Annual Report 2006
June 20th, 2006
Binfield Village Protection Society was established in 1975 in response to the growing development pressures of the day. The objectives were then and remain so today:
“To preserve, enhance and protect the amenity of the Parish of Binfield and the surrounding area: to preserve Binfield as a separate community and an independent entity.”
Annual General Meeting
The Annual General Meeting of the Binfield Village Protection Society will take place on Thursday, 29th June 2006 at 8.00 p.m. The Meeting will be held in the Memorial Hall, Terrace Rd. South, Binfield and members of the Society, past and present, guests, visitors and residents of Binfield are all welcome. The Meeting will start with the Business of the AGM and will be followed by an address by: Dr Harry Leonard who will speak on:
a “walk” round Eighteenth Century Binfield
Dr Leonard will answer questions from the floor and light refreshments will be served at the end of the meeting.
About Binfield Village Protection Society
The Society has a history, since its inception, of giving responsible and constructive comments on planning matters. We are supported entirely by a small annual membership fee and any further voluntary contributions each household choose to make. Membership is open to all residents of the parish. The Committee meets monthly, holds occasional exhibitions, attends Planning Inquiries and distributes newsletters to inform the residents of important matters affecting the village. The newly created web site will be launched at the Annual General Meeting. It can be found easily at www.bvps.org.uk.
Ten members have sat on the Protection Society’s Committee for the year 2005 – 2006. They are Margaret Foster (Chairperson), Judith Vucic (Hon. Secretary), Hilary Doyle (Hon. treasurer), Chris Bickley, Angela Davey, John Hartingdon, Colin Hole, Duncan Hullis, Sally Hardy and Joan Utting. All have agreed to serve on the Committee for another year. Three new Society members attended some of the Committee meetings as observers and following their important contributions to these meetings have been invited to join the Committee. They are Anthony Clayden, Lesley Ashley and Claire Jackaman. All Committee members will be confirmed by a vote by Members of the Society at the Annual General Meeting. The Committee endeavour to address all issues brought to its attention by Members of the Society as well as those issues brought by residents with special concerns about issues in their own corner of the village.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Committee members for their hard work for the Society and for their loyal support to me since becoming chairman in June,2000.
Motorway Service Area on the M4
The battle to prevent a MSA (Motorway Service Area) being built at Great Hazes on Green Belt land within Binfield started back in 1996. The Committee has been involved in planning enquiries, attending and speaking on behalf of the village since the first Public Enquiry. In December 2001, several Committee members joined the larger M4 MSA Action Group under the chairmanship of Colin Frizzell. Subsequently, most of this large committee spoke at the second Inquiry in Public, which began on the 5th November 2002 and closed at the end of October 2003. The Protection Society also made a small contribution to the fighting fund.
In October 2005 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister declared that there was no special reason why a Motorway Service Area should be built in the Metropolitan Green Belt and turned down the application to develop on land at Great Hazes.
Members will remember that the Inspectors heard the Great Hazes appeal with four other appeals about Motorway Service Areas on other motorways including the M40 and the M25. It was a very big Inquiry and the final decision letter was some 40 pages long. The Chapter 8 Conclusions and Appendices ran to over 250 pages. The legal barrister who supported the M4 MSA Action Group, Clifford Joseph, interpreted the decision for us.
Further to our discussions, “the decision letter looks fairly appeal proof and lays the ground for refusing any future applications on these sites or any others on this stretch of the M4.”
Item 1 “Because of the nearness of Reading MSA to these sites, the need is only significant, which means definite or important and is the lowest form of need. Clearly there is some need because of the excess distance to New Barn Farm, South Mimms and Toddington. Contrast this with the clear and compelling need for New Barn Farm and Burtley Wood “
Item 2 “hence the significant need at our” (three) “sites was no where near enough to overcome the harm to the Green Belt and so all were refused. In contrast the clear and compelling need for NBF and BW was given substantial weight and so overcame the Green Belt harm”
Item 3 “Since the Green Belt harm will always remain and Reading will always be 15 miles or less, there is no prospect of a future successful application unless Government policy changes. The decision relied heavily on the policy to complete the 30-mile spacing between MSAs. None of these on the M4 complied as they were too near Reading. This is the only risk for the future.”
Item 4 “The local authority can refuse to consider any similar applications for two years from 6th October 2005 unless there are important changes in circumstances, such as change in Government policy as mentioned above, on the 30 mile spacing e.g. replacing the 30 miles with *15*. This does seem unlikely and there is no indication of change.” (08.10.05.)
