Suttons' application 2002

APPLICATION NO.: 02/01575/FUL TYPE: Full Application WARD: Bathavon South

EXPIRY DATE: 28th Aug 2002

PARISH: Freshford

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Greenbelt

APPLICANT: Surrey And Counties (Sutton) Ltd

PROPOSAL: Change of use comprising a mix made up of 21 residential units, 5 live/work units and employment use, provision of improved access with associated landscaping, parking and demolition (revised description)

SITE LOCATION: Freshford Mill Freshford Bath BA2 7WH

DESCRIPTION OF SITE AND APPLICATION

Freshford Mill is a disused former industrial site situated in the Frome Valley south of Sharpstone and south-west of Freshford. The village of Westwood and the hamlet of Iford lie to the south east in West Wiltshire. The site was used until 1993 by Peradins for the manufacture of rubber components for the car industry. Since the firm relocated to their new premises in Trowbridge the site has been essentially empty (but for a token informal use up until 1995). Its use as General Industrial premises within Class B2 of the Use Classes Order however continues to be lawful.

The site comprises a mixture of buildings the oldest dates back to the 17th century (former mill owner's house with late Elizabethan mullioned windows), three major blocks from the late 18th/early 19th centuries, all in natural stone and clay tile or slate, and three more modern buildings from the 1950's, and following fires at the site, relatively recent office block and warehouse (both built in the 1980's). Several of the buildings are linked by covered additions of more recent origin. The site features a mill channel with an internal wheel although a narrower mill leat was blocked many years ago. Approximately one (eastern) half of the site area (1.34 hectares in total) is a surfaced car park which also contains a disused former sewage plant.

It is believed the factory at its peak employed in excess of 160 people although shortly before its closure this number was reduced to around 60. The car park capacity is at present 128 spaces.

The proposal seeks a complete redevelopment of the site for a mixed housing/light industrial/office use (B1 Class) through conversion of the existing buildings. The later linked additions would be removed to allow, where appropriate, for the creation of courtyards. Of the nearly 7000 sq.metres of existing floorspace over 3000 sq. metres would be provided for non-residential use.

The proposal entails conversion and alterations to create 21 residential units (13 flats, 6 maisonettes and 2 houses). 5 live/work units (workshops/office space downstairs, flats upstairs) would be provided in the former office block at the entrance to the site. The modern factory buildings and the warehouse would provide B1 office/workshops (although some would have residential accommodation above).

The only significant element of new-build is the extension of the former main mill building (now 2-storey) attached to the mill owner's house. Historical evidence exists that this building was originally at least three storeys high and it is the applicant's intention to add another full storey with three substantial dormers/lanterns to provide effectively a third floor. The mill owner's house would also be extended by addition of another floor.

With the exception of the four-storey block on the edge of the site designed by Thomas Baldwin all the other buildings are essentially of a two-storey height and would be retained as such.

The site has been subjected to flooding from time to time. Owing to a large part of it lying below the 1-in-100 year flood level a radical solution has been proposed by the applicants' hydrological agents to overcome this problem, in consultation with the Environment Agency.

The ground or basement floors of the buildings which are in the flood plain would be blocked in with their walls tanked to provide waterproof seal. These rooms would only be used as residential storerooms accessible from within the buildings. Residential accommodation would thus be restricted to upper floors and the buildings would be linked with a series of gangways mainly at first floor level.

The eastern, higher part of the site would have levels built in above the floodplain and suitably sealed off. It would allow for parking in the open although the largest building on site would have internal parking on a raised platform. In order to compensate for the loss of floodplain within a large part of the site a flood compensation area incorporating a pond would be proposed in the area of the present car park/old sewage plant. This would necessitate the relocation of the access further south, outside the floodplain.

The flood compensation area would form the basis of an informal parkland with access and suitable trees and shrubs. The existing hedgerows around the site would be retained and reinforced, and formal hedges would be created on the perimeter of the site where none exist at present (mainly hornbeam); linear beds of mass-planted shrubs relating to buildings would also be included. Single specimen trees would be introduced into various parts of the site to provide strong visual focus.

