LAND NORTH OF WALPOLE – A RESPONSE
One of the few sites that the Parish Council has considered supporting for development is Site 15, as detailed in the District Council’s Call for Sites initiative of 2021/22. But we have concerns over Bloor Homes recently announced plans for this site.
The Parish Council reasoned at the start of 2022 the development of 250 houses on 23 acres of land close to Walpole Meadows could offer much needed housing and gains such as improved sporting facilities.
We cautioned however any such development risked the merger of our village with Ugley (“coalescence”) and bringing more traffic into Stansted.
Last month Bloor Homes submitted a scoping opinion to the District Council to develop not 250, but 350 dwellings on land north of Walpole Farm, between Pennington Lane and Cambridge Road. This number is considerably more than we had indicated we would be willing to accept at this site – a point we made clear to the developer at their consultation event last month.
Since then, a further meeting has been held with representatives of Bloor Homes to consider the effects of such a large development on the landscape.
Points to be Considered
The following notes summarise the discussions and key points raised at a meeting held between Liz Lake, Cllr Peter Jones and Cllr Jamie Hogg on the 5th February 2023.
The points raised relate to the information provided by Bloor Homes at the public consultation event held on the 18th January 2023 at the Stansted Free Church Hall. Whilst it is understood that any information provided at this point is indicative, we nonetheless believe that the following information should be considered further by Bloor Homes prior to an outline planning application being brought forward, and where necessary discussed further with the Stansted Mountfitchet Parish Council (SMPC).
The notes are not necessarily exhaustive and the SMPC reserves the right to add further comments as the design process develops.
1. In the call for sites, SMPC indicated their tentative support for development on this site, subject to some significant landscape protection measures being put in place. The support was based on the information provided by UDC at the time which was for 250 dwellings. The new information being provided by Bloor Homes, indicates ‘up to 350 homes’. It is our view that 350 houses on this site is overdevelopment on what is the edge of the settlement and will be a heavy burden on Stansted in relation to services and infrastructure. We would like this number reduced substantially.
2. The layout of the residential area seems very regimented with long rows of houses, with long straight roads and limited amenity space within the development. This needs improving.
3. The tree lined avenue and concept of ‘rain gardens’ through the centre of the development is a positive attribute. However, we wonder whether this is deliverable both from a Highways approval perspective and management perspective, i.e. who will be responsible in the future? Has this been done successfully elsewhere?
4. The proposal for the ‘New Country Park’ is welcomed and we support the informal character as a transition to the countryside. What are the thoughts for future ownership and management of this facility? Will discreet parking be provided as part of this facility?
5. The provision for a Community Centre is supported, but we would like more discussion on its function, form, location and access provision.
6. Pennington Lane is a much valued and used community asset. As such it is a very sensitive boundary to the countryside. So, there are mixed views on it related to the proposal and recognition that there will be an impact on this ‘non designated heritage asset’. We are pleased to see that the buffer zone between the proposed development and Pennington Lane, which was originally requested by SMPC in their response to the UDC ‘Call for Sites’ consultation, has been incorporated. Whilst this could be a successful mitigation, we would suggest that this is created in advance of development and established before new residents move in. This is both essential to retain the important attributes of Pennington Lane during construction but also to ensure it happens. Evidence at the existing Walpole Meadows Estate shows that if left to the end of the construction process, hedgerows removed are not replaced, this must not happen again.
7. The SMPC draft Neighbourhood Development Plan contains an objective to close a section of Pennington Lane to vehicular traffic. This was also being proposed in a previous planning application and was accepted by Essex Highways.
8. In terms of the layout, there does not seem to be a coherent plan for pedestrian and cycling routes and connectivity to existing services and facilities, this needs more thought and explanation.
It is a long walk to the railway station with no bus route along High Lane. We would wish to see what measures would be put in place to mitigate the increase in vehicles trying to access the station where there is no drop-off point. With no safe cycling routes, and human nature being what it is, this increase in traffic must be mitigated.
9. On the first phase of Walpole Meadows, the existing tree belt along Footpath 12 was not managed and the responsibility for future maintenance is unclear. We do not want this repeated in the latest proposal and there should be management proposals for any existing hedges along Pennington Lane, Cambridge Road and across the site.
10. The finished results of the SUDs attenuation ponds on the existing Walpole Meadows development are not considered attractive, and are not as originally designed in the planning application. We are concerned that this will be repeated in the new development with similar results. We would like to see an improvement to these very visible features.
11. There are limited details on the interface between the existing Walpole Meadows development and the new proposal. What can be seen seems haphazard and not thought through. We would like to see a larger scale drawing showing the existing and proposed development in more detail and ensuring a cohesive and well-integrated layout.
12. Are there plans for any pre-school facilities as was the proposal for Walpole Meadows?
13. It is clear that the site is distant from transport links, schools, healthcare and other important facilities and therefore the claim of sustainability is questionable. We would like to understand how the Developer will improve connectivity in order to overcome this issue.