If this issue should return in the next five years the Binfield Village Protection Society will again object to development in the Green Belt but, no doubt, through different personnel.
The Local Development Framework
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (2004) requires that a Local Development Framework (LDF) replace the Bracknell Forest Borough Local Plan. This essentially is a collection of documents (Local Development Documents) containing policies and proposals to guide future development in the Borough. The Local Development Documents will compromise both “determination of planning documents” and “supplementary planning documents”.
The first phase of replacing the BF Local Plan will include the – Core Strategy, Housing Policies, Employment, Movement and Accessibility and Site Location. To date the Protection Society has addressed the Core Strategy document, which also included Initial Sustainable Appraisal. The Society has commented on this and has run a campaign within the village urging residents to reply to the Borough Council publication “In Your View”. “In Your View” was, apparently a Borough-wide questionnaire and it is understood that the Borough received just over two thousand replies. This is not an impressive return and could mean that not many returns were sent from Binfield. This could reflect some silent, and not so silent, thoughts that perhaps “they don’t take any notice of what we say anyway: they will have made their minds up by now so its not worth replying.” On addressing the Core Strategy document it did appear that the planners had their eye on nearly every bit of open space and countryside that the Protection Society has been defending for the last thirty years. Nevertheless the Committee did hold extra meetings and did comment on the Bracknell Forest Borough Local Development Framework: Core Strategy Development Plan Document: Draft Spatial Framework for Bracknell Forest to 2026.
There are so many constraints to BFBC carrying out their required duties and fulfilling the required housing numbers decreed by Government and the S.E. Regional Assembly that it will be an achievement if the Borough Council reach all the housing number targets without penalty in the shorter term, never mind 2026.
Permission has already been obtained, several years ago for a large, well-designed development of 1200 houses at Peacock Farm. However the developers have not moved on this for a number of reasons (thought to be creating a bank of land within the south east, awaiting house price increases). This, together with slow progress on the Staff College Site, will mean that Bracknell Forest Borough Council are faced with failure to reach their housing numbers for the period up to 2006.
The Protection Society has always kept a close watch on the plans for the development of Peacock Farm and Amen Corner. Both these areas have planning briefs and these are available on the Borough web site www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk. The development of the R.A.F. Staff College Site, the old Met Office sites and the regeneration of Bracknell Town Centre, although not within the parish boundaries, also hold our attention, as these developments will have very real knock-on effects on the housing supply in the Borough and on traffic issues within Binfield.
Members of the Protection Society frequently express the view that there must be some finite limit to the expansion of Bracknell. This could be attainable if the Core Strategy in the emerging Local Development Framework included the preservation of green spaces – for traditional pursuits, for leisure, for the development of landscaping and as a contribution to the protection of the character of the local areas, such as Binfield. All building should be controlled, in order at least, that they are in keeping with the surroundings, that they are given a focus and that they are environmentally friendly. It is felt that a community or Village Design Statement would contribute to policies on open spaces and the built environment. It would contribute much to these proposals if the Binfield Parish Council could progress the present draft Design Statement to the Bracknell Forest Borough Council Planning and Environment Department for approval and acceptance.
We repeatedly say:
“It is felt that maintaining already established open spaces in the Borough, keeping the present gaps between settlements, especially, those between Binfield and Bracknell and between Bracknell and Wokingham, protection of the countryside outside the settlement boundaries and the development of an imaginative Design Statement should be clearly stated in a newly emerging Local Development Plan”
“The Binfield Village Protection Society is concerned to maintain the agreeable quality of life in each corner of the village and feel that the remaining rural, countryside and green aspects in Binfield contribute largely to this state. It is also felt that this desire to maintain as much of the countryside outlook of our community as is possible in the 21st Century, contributes to national values, as well as to the local situation.”
To this end we persist in questioning inappropriate and excessive building and development.
Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area
This is probably the biggest issue facing Bracknell Forest Borough Council Planning and Environment Department today.
The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) is a network of heathland sites which are designated for their ability to provide a habitat for the internationally important bird species of woodlark, nightjar and Dartford warbler. This area is protected by the EEC Habitats Directive on the Conservation of Natural and Semi-Natural Habitats.
Under these Regulations Bracknell Forest Borough Council has a duty to assess whether there is a risk of any plan or proposal having a significant impact on the integrity of the SPA.