The surfaces within the site would comprise bound natural gravel, stone setts and natural stone paving. These are intended to complement the existing mill buildings' finishes, invariably which are in natural stone but some render or cedar cladding would also feature. These materials would reduce the surface run-off from the site.

Owing to the past uses of the site there is contamination of the site both in the buildings and in the ground by industrial pollutants. The applicants' agents undertook a series of investigations within the site between 1997 and 2002. They produced a contamination report with conclusions and recommendations to remediate the site. The report has been copied to the Council's Environmental Health Officers for consideration. The report concludes that a full remediation of the site is possible in co-operation with the Environment Agency and the Environmental Health Officers.

The applicants also employed highway engineers to assess the impact of the scheme on the local highway network especially in view of the narrow roads serving the site some of which are also prone to flooding. The submitted transport report draws comparisons with the former industrial use and concludes that the level of traffic (especially heavy vehicles) would be substantially lower than the previous use. The report also recommends improvements to the lanes serving the site (resurfacing/widening). It advocates non-car travel and suggests bicycles would be provided to future occupiers as well as information about buses and train routes. The report concludes the redevelopment of the site would represent an improvement to local road users compared with the industrial use.

Freshford Mill although not listed is an important historic site. The applicants recognised that and employed archaeologists to investigate it. An archaeological report has been prepared and provided useful information about the site with recommendations. The report has been referred to the Council's archaeologist whose comments are reported below. The applicants are prepared to follow the advice and undertake the necessary investigative work.

Since the site has fallen into disuse it has acquired greater ecological importance, notably with the presence of several species of bat and evidence of otter activity. The applicants' agents undertook two recent bat surveys in consultation with English Nature and the Council's ecologist. They propose as a result to provide a new bat house as part of the informal parkland/flood compensation area. The bat house would be heated by a new mill wheel to be installed on the re-opened leat next to the four-storey Thomas Baldwin block. Landscaping works would include planting of night flowering and scented plants to provide feeding corridors for bats.

The applicants also propose to construct two otter holts near the river as part of the proposed mitigation and enhancement measures. Again they are prepared to enter into appropriate agreements under Section 106 of the Act to secure long-term ecological management plan for the site.

Members are reminded that there is another, earlier, application from the same applicants still with the Council. It is for the redevelopment of the site for 39 dwelling units (Ref: 00/02069/FUL). No action on that application has been taken at the request of the applicants' pending the outcome of this proposal.

CONSULTATIONS AND REPRESENTATIONS

FRESHFORD PARISH COUNCIL:

Supporting document for

THE COUNCIL'S OBJECTION TO APPLICATION NO: 02/ 01575/ FUL Surrey and Counties (Sutton) Ltd. Freshford Mill.

INDEX

Planning Policy and Overview

Appendices

A : Traffic and Access.

B : Hydrological Aspects

C : Village Community and Sociological Implications

D : Ecological Considerations.

E. : Re-use of buildings and Architectural Comment

F. : Consultation.

Planning Policy and Overview.

1. Green Belt and AONB Considerations.

1.1 Green Belt policy as expressed in the Wansdyke Local Plan and the deposit BANES Local Plan clearly precludes inappropriate development on this site unless "Very special circumstances" can be proved. We maintain that the environmental , traffic generating, sociological and ecological effects of the application are negative, and more than obviate any arguments in favour of the application of "Very special circumstances" to the future of this site.

In the RPS Planning Policy and Overview report section 5, Key Issues, a number of highly controversial statements have been made. We contest the following :

5.1 Re-use of residential buildings. There are presently no such buildings on the site.

5.2 "The application accords with Green Belt policy". It certainly does not . (Appendix E in particular refers) It neither accords with WGB.1 nor, in our opinion , does it merit the application of "Very special circumstances".

5.3 The very special circumstances which they claim apply are, in the sequence of their report -

 

a. Full remediation of residual on site contamination. Residual is appropriate. The contamination is and threatens to be, a serious problem only if human habitation is permitted.

