Go ahead for Rabley Wood View housing: planning inspectorate grant Manton Estate's appeal
The housing development on the Wiltshire Council owned amenity space just off Rabley Wood View has got the go ahead from the planning inspectorate. The inspector has granted the appeal lodged by the Manton Estate against the decision by a Wiltshire Council planning committee not to grant planning permission.
The Manton Estate are involved because they own the land that will be used to replace the lost amenity space. This land is part of the water meadows along the River Og valley - it will now be drained.
One of the key issues in this long-running planning controversy is that the replacement land is not suitable - on several grounds - for playing fields. The inspector rules: "...I conclude that the replacement [public open space] to be provided would be equivalent to that which exists on the site."
"Whilst the loss of the current [public open space] may be avoidable the proposal does not offend the principal requirement of [Wiltshire Council's] Core Policy 52 to provide green infrastructure equal to or above its current value and quality, which is exactly what the scheme would do."
The inspector believed the Manton Estate's argument that the water meadow was flooded last November due to Thames Water's sewage pipe works through it: "I am therefore satisfied that the new [public open space] land would not be liable to flood and that it would be suitable as [public open space]".
Residents do not believe the inspector's opinion that the replacement space will be usable 365 days a year.
The importance in this dispute of the replacement open space is underlined by the inspector's requirement that Wiltshire Council include a specific condition in their planning permission documents: "A condition is necessary specifying the minimum size of the replacement [public open space] because the proposal would otherwise be unacceptable." (MNO's emphasis.)
The inspector, Mr Nick Fagan, also dismissed the argument that the new houses would damage the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in which it lies.
His report continues: "I have taken account of all other matters raised by residents but none of them are so significant to warrant refusal of the proposed development."
Residents who have been fighting this planning application are disappointed, but had expected the outcome. They have long believed that Wiltshire Council stands to make a great deal of money out of the use of the current amenity land - land which had been legally signed off when the Rabley Wood View houses were built to be amenity land 'in perpetuity'.
No details of the financial gains the Council will make have been issued. But in May this year they did reveal for the first time their close involvement in this development scheme - as reported by Marlborough.News.
The residents have had another fight on their hands. The archaeological work that the Manton Estate had to undertake on the current amenity space has left the recreation field unusable.
A Wiltshire Council estates officer has written to residents saying that stone picking by hand will be done so the grass can be cut. But replacing top-soil and grass re-seeding will not be done until September.
This means that parts of this land will remain unusable through school holidays.