Three Trees in Ashbourne

TreeAs there have been so many planning applications of late I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at one. What I found was educational but also comical and worrying. I really pity the poor District Councillors who are expected to read the applications and take a judgement on them. The truth is that they can’t possibly get through it all and understand the significance. Little wonder that many people think the planning process is a rubber stamping exercise. 

The first request for outline planning application in particular has a reputation for not being worth the paper it is written on. It doesn’t spell out what is going to be built but rather it seeks permission for a rosy-coloured concept. It paints a vision of the future without being tied to it.  All the more ridiculous that they are supported by reams and reams of detailed paperwork all of which are guaranteeing work for consultants. The planning application I looked at was for the 145 houses on Leys Farm, Wyaston Road. I look at most of the applications in Ashbourne these days because you never know what is going to pop up. Around the same time three mature trees were cut down on Wyaston Road – 2 ashes and an oak – and they were replaced with some fencing and the stumps.

This one directly affects me though as it is building on land nearby. Before you label me a NIMBY I would suggest that you read my objection to the development. I don’t mind houses being built here as long as they are sympathetic to the existing neighbours and that any development in the town complies with the will of the Neighbourhood Team. What I don’t like is bullying and misleading developers and this site has already had an advertisement torn to shreds by the Advertising Standards Authority. We’ve seen the arguments about the changed plans for Waterside Park and the promised footpath. The nearby Willow Meadow Farm has seen the affordable housing which was a feature of their outline planning application, and which Ashbourne needs, replaced with Section 106 money that Ashbourne never seems to receive. This is the adjustment between an application designed to get approval and an application which maximises commercially for the developer.

The Leys Farm application contains some statutory documents – a statement of consultation for example. This refers to the neighbouring properties being invited to raise objections after a notice is published by the District Council. There are signs tied to lampposts and gates around the area. There’s another which describes exactly where the application is and then the third main document, the Design and Access statement describes the rationale for the application. In this case it aims to put forward a green space with access to the rest of Ashbourne and low crime through the design of the streets. It includes some example pictures and lots of plans which show the new streets and houses superimposed on existing features – this should allow Councillors to visualise what they are potentially saying yes to.

There are then lots of documents where the developer has paid consultants to assess drainage, landscape damage, wildlife impact, and transport. Their purpose is to say that the outline planning permission will have an acceptable impact on all of these categories.

One of the reports is associated with the archaeological significance of the site. To be honest I had assumed there would be nothing but apparently the land shows signs of Mediaeval ridge and furrow ploughing and was also possibly part of an ancient deer park. No remnants are visible and the ploughing is in an incomplete poor condition. There are all sorts of references to the history of Compton and the earliest Roman and Saxon remains in the area. An accompanying document lists all the listed buildings and their locations on a map.

A second report covers the ecological standing of the site. It assesses the state of the hedgerows, flora and fauna. The writers visited the site early in the year – not ideal to see the full potential – but enough to assess. They found generally low risk but did find that the hedgerow to the West, running along Wyaston Road was rich in diversity due to the number of species and variety of trees. Not an “important” hedgerow but of interest nonetheless. Of course there are now three fewer trees to create interest. Those of us who see the bats hawking along the gardens on a summer’s night will be interested that there are three bat species in the area as well as a badger sett. The report recommends further visits to establish the extent of the bat population and recommends retention and improvement of the native species in the hedgerows. It notes that there are no plans to significantly remove hedgerows or trees.

The flood and drainage report deems there is little risk of flooding on the site which seem reasonable.

The Planning Statement is one of the worst documents I have seen. Rather than make any real case for the development of the site and what it will bring to Ashbourne the real weight of it is focused on why the District Council would be powerless in a legal case. I find this arrogant and offensive to the town.

The Landscape and Visual impact report states that the plan intends to keep all hedgerows but that the Wyaston Road hedgerow, remember – the most valuable in diversity, will be “translocated” backwards to allow room for the necessary road widening. No mention of the small challenge that relocating large trees will present.

The Transport “survey” carried out is where the comedy value comes in. There are pages and pages of data but the conclusions are startling. The Recreation Ground can be accessed with a 12 minute walk and so can the (no longer in existence) Boothby Meadows school and Plough public house. It’s almost as if they looked at an old map and took no consideration of the hills…or the intervening years. It might just as well have an area showing dragons. I would also really question how someone at the far end of the planned estate could get to Pinecroft Stores in five minutes. Good luck too in getting to Somerfield supermarket. The report looks at all of the road junctions likely to be affected by the development and concludes that either there will be no additional flow or that there is enough capacity in place to deal with it. Amazingly there is no review of the junction between Springfield Road and Derby. The residents must already be sick of the regular flow of cars and the chaos outside Springfield Stores. There is a standstill when any lorry makes its way through.

So the District Councillors on the planning committee have a wonderful evening ahead of them later this month. They have acres of paperwork to read – full of inaccuracies – all painting a joyous picture of the life ahead for people living in Ashbourne knowing full well that the development which will actually be built won’t have the number or type of houses they are being asked to approve. All against a backdrop of the developer telling them they don’t have a choice in the matter or they will end up in court. They’re Local Plan has been torn to shreds by the Inspector and there are elections on the horizon constantly.

As for the trees…they were cut down by Highways to allow access to another development on the opposite side of the road. The traffic in this part of town is a major problem and the trees had to be chopped down to make the road wide enough. This was part of the outcome of the appeal which Derbyshire Dales lost in trying to stop the Willow Meadow Farm development. For what it’s worth landowners can cut down a maximum of 5 cubic metres of timber each quarter without permission from the Forestry Commission – approximately three trees worth.