So the argument should be, "If permission is granted for change of use to B1 or C3 then this action is absolutely necessary". Alternative changes of use or retention of B2 presumably do not require the same degree of urgency in this respect , if any action at all. Limited residual contamination exists but it is reasonable to assume no more or less than when the site was active B2 over ten years ago. The need to remove residual contamination would apply after acceptance of this application, but certainly does not apply now, nor if many of the choices of other uses than the two above were to be permitted. The matter was scarcely raised during B2 operations, except as a direct and immediately attributable result of specific B2 operations in the 1980s . This no longer applies. Desirable, yes - Very Special Circumstance - we suggest not. It has, incidentally, yet to be proved that escape of contamination into bordering areas, particularly the river Frome, is a serious short or long term danger.

b. Removal of B2 from this location. Agreed desirable , but this alone can only be a minor contributor to a special circumstances situation. Was this a "Very special circumstance" whilst the B2 was operative as opposed to defunct ? We think not.

c. Removal of unsightly buildings. What buildings are being removed? The application does not remove the buildings, but changes their appearance and function.

d. No reduction but a major increase is proposed related to the last ten years or more. ( The RPS argument is exposed as invalid in Appendix B as it fails to address the reality of traffic levels generated by the site from 1992 to date).

e. 30% built form reduction? Really. How much of this is just tarmac at ground level? The important point is that visually there would be scarcely any reduction, if any.

f. Reduction in hard standing. Surely this is covered in "e" above ? Otherwise how do they arrive at 30% reduction in built form. In any case is it a "Very Special Circumstance"? Scarcely.

g. Re-use . We contend that re-use is not permitted as proposed in this application. (See Appendix E p.14/15).

h. The retention of the remainders of a 17th. century building on site scarcely constitutes a very special circumstance. Expert opinion can be obtained to support this contention. Surely not a very special circumstance under WGB.1. These small residual elements would be better preserved elsewhere.

i. Recording of archaeological remains is certainly important but could be managed without granting this application.

j. Flood alleviation. Only necessary if the application were to be accepted. This is "chicken and egg" and does not merit consideration as a factor in "Very special circumstances". The application does not have to be accepted through lack of alternatives to B2 use.

k. Improving the local ecology by the introduction of commuting and residential population? Respecting the bats by disturbing them? (See Appendix D p.13).

 

l. Workspace necessary to the local economy? Certainly not on this scale. A small non residential, non commuter generating, scheme is desirable for individual workshops. (See p.3 this response 1.4).

We contest the claims, but even if they were accepted neither the individual nor sum total of the above amount to very special circumstances. Special circumstances in some cases , possibly, but very special circumstances. No. These are provided to allow for inappropriate development . Most of the arguments above do not relate to conditions existing which would justify such development .

1.2 Much of the justification for this application appears to rely on a re-use of buildings . This approach is comprehensively, we believe incontrovertibly, and conclusively rejected by the points made in detail in Appendix E attached. In view of this we are concerned that a statement can be made to the effect that "The local planning authority's advisors have had a significant influence over the form of the present application". (RPS Planning Policy and Overview 1.2). We are concerned that a misinterpretation may be engendered by 1.2 . We cannot accept that a significant influence from this source has been applied to the form of proposals which are clearly in breach of the current Wansdyke Local Plan which we believe was well conceived in relation to the PPG's in force at the time of its adoption and, incidentally, subsequent PPG updates. However, "Form" is not the same as "Content" and therefore we trust that no interested parties will be misled into confusing form with content once this possible misinterpretation has been pointed out.

1.3 The decision by BANES not to include the site in the new Local Plan as a " Major Development Site" has been welcomed by this Council , and reflects our interpretation of the Wandyke Local Plan Inquiry Inspector's report referred to in the RPS Planning Policy and Overview report (Section 5.7) . The fact that BANES have so decided indicates that they consider residential development to be inappropriate after careful consideration of the said Inspector's report and we applaud this approach. The Inspector recommended that Freshford Mill should be included in the review of Major Existing Developed Sites, but in the context of his preceding remarks, which included :

(a) "Government policy on new housing in green belts is strict. It might be acceptable as part of a redevelopment scheme on a major developed site".

