloped agricultural land is allocated for the construction of nine dwellings. It fulfils Green Belt purposes only weakly. It is in a sustainable location for growth and its removal will not adversely impact on the green belt.
I note the use of the phrase 'a sustainable location for growth'. This subjective phrase is becoming popular without a clear definition. In the town centre 'sustainable' is used by developers in conjunction with the availability of Marlow's bus and train services to justify an absence of off street parking. Will this and all the other redevelopments sustain our schools and health services?
Notwithstanding the above we should all be extremely grateful to Penelope Tollitt, Head of Planning and Sustainability at WDC and her lead player, Ian Manktelow, for the generation of an extremely comprehensive plan which, when final endorsed later this year, will provide Marlow with a strong baseline from which to argue for its protection against unwanted and inappropriate development.