About justaukcook

/kʊk/ Not a chef, not an epicure, not a foodie. Just one who likes to prepare food – What really happens in the kitchen and on the high street is what I write about. Follow me on Twitter @Justaukcook and on
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2 Responses to Three Trees in Ashbourne

  1. Town Planner says:

    Great read, as always.

    I wouldn’t be too cynical of consultant’s reports, yes they are paid by the developer but many rely upon their reputation, particularly when under cross-examination in order to support their case and opinion. Not to mention the various bodies Code of Conducts that they will be affiliated to. Any decent consultant won’t fudge findings and results in order to appease one developer otherwise they’d lose out massively in the long term as they would get torn to pieces at planning inquiries (which is a particularly good fee-earner for them!).

    It’s also worth noting that Council’s also instruct their own consultants to produce the very same reports, which similarly any opposing party will be equally as cynical about. This is why it’s mandatory to communicate with Statutory Consultees during the determination period; i.e. County Highways, Heritage, Environmental Agency etc etc. Bodies with no vested interests who are experts in their profession and should therefore be able to give an informed, neutral opinion. On the subject of Highways (a major area of contention on 99.9% of new residential applications I’ve ever worked on) people need to think about the wider context. Whilst currently it may take an individual 20-30 seconds to pull out of a junction, the addition of 150-200 (as an example) may increase this to 30-40 seconds overall. Any extra 10 seconds wait compared to the provision of market and affordable housing to dozens of families; creating X number of jobs; millions (yes millions) of pounds of additional household annual spending in the county and local businesses as well as hundreds of thousands of pounds to the council on new homes bonus — it’s a case of weighing the positives against the negatives, or “The Planning Balance” as it’s sometimes called. Likewise people often seem to be of the opinion the England’s roads are gridlocked 24/7, a perception built upon the daily commute between the hours of 7.30-8.30am and 5.30-6.30pm. Again, how does a slight increase in congestion during these windows feature in the planning balance?

    Having used Springfield Avenue many times when I lived locally, the traffic on the road is exacerbated by those who choose to park on the street (despite having a perfectly good driveway!) however this is more of a behavioral issue which unfortunately/fortunately can’t feature into planning legislation.

    The NPPF does state that any traffic impact has to deemed to be “severe” in order for an application to be refused. Obviously this interpretation is subjective but considering the example above, this is why many transport assessments say that new developments can be deemed to be “acceptable”.

    Having said all that though, you do often get ‘lazy’ consultants who do not know the town and rely too much on Google, The Planning Statement does sound like a copy/paste bodge job from another application no doubt. Surprised about the Somerfield inclusion, bit of a rookie error if that’s what stated!

    With regards to the trees – always a tricky one. Where I work we always seek to retain mature trees – though not legally obliged to. It does mean fewer criticisms of any scheme, but equally we feel its the ‘right thing to do’ as well. However at the end of the day, it’s private land. Any views or recreational uses people may get out of it is always a temporary bonus. Communities have no legal right to the view from their property and likewise, the construction of their house (once a greenfield) no doubt impinged someone else’s view before them! It’s how villages/towns grow.
    In the same way we’re legally entitled to remove trees from out garden (something which I’ve recently had the joy of) who are we to tell a landowner what he can or cannot do so long as she/he is within the law? I often speak with residents who object to a scheme because they’ve walked their dog on that field for 10 years, or their kids have played on it for X years – as private land, ultimately they’re trespassing. Unless it has a public footpath, by law they shouldn’t be entering the field (even then, they shouldn’t be straying from it) however landowners normally simply turn a blind eye to it and for the time being as happy to allow it to continue.

    Just to look at it from another general perspective, I believe the level of objection and anger from residents is sometimes unjustified. Yes developers want to make money, landowners do too, but then how many businesses operate with the aim not to? Some landowners I’ve worked with have been financially crippled by various issues at no fault of their own. Either farming hasn’t been profitable or one gentleman faced a tax bill of £100,000’s after inheriting land after his father had passed away! We don’t know the individual circumstances and shouldn’t judge others for wanting to create a better life for their family by selling their own land. Of course, sometimes you do deal with rich landowners who are only getting richer!

    I don’t know enough about the scheme at Wyaston Road other than it looks fairly logical. Apologies if I’ve come across as very pro-private sector but I just wanted to give another aspect to the situation. Having read many other of your planning related posts I know you have a balanced head on your shoulders so hope you find it interesting!


    • Thanks as ever for your contribution. One of the reasons I enjoy blogging is to learn more about the subjects and to hear opposing views. I’m always keen to hear well argued opinions. I think I agree with most of what you are saying. As I wrote…I did actually enjoy reading most to the application. I suppose my challenge to developers is that there should be more consideration to being a considerate neighbour. I appreciate no-one has a right to a view forever but equally there is no reason to try and squeeze every extra house out of the land so that the resulting views are of brick. There is such a thing as a happy medium, especially as the building process is going to cause significant upheaval for the local residents. I am also uncomfortable with getting approval for one thing and then building something else. Affordable housing is a good example. Everyone mentions it in the applications but ends up building more executive homes.

      We also have a particular problem in Ashbourne in that the additional houses are not converting into local spend. And money for Derbyshire Dales doesn’t seem to find its way to Ashbourne. We are generating the money through housing but not reaping the benefit.

      I really like you observations on the Housing Balance though and particularly the observations on traffic. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

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