This Council's view is that "Might" is the critical word and the critical phrase is " Major Development Site" as he goes on to say

(b) "The mill is surrounded by open land some distance from the main part of Freshford and the housing at Sharpstone so (a) above would not apply. There is some question in my mind as to whether the buildings would be suitable for conversion, but their re-use does not depend on them being identified as suitable for residential development in the plan. In the circumstances I do not think that a similar approach to that of Policy HO.6 can be justified on this site nor would it be reasonable to prepare a planning brief for residential development."

This council found this communication of his thoughts somewhat convoluted , however -

Whilst the the Inspector did not quote the Countryside Agency's policy on new settlements (Residential) in AONB's his view clearly reflected its intent. The Agency continued and continues the policy of the Countryside Commission (Confirmed by the Agency to this Council 16th. November 2001) which states :

"Small scale developments to meet the social and economic needs of local communities and provided for in approved development plans are normally acceptable in AONBs. Such developments might include farm diversification schemes, and housing and local industry, which should be located within, or immediately adjacent to, existing settlements."

1.4 The social needs of the local community are not met by this scheme. The only need which might be influenced by planning is for a limited number of affordable homes and the provision of larger areas with public access for rural recreation.This scheme does not address these needs. (See Appendix C ).

The economic needs of the local community might require a small number of non - Residential workshops/lockups , but most certainly do not encompass a substantial number of offices and a large workshop of near industrial proportions as proposed.

In any event, the location of the Mill site does not meet the requirements of the Countryside Agency in terms of the location of small scale developments in AONBs. The site is not within an existing settlement, nor is it adjacent to one. The site is separated from the nearest settlement area by a spate river, The Frome, and is surrounded by open land and is some distance from the main part of Freshford and the housing at Sharpstone, as noted by the Inspector above.

2. Usage Considerations.

2.1 The RPS Report submitted by the applicants states (Section 5.6) that "It is unlikely that the site will ever be attractive to general industrial users because of the location". We agree that this is the case, but wish to establish clearly that this has applied for at least the last ten years, during which period there has been no B2 activity whatsoever on the site, and even before 1992 the activities on the site had been reduced by the then owners . This point is ignored in the RPS report as it militates strongly, and in our view conclusively, against a number of assertions made in the report. Whilst still considered in planning terms to be B2 , the site has been inactive and the conditions which this inactivity generated have been substantially different from those which pertained when the industrial usage was at an high level in the early 1980's. It is simplistic , inaccurate and unacceptable to ignore the effects of the situation which has pertained over the last ten years and continues so to do. This situation has had major benefits , particularly in the removal of artificial light , noise, and traffic pollutions and other problems generated by the B2 site. The application proposes the re-introduction of two of these three specific problems, particularly in respect of traffic and, whilst the application ignores the lighting aspect, this would be an inevitable result of acceptance of the application. (Please refer to Appendices A and E for further comment on this point) .

3. Specific Comments by RPS.

3.1 In the RPS Introduction the Report claims to identify the key planning issues that are relevant (1.1). It fails to address the fact that Freshford Mill is not a major Development Site and the decision of BANES not to list the site as a Major Development Site in the deposit BANES Local Plan, the disturbance of the protected species of bats on the site , and purports to deliver an appropriate form of development as an attempt to avoid going through the appeal process (RPS 1.5) on a previous application . We do not consider avoidance of a threatened appeal process to be a matter that should be a consideration in BANES thinking on this matter, and would have made this plain had we be given the opportunity when this was , presumably , discussed as a factor.

