A guest post from an objector
THE VISIBILITY OF DEVELOPMENT
One of the first lessons lay objectors to planning matters learn is that no householder has a right to a particular, or indeed any, view. Conversely, in appraising the sustainability of a proposed site allocation under the Local Plan process, views of it (the allocated site), from near and distant viewpoints, are considered to be a significant factor.
The “Summary of Sustainability Appraisal Targets” includes:
SA02 Maintain and Enhance the Distinctive Character of Settlements
(allocated sites should not) adversely affect or result in the loss of features or scenes which are recognised as being distinctive.
SA03 Protect and Enhance the District’s Landscape
Protect special landscape features that contribute to local distinctiveness
Avoid adverse effect on landscape character
Avoid unacceptable visual impact
Preserve, and where possible, enhance landscape character
Integrate into existing land form and landscape features
The setting and siting of all Frome sites being considered for allocation under Local Plan Part 2 have therefore been evaluated using this Sustainability Appraisal process. However, I contest the conclusions that have been drawn. Consequently, I carried out my own research, visiting all outlying settlements around Frome to discover what views they actually had of the town. The results below cover all hamlets and villages within a five mile radius of Frome that could conceivably have any direct view of the town. Approximate distances in miles are given from the nearest edge of Frome to the nearest edge of the settlement, measured ‘as the crow flies’. My list is organised clockwise starting from the north: –
Old Ford (0,5 miles, North) – few properties have direct views of Frome’s outskirts
Beckington (1.5 miles, NNE) – no views of Frome
Standerwick (2.2 miles, NE) – no views of Frome
Berkley/Berkley Marsh (1.0 miles, ENE) – no views of Frome
Chapmanslade (2.3 miles, East) – uninterrupted views of Frome from many houses and other points
Lane End (2.2 miles, ESE) – several properties have views of Frome
Maiden Bradley (4.7 miles, SSE) – no views from village but from outskirts there are uninterrupted views of Frome’s southern slopes
Blatchbridge (0.5 miles, South) – direct views of southern slopes from several houses
West Woodlands (2.3 miles, South) – uninterrupted views of Frome’s southern slopes, particularly from the from Showfield
Tytherington (0.6 miles, SSW) – view of southern slopes from several points and properties
Ridgeway (1.4 miles, SW) – two houses have partial views of western slopes
Nunney Catch/Nunney (2.0 miles, WSW) – no views of Frome
Lower Whatley (1.2 miles, West) – three houses have partial views of western slopes
Whatley (1.6 miles, West) – two or three elevated houses have partial views of western slopes
Mells (2.2 miles, WNW) – no views of Frome
Great Elm (1.1 miles, WNW) – a small number of houses have partial views of western slopes
Buckland Dinham (1.5 miles, NNW) – seven properties in Rogers Close and a small number of main road gardens have views of Frome’s NW edge
Spring Gardens (0.4 miles, North) – most dwellings’ site line towards Frome’s northern slopes are interrupted by the banked road (Iron Mill Lane). Some of the most easterly properties have clear views of these slopes.
From this research, it is clear that the quadrant between Chapmanslade to the east and Tytherington to the south of Frome, has the most uninterrupted view of the town.
It also has the most extensive views of Frome over the longest distances. Additionally, in this quadrant, further out, are the significant tourist viewpoints of Cley Hill (National Trust) and Heaven’s Gate (Longleat), which both have uninterrupted views of the southern slopes of Frome.
By way of contrast, many other views of Frome are intimate, for example from one side of a river valley to the other, notably the view from Orchardleigh to the northern slopes of Frome.
An unasked question in the Sustainability Appraisal process is, “who is the observer whose view of a settlement matters?” Clearly it is not the householder who has no right to a view. Is it, then, the commuter driving home from work in Bath or Wiltshire, the farmer drilling his maize, the cyclist or walker exercising or the denizens of isolated farm buildings now run as a rural business hub? Or is it, perhaps the raven or fox?
To be clear: I believe that views of the town from without do matter a great deal. My point is that where large swathes of countryside would be affected by development on the periphery of Frome, alternatives should be more actively sought where views of the town are less intrusive and extensive.
However Mendip district Council has first ‘preferred’ and then ‘allocated’ sites where they will be most intrusive and extensive in Frome’s case.
In Appendix 5 of Local Plan Part 2 “Results of Sustainability Appraisal”, sites such as FRO060 (Land at rear of Old Vallis House), FRO212 (Land at Whitemill, off Marston Lane), and FRO219 (Land at Critchill) have been deemed not suitable for development, because of, “prominent hill top location”, “prominent location on the western escarpment”, and “ prominent slopes…(having) … a significant impact on the landscape setting and character of the town”.
On the other hand, in the Little Keyford area sites FRO001, FRO150 and FRO150a, for example, have all been assessed as being suitable for development, despite all being acknowledged as having “hill top location”.
The most glaring example of casual disregard for the visual impact of a south Frome site is perhaps FRO150a. Here the Sustainability Appraisal describes the site as having a “hilltop location and the southern part of the site extends onto the southern slopes, which are a feature of this edge of Frome”. What the Sustainability Appraisal does not elaborate on is that the site’s south western boundary is essentially an escarpment. The land, falling steeply away, makes for even greater prominence of FRO150a, viewed from as far away as Gare Hill. Development here would be very prominent and visible for at least five miles.
It is impossible to conclude otherwise than that Mendip District Council is employing the Sustainability criteria of hilltop visibility inconsistently and illogically for its own reasons. To defend less visually obtrusive western and northern edges of Frome whilst simultaneously under-playing the prominent of southern slopes is indicative of bias. I strongly object to the arbitrary and selective application of sustainability assessment criteria.
I consider the allocation of sites in the Little Keyford area not sound for the reasons given above.