The council has formed the view, after receiving advice from English Nature (the government agency responsible for the promotion of wildlife), that there is a risk that any proposal for residential development of at least one net additional dwelling within 5km of the SPA boundary is likely to have a significant effect. A large proportion of Bracknell Forest Borough lies within 5km of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA). The southern half of Binfield from Amen Corner through to a line just south of Forest Road falls within this “buffer zone”. A particular concern raised by English Nature is that new housing development may have an adverse effect on the SPA; for example an increase in recreational activity and dog walking may disturb the ground-nesting birds or there could be predation by cats from new houses sited close to the SPA.
Therefore, before permission can be granted, to be in accordance with the Habitats Regulations, the Council must undertake an "Appropriate Assessment" of the implications of the proposal in view of the conservation objectives of the SPA. If it cannot be established that the proposal would not adversely impact on the site, then permission must not be granted.
We understand that English Nature and effected Local Planning Authorities, like Bracknell, are working on “Mitigation Plans” that may release additional land for public recreational use in order to reduce the impact of new development on the SPA and so enable Planning permissions to be granted within the 5km buffer zone. If this cannot be achieved then countryside to the north of Binfield (outside of the 5km buffer zone) may be at risk of significant new development in the future.
Binfield Village Protection Society will continue to monitor this situation very closely and make appropriate representations.
Regeneration of Bracknell Town Centre
The BVPS was interested to see that planning permission had been obtained for two hundred units/ flats to be built within Bracknell Town Centre. Permission was obtained before 9th March 2006 and will be unaffected by the Thames Heath Basin ‘s Special Protection Area. Short of the developers tardiness this site could go forward for development.
The Society supported the Bracknell Forest Borough Council in its proposal to process the Deposit Draft Alteration to the Bracknell Forest Borough Local Plan. This Alteration looks to set the planning policy context for the Amen Corner area within Bracknell Forest Borough. It is clearly stated on the plan/map, which underlies the Alteration that the policies, which are already in place in the Bracknell Forest Local Plan, will remain at least until the fully completed Bracknell Forest Development Framework is in place. The Inspector who heard the appeals by the objectors to the Alteration in the Spring of 2006 turned down the objections and confirmed that the Alteration to the Settlement Boundary was an appropriate measure of the BFBC to take and should stand until the Local Development Framework was in place.
Building proposals within the Settlement Boundary
Planning applications within the settlement boundary have never been reported in an Annual Report before as they are often at the consultation stage, or before the Inspector, or awaiting the Inspector’s decision. In other words the situation has rarely been resolved by the publication of the Annual Report. However residents of the parish and Members of BVPS are fully aware of the increase in the numbers of applications to build large blocks of 2 or 3 bedroom units of housing which every one understands is an euphemism for flats. Most applications have been rigorously opposed by immediate neighbours, the Protection Society and even occasionally, very rigorously by the Parish Council. Sometimes they are withdrawn at this point, sometimes they are refused under delegated powers and sometimes they are refused by the Elected Members in Committee. The developers always appeal so that sometimes the Inspector dismisses the appeal. The developers then propose new planning applications with half the number of flats that were originally requested. It is difficult to get these applications turned down but comments about size, design, sustainability, parking facilities, traffic movements, amenity facilities and landscaping are always possible and worth making.
Guidance on making objections to unwanted development is available in detail on the Binfield Village Protection Society’s web site, easily accessed on www.bvps.org.uk
South East Plan
Between March and June 2006 the Draft South East Plan was out for Public Consultation. This Plan will be reviewed by an Independent Panel at an Examination in Public between November 2006 and March 2007 and the final plan will be published in February 2008. The South East Regional Assembly has produced the Draft Plan and it is intended that it will set out policies for this diverse region up to 2026. The policies include housing numbers and types of housing, policies on the economy, communications and transport, town centres and countryside and landscape management. The Region has been divided into ten Sub-Regions and Bracknell Forest is included in the Western Corridor and Blackwater Valley Sub-Region.
BVPS has responded to the Public Consultations.
Thank you for taking the trouble to read this Annual Report. We welcome all new members and would request all well-established members of the Society to continue to support our efforts on behalf of the Village by renewing their membership as soon as possible. The money is used to pay for plans, policy documents, postage and other day-to-day expenses in running the Society. All monies are gratefully received as all Committee Members give their time voluntarily and freely and only occasionally recover expenses.
I do hope you will be able to attend the Annual General Meeting.
The annual subscription for household membership is £3 (three pounds). Please go to our Membership Section to join, renew your subscription and/or make a donation.
Margaret Foster, Chairperson