3.2 In the RPS Planning Policy and Overview Report 4.11 , the claim is made that the scheme will not prejudice the character of the (Existing) settlement and is considered to comply with Policy HO6. The character of the existing settlement will be affected by through commuting and other traffic generated by this scheme on top of the levels that have been increasing substantially over the past ten years , particularly but not exclusively in commuting and school pupil delivery/collection periods. The character will also be adversely affected by the substantial light pollution this scheme will engender , above the unacceptable level that pertained during B2 activities in the 1980's. The contention "The scheme is considered to comply with HO6" is astounding. It does not comply with HO6 in HO6 (i) as there are no dwellings on the site and the plan is not for infilling. Nor (ii) as the site is outside the defined housing development boundary. Nor (iii) for the reasons given above. Nor (iv) as the access is most inadequate and the mitigation proposals do little to overcome this problem.

3.3 The RPS Report (Item 1.4) claims balance as the principle to be applied. The harm that would arise from acceptance of the application is fully covered in this response and its appendices, but we would maintain that harm would arise in Traffic, Ecological, Hydrological and sociological terms balanced only by the partial redesign of visually unacceptable buildings. The plans would maintain an unacceptable roofscape. A change of use from B2 would be acceptable, but not to a scheme as proposed with such major disadvantages .

3.2 RPS claim (1.5) that the fundamental difference between the first outstanding application and this second is that the latter comprises re-use of buildings rather than substantial demolition and redevelopment. However, it suffers from more problems than the first , exacerbated by retention of inappropriate building forms. even greater traffic and other problems . In Green Belt terms the re-use argument does not meet the requirements of the Local Plan. Please refer to Appendix E for our comments on re-use vs. re-build.

3.5 RPS 2.1 maintains that the site is "by any standards, brownfield and sits firmly in the definition contained in PPG3". This statement, whilst correct in defining "Previously Developed land" has not been qualified by the statements made in PPG3 to the effect that , as an objective, local planning authorities should give priority to re-using previously developed land within urban areas. Nowhere does the PPG refer to the desirability of housing or office accommodation on rural industrial sites. In rural areas the emphasis is on affordable housing "Exception housing in rural areas". The PPG section on Rural Housing -Village Expansion and Infill is particularly appropriate and is reflected in the Wansdyke Local Plan and in the rejection of Major Development Site status as incorporated in the deposit BANES Local Plan.

3.3 PPG7 is referred to in 3.30. Overall significant reduction in building footprint is hardly borne out by the plans submitted and would be scarcely noticeable visually.

3.7 PPG13 - Transport. This is referred to in RPS Planning Policy and Overview 3.31 and 3.32. This argument is refuted in Appendix A to this response. We believe that the traffic generation resulting from this proposal is one of the key issues which cannot be resolved by the mitigation proposals and can only weigh heavily against approval. This element was emphasised by Freshford residents during consultation.

3.8. PPG15 - Planning and the Historic Environment. Is referred to in RPS Planning Policy and Overview 3.34. The Mill buildings were rejected for listing by English Heritage after application by this Council. The provision of a water wheel has little historic relevance other than to provide a pastiche. The later B2 history of the site is ignored, except that the general industrial outlines of the buldings and roofscape are maintained. We do not consider this to be wholly desirable. Please refer Appendix E (4) "General Comments on the Architecture and Practical Problems."

3.9. Re RPS Overview 3.34. None of the buildings on the site is listed. They did not qualify on a number of grounds which were advised after application to list was made by this Council. Whilst the aims of RPS 3.34 as stated are laudable, they are of little or no relevance to the detailed guidance given in PPG 15.

NB. We assume that the RPS Report "Planning Policy and Overview" relates to the Sutton and

Counties (Sutton) Ltd. Application as per the report cover. The content appears to be addressed to applicants Kingston Estates Ltd. We assume the Report is intended for the company as described on the cover.

APPENDIX A : TRAFFIC AND ACCESS.

A. TRAFFIC .

We dispute the approach taken by RPS in their report entitled "Transport Assessment".

