Foldgate Farm housing application runs into trouble over heritage, ecology and trees

Shropshire Council’s conservation team have called for a redesign of the development of five detached dwellings in the orchard of Foldgate Farm on Foldgate Lane because the applicants have not followed advice given before the application was submitted (19/01940/FUL). Ecologists at the council have called for the scheme to be rejected for failing to meet local and national policy requirements. The council’s tree team have called for the scheme to be rejected or revised because it ignores pre-application advice and does not comply with local and national policies.

That is a hefty set of criticisms. The plans will need to be revised or face a risk of rejection. We are already seeing extensive destruction of a biodiverse landscape along the A49 with the Crest Nicholson development. More trees will be planted to compensate but they will not become a biodiverse environment for a couple of decades. If this development is to go ahead, it must reduce its impact on heritage and the environment.

It is unusual for a developer to pay for advice from Shropshire Council planners before submitting plans and then ignore that advice. But that seems to have happened on this occasion. It is inevitable that council officers have objected to their advice being ignored.

Ecology

The council’s ecologists have made a straightforward objection:

“The site lies within an Environmental Network core area due to the presence of an orchard, which is priority habitat. SC Ecology does not support development on this site and recommends refusal.”

The ecology team quotes local and national policies that aim to protect biodiversity. It doesn’t rule out mitigation to reduce the impact of the development on biodiversity but says no details are given on what might work on this site. The ecologists do not rule out compensation either – that’s when a developer improves biodiversity elsewhere in return for damaging biodiversity on the development site. But the recommendation for refusal should wake the developers up to the importance of this site for nature and for green infrastructure.

Trees and hedges

The council’s tree team are not at all happy with the plans. Officers say: “The proposed development does not meet local and national policy requirements and aspirations for sustainable development in relation to natural assets.” They note the application lacks an arboricultural statement or tree survey, even though there are blocks of woodland planting and numerous mature trees on the site and around it. Even though the plans propose removal of a long section of historic hedgerow along Foldgate Lane. This is contrary to officer’s advice given before the application was submitted. That said the development should be sustainably integrated into the existing landscape and green infrastructure. The developer said that because the trees and hedgerow lack statutory protection, their removal will not significantly harm the natural environment. The tree team describe this is a “simplistic interpretation” of national and local policies. They say it ignores the importance now placed on protecting restoring and enhancing the nations blue green infrastructure.

The team had argued that the site should be accessed from the existing lane Foldgate Lane to Foldgate Farm not directly from Foldgate Lane. There is an implied criticism of Shropshire Council’s highways team which said there was no problem with the access and details can be sorted out once planning permission has been granted. The tree team says: “This [approach] does little to inform the Council regarding the likely implications to trees hedgerows and landscape and the need for appropriate mitigation.”

(I would prefer the houses to be accessed from the A49 via the Crest Nicholson development.)

The tree team says the scheme does not meet the expectations set out in the SAMDev local plan and recommends that the application is refused or is significantly revised.

The tree team is concerned that the planning case officer might determine this application without securing further details on landscape and arboricultural issues. In that were to happen, the team would like to add conditions to the planning permission.

Conservation

Shropshire Council’s conservation team referred to the planning inspector’s report that approved 137 homes at Foldgate Lane. The inspector said the development “would retain the overall spacious and open nature of this part of the site, and the overall topography of the land so that the objective observer would be able to appreciate the listed buildings within a distinctly rural and open setting. In this respect, the setting of the listed buildings would be preserved.” Conservation argues that the current plans do not reflect the agricultural nature of the site or enhance the setting of the seventeenth century farmhouse. It is important to preserve as part of the setting of the listed building. The conservation team want the developers to take account of its pre-application advice and says the development should have a courtyard layout.

Other consultees

Ludford parish council has yet to comment, despite the formal consultation period ending on 29 May.

Shropshire highways have no objection to the access onto Foldgate Lane. In my experience we rarely see objections from the council highway’s team to developments. Their consultants however scrutinise the details right down to kerb level. In this case, they want a “swept path” analysis to show that refuse trucks can turn around within the development and do not have to reverse out onto Foldgate Lane.

There are other technical submissions from statutory consultees.

2 thoughts on “Foldgate Farm housing application runs into trouble over heritage, ecology and trees

  1. I did comment on your original post, but this has dropped off the end by now. This was (below) my comment to the application on the SC planning website. I was very surprised that there are only 4 public comments. All are objections. There is support for my suggestion to re-route the exit from this site through the main development directly onto the A49, which seems so logical to me, and avoids much of the criticism.

    “Regarding the erection of houses on the orchard plot, it is regrettable that the trees which supported so many wild birds in the winter with fallen fruit will no longer support these Scandinavian migrants after their arduous migration.
    However, considering the impact that the 137-home development will have on the applicant and Foldgate Farmhouse, it would seem unreasonable to deny them a damage-limitation measure to recoup some of the loss of value to their property and business.
    In which case, I do not tender objection to the construction of 5 dwellings on that site.
    However, the access onto Foldgate Lane that is planned, contravenes all of the undertakings made by the developers of the main site who have made considerable effort to avoid a traffic impact on that lane. This was one of the conditions that allowed the scheme to be approved.
    For this access to be approved makes a complete mockery of the original planning application’s road system, specifically designed to keep traffic off that lane.
    As a regular user of that lane, by bicycle, I am all too well aware of the limitations and shortcomings of the road, in terms of width and road surface maintenance, which are highly inadequate for existing traffic already and of which I am certain that the applicants are also well aware, living themselves on the lane.
    My suggestion for a solution to this quandary is to re-route the access road to the south-east corner of the orchard plot, where it can simply be joined onto the end of the spur on the ‘new estate’ road that runs roughly north from the new A49 junction.
    This would give residents of the 5 new dwellings a very short and efficient access to the A49 junction.
    I would assume that this would need collaboration between the applicant and the developers of the main site to be engineered, but considering the impact that that will have on the Farmhouse complex and business, it would indeed be churlish for them to refuse to consider such an approach.
    I have used the site map with roads from the main application and inserted the new proposed development into the previously blank orchard field, where it fits perfectly.
    The main alteration is the access road which now does not require destruction of the valuable hedgerow, but runs south-east from the bottom corner.
    Naturally, the layouts of the 5 dwellings and their lawns, drives and garages would require re-jigging within the plot, but I present this as a genuine solution which I believe most should find acceptable.
    I urge the Planning Committee to give due consideration to my proposal.

  2. Dear Andy,

    Your reference to retention of trees has reminded me of the Churchill development (now called Betjemen Lodge) just behind Corve Street. The original plans had trees planted in the middle of the garden. These have never been planted despite 5 or 6 mature silver birch trees cut down. The lack of trees causes lack of shade for residents in hot sunshine ( in fact we have seen residents sitting at the rear of the development next to the buggy park in order to sit in the shade rather than using the tables and chairs provided ). The lack of trees in the main garden also leads to direct viewing of the houses abutting Corve Street, lack of privacy and increased noise level and light levels particularly at night. We are mindful that one of the conditions attached to the granting of planning condition was the rrplacement of felled trees. This has not happened in the main garden.

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