Tottenham House development plans: it's the new buildings that are stirring up objections
The planning applications for the restoration of Tottenham House and for the extensive developments on the estate that surrounds it, have raised fears among local residents about the scale of new building that is planned and its effect on surrounding villages.
The responses submitted in the consultation period for the two applications (one a full planning application, the other for Listed Building Consent) all approve of the plans to restore the house.
The main objections concern new houses at Lower barn and Upper Wolf Hall Farm - and access to them.
Two Crofton residents write to Wiltshire Council: "The two Lower Barn Houses are massive and much larger than the footprint of the agricultural buildings they will be built on."
They say the new houses are out of scale. One of them is nearly three quarters the height and width of the main part of Tottenham House itself: "These are two huge 12 bedroom houses! The architects have explained that the houses are intended for use by family members – a dower house concept."
"The siting seems unusual. They are out of sight of the main house and as distant, isolated and independent as is possible on the Estate. Is an independent use intended or at least a possible planning option?"
"A separate planning application to build these houses on the site of the agricultural barn would surely fail, which makes the connection with the main house and the family use concept absolutely fundamental to the application."
"We can support the idea that two very large houses may be necessary to make the whole development attractive to a mega rich buyer, but the purpose of these buildings must be incorporated into the planning conditions."
"Draft Planning Condition 4 states that 'None of the Family Dwellings at the Site shall be Occupied (or occupied) at any time for any other purpose other than that ancillary to the residential use of the Main House. This draft condition must be confirmed."
The fear is they will be 'sold away from the Estate' as stand alone homes. But planning conditions, like promises of public access to amenity land 'in perpetuity', can be overturned or ignored over time.
Another objector questions why the applications have combined these large new houses with the restoration of the Listed parts of the Estate - Tottenham House, its stables and so on. And has made the strong point that these new build houses will not be seen from the main house 'and hence will appear as new buildings in open countryside.'
For such development within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) a developer is required to show 'proven requirements of agriculture or forestry'. The objector states: "I have not seen any such proof".
This objector goes on to say that allowing these new build houses will set a definite precedent which will make it harder to stop other new build homes in the AONB,
Another objector queries the access by road to the two Lower Barn houses which is by unsuitable narrow tracks and road, but would probably involve a journey to the main house of over five miles - via either Burbage or Great Bedwyn.
Another target for objections is the siting of the helipad and helicopter hangar near to the new homes at Upper Wolf Hall Farm. This is far from Tottenham House but close to farm animals - and quite close to the canal. It is feared that tourists using the canal will be alarmed by helicopter flights.
There are also worries from Durley about the impact on the village's fragile infrastructure - notably low water pressure and poor broadband. Another resident spots that no reference is made to the current right of way between St Katharines and Durley via a footpath - will the existing footpath be removed?
A lengthy objection paper in the name of the Friends of Wolfhall questions the developers' approach to the history of the Estate: "...it is impossible to comprehend Tottenham, without fully appreciating the Wolfhall context from which it emerged."
The Friends have anxieties about the archaeology that may be lost and the landscape that will be damaged: "...The planning application, by excessively focussing on Tottenham Park during the Georgian or later periods, has inadequate regard for, and damages, the earlier historical landscape setting from which it has been forged."
They have no objection to the application for change of use for Tottenham House from educational to residential: "We object to the ancillary leisure development, ancillary residential accommodation and associated works of the application."
When asked for their opinion on the applications, Marlborough councillors seemed most concerned with Tottenham House itself rather than the extensive plans for new buildings. They voted to 'welcome and support' the applications.
Burbage Parish Council supports 'the proposed development' so long as construction traffic avoided Durley, Stibb Green, Burbage High Street and Conservation Area. The Estate is not within the boundaries of either Council.
The application for Listed Building Consent was supposed to be decided by February 15, but no decision notice has been posted. This may because the Victorian Society have asked for the consultation period to be extended.
The trouble with Wiltshire Council's planning website is that such requests go unanswered, so the public does not know what is happening. And the official handling these applications is not replying to phone messages or email.
Much of the opposition to the new buildings planned for the Estate rests on whether we are to believe that this is a speculative development that awaits a 'mega rich' buyer, or whether it is a bespoke development for a known customer.
If it is the former, the risks of finding a buyer who wants all the new buildings and the main house are considerable. If the latter, perhaps planning consent would be granted more easily if we were told who the customer is.
The developer's 300 or so plans, maps and documents can be read on the Wiltshire Council planning website: the main application is 17/12461/FUL and the application for Listed Building Consent is 18/00195/LBC.