This maintains that the TRIP comparisons should be between the traffic generated by B2 use on 7476 sq.m. of the site against that which they propose as appropriate for the proposed development. This ignores the facts relating to the site in time terms . Their effort to prove a reduction in traffic is flawed by ignoring the reality of B2 status having been effectively defunct for ten years. The applicants claim elsewhere " It is unlikely that the site will ever be attractive to general industrial users because of the location" and this is correct , but they fail to mention that this has applied since the cessation of B2 activity ten years ago, and have ignored the period 1992/2002. We are aware of major efforts to market the site for B2 purposes by DTZ Debenham Thorpe for BTR through 1994 to 1997 with no takers , in spite of a 100 commercial companies being approached at one juncture. The evidence is clear that since the closure of Peradin operations , and probably for a considerable time before that , the site was inappropriate for B2 use, and that the only reason B2 was maintained in planning terms was that no applications were submitted for the whole period up to the purchase by speculative developers.

The ten year period 1992/2002 has been a period when the site has generated no significant traffic. Peradins traffic reduced considerably during the late 1980s as they curtailed the usage of the site, reducing to nil after 1992. In spite of the general increase in traffic levels nationally and locally, the approaches to Freshford Mill have not suffered from significant traffic problems over the last ten years, unlike those encountered by residents on the approach lanes during the shift periods of the Peradins operations in the early 1980s or those which would be generated by the Surrey and Counties application.

Beyond the immediate approaches we would point out that roads from Wiltshire and elsewhere in BANES had to carry the inward and outward commute and the services to Peradins, have suffered from the general increase since then ( but reduced by the absence of Freshford Mill generated traffic ) , and would, should the application be approved , again have to carry similar, so called "reduced" levels. These would be probably greater in movements terms (Although heavy lorries would be fewer, but these were a small percentage of the Peradins total) when taking into account services to both residential and office functions, not to mention the small workshops and the very large workshop, which latter could generate movements which could render even 103 parking spaces inadequate. We doubt in these circumstances not only the validity of the historical base for TRIP statistics, but also the validity of minimised projected traffic generation for such diverse activities.

It should also be noted that in the 1980s Peradins traffic was concentrated in shifts which developed a pattern and local residents (Particularly on the very narrow and winding Rosemary Lane access) reluctantly adjusted their movements accordingly ; the application would create spasmodic movements throughout the day , particularly undesirable on the narrow approach lanes. Frequent confrontational problems would be inevitable. Other points to note are :

i. Parking at Freshford Railway Station is already fully committed.

ii. Cars would be used by residents of the Mill site. The area is unsuitable for easy use of

bicycles due to the hilly nature of approach and, some internal Freshford, roads.

iii. RPS proposed mitigation of the effects of the increased (Ref. Last ten years) traffic

(Claimed by RPS as possible flow of 1187 vehicles of which 125 HGV's) is access oriented. See below.

B. ACCESS.

B.1. Access is very limited and the mitigation recommendations are totally inadequate to overcome any reasonable flow predictions arising from this application. We note (Fig. 3 RPS) that no kerbing is proposed, due to consideration for the rural character of the lanes. This will create problems of verge damage due to frequent passing of vehicles except possibly on Crabtree Lane , where the indication of proposed passing places is unclear. In B2 active times, over ten years ago, the main flows were one direction, due to the shift pattern , but the presence of office , individual workshop and residential functions would mean spasmodic frequent movements in both directions along both Rosemary and Crabtree Lanes. This is unacceptable.

B.2. In 1.7 of the RPS report, mention is made of the footpath access. The shortest route to the services of the village is up the steep and potentially dangerous public right of way , which is a quagmire in winter conditions in the lower field. The other route leads on to the main route through the village of Freshford where there are stretches with narrow road with no pavement.

B. 3. Item 4.6 RPS Report This should read, to be accurate, "Notwithstanding the predicted reduction with the existing permitted use , but ignoring the conditions which have existed for ten years , some minor improvements ".etc . The premise that minor improvements will mitigate the traffic conditions on the very poor access roads as stated by them in 3.2 and 3.4 is scarcely credible. Where do vehicles pass on Rosemary Lane between the weak bridge (Not shown in their plans) and the junction with Abbey Lane ? Furthermore, pedestrian access would be dangerous as no pavements exist on the narrow approach lanes.

B.4. Please refer to Appendix B to note comments on access (Normal and emergency) during flood conditions in the neighbourhood.

C. SUMMARY : TRAFFIC AND ACCESS.

C.1 The creation of commuting traffic , plus traffic serving residential developments which would be created in a green belt area without local need being established and in a location specifically ruled against in Countryside Agency AONB Policy, suggest strongly that this application could be rejected on traffic and access grounds alone, without , however, prejudice to objections arising from other aspects of the application. The Local Plan states that the following shall be taken into consideration in considering development proposals Policy TP.1 (vii) "avoidance of the introduction of traffic of excessive volume , size or weight onto an unsuitable road system or into environmentally sensitive areas." This applies in the case of the access to this site in respect of both the road system and environmental sensitivity.

C.2 This Council have consulted parish residents by public exposure of the application, plans and supporting documents on two consecutive days with substantial response. A book was provided for comments, and of the 54 objections noted therein 46 specifically mention traffic, inter alia, as a basis for objection.

C. 3 This Council further maintains that this aspect , as in C.1 above , militates heavily against any arguments presented for the application of "Very special circumstances" in Policy WGB 1.

APPENDIX B : HYDROLOGICAL ASPECTS

These comments and questions relate to the details given in the Hydrological Aspects document in support of the application.

1. The extrapolation of data for a 1 in 100 flood from a 40 year old record, as registered on a distant guage and recorder, must be most questionable as to its accuracy and applicability. Therefore is a 600 mm safety margin above this high adequate to protect residential areas?

2. The report concludes that the site floods regularly every two to three years. The extra predicted winter increment of 280 - 350 mm caused by climate change over the next 42 years will result in more frequent flooding with consequent impact on residents, and on the inward commuting office workers.

3. The 1 in 100 year floodlevel upstream of site is 29.67 m (iv) whilst the I in 8 flood level upstream of the bridge is 28.5 m, therefore indicating only 1.1m difference. The site ground level is about 1. 5m below the 1 in 100 year flood level.

4. How is access of services such as the ambulance and fire brigade going to be achieved in both the 1 in 100 year flood and even every 2/3 years. We would affirm in this context that access to the site will be denied to such services from Bath (But not from Wiltshire) by the flooding of the road between the Inn at Freshford and the junction with Crabtree Lane (See attached photograph of a fire engine overturned in October 2000 on this stretch of inundated road, and the photograph of the area of the Rosemary Lane bridge. The bridge and its rails have totally disappeared and the route in deeply flooded by fast moving water.) Therefore both direct approaches from Bath are blocked and the only alternative routes, other than down the very narrow and partly flooded Iford Lane, would both come down and back up Staples Hill. This would involve a diversion via Bradford on Avon or along the A36 from the Freshford turn-off to the Farleigh Hungerford turning and thence through Westwood. A major increase in distance and consequent delay in both directions. Furthermore, on site, the I in 100 flood would cover the lower steps of the walkways proposed by about 0.8 m thus trapping the residents. On site it should be noted that the exit from the car park in building D/E is within the flood plain. To overcome the emergency problem , Wiltshire Fire, Police and Ambulance Services might have to be employed on a permanent Flood standby basis to provide rapid service to this site.

 

5. What are the health risks from dead animals and flood transported pollution being carried onto the site by these floods ? Are there toxic risks due to ground contamination, fertilizers and farming pesticides being carried into the site and trapped therein?

6. Are the risks to residents' and inward commuters' property, such as cars, fully understood and addressed. We think not.

7. Waste water is calculated on basis of 100 residents. Why have the inward commuting and workshop populations not been fully included_ Surely 100 is too low ?

8. No reference is made to run off into the river during construction works. River pollution is a risk during these works . What mitigation is proposed?

9. What is the reliability and continuity of sewage outlet purity?

10. We are concerned that any ongoing flood schemes and the costs of maintenance have to be the responsibility of the residents or lessees of the office, workshop areas. No costs should be permitted to fall on Freshford Parish or BANES council. The taxpayer should not be expected to pick up the maintenance costs of a very suspect scheme.

11. Flood storage. The discharge route from the pond area would have to be serviced regularly to ensure an unobstructed inflow and exit and would have to be able to handle the effect of heavy rainfall into the pond catchment before the arrival of the flood in the river channel. If there is any water in the flood compensation area on the arrival of the river channel flood waters, it will reduce the compensatory effect measured against the displacement caused by the various "Tankings" of the lower levels of the flood susceptible buildings. It is stated that "More flood storage is provided than lost", but only if the discharge is certain from the pond area.

12. It seems that this scheme requires very effective maintenance management (7.2) in terms of sewage , post flood clear up and discharged water. How can such management be monitored to ensure that it does not work (in relation to health risks in particular) on a reactive rather than pre-emptive basis ? Such monitoring could be an unacceptable charge against public funds. (7.3) Retaining walls maintenance, plus water wheel repairs - blandly stated but who pays ?

13. Re the comments on site drainage (6.2) . We are advised that compacted gravel is not permeable. The "marginally improved" statement should be qualified by the fact that the removal of approx. 3000 square metres of hard surfacing would resulta in hardly any significant improvement.

 

14. During construction, the to be "Tanked" buildings will require pumping to the proposed STP site intake level which must be at about plus 31/32 m . We are advised that better topo. Survey data is necessary. What happens if the "Sump and pump" system becomes flooded out ?

15. The difference between the existing 1 : 100 flood plain and the proposed "Envelope" indicate an amount of ground raising required. How are the new margins to be protected ? This is not addressed.

APPENDIX C : VILLAGE COMMUNITY AND SOCIOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

1. The Wansdyke Local Plan Inquiry Inspector's report pointed out that the site is not within or adjacent to the existing settlements of Sharpstone or Freshford. This , in our view is factual and relates directly to the Countryside Agency policy which states that any development of a new settlement in an AONB must be within or adjacent to an existing settlement. Whilst the reasoning behind this ruling is probably not sociological, this Council supports this approach absolutely as the creation of separate settlements outside the GB6 Housing Development Boundaries is likely to be disruptive socially, and this particular application specifically so. This Parish, in common with so many other such, is suffering from a diminuation of social diversity in the community. The loss through price inflation of homes priced at the lower end of the market , and the loss of most of the previously available Council owned rented accommodation has contributed to this problem , as has the specific inflation of property values in "desirable" residence parishes such as Freshford. There is no local need for more relatively expensive properties aimed at incoming population , but certainly a need for a limited number of affordable homes. This was the subject of a Parish Council resolution in 2000.

The scheme portrayed in this application would be very costly to implement due to the many highly expensive mitigation (And in our view dubiously effective) factors worked into overcoming floods, ecological and other problems , plus clearance of the site in many areas, conversion of buildings , creation of private parkland etc. All this will have to be reflected, before profit, in the price of the urban style maisonnettes and apartments proposed.

There is no possibility of this scheme contributing to social diversity . The contrary applies.

2. A further related point to bear in mind is that already the sociologically damaging growth of

second home ownership is being felt in Freshford , and the attraction to urban main home

dwellers of second home properties such as have been proposed, and without gardens to

maintain, but in beautiful rural surroundings and relatively near to the attractions of Bath,

is obvious.

 

3. Whilst the residential properties are unlikely to attract many families, it should be noted

that Freshford Primary School is seriously oversubscribed and already there is a problem

that few children from Freshford can obtain places for several years to come.

APPENDIX D : ECOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

The site is variously a breeding roosting and feeding ground for a number of bat species, including horseshoe bats. It is also a suitable site for the encouragement of other flora and fauna.

There is evidence of the presence of at least one otter in the adjoining section of the river Frome, and for the first time in a minimum of twenty years barn owls have been observed in the immediate vicinity of the mill. For the past ten years the site has been tranquil with minimal human presence, and the B2 industrial status has not resulted in any industrial activity. There is no evidence that the horseshoe bats were present before the cessation of industrial activity, and it is reasonable to assume that their presence has been due at least in part to the current relatively undisturbed environmental conditions pertaining on the site.

The bats are protected by law in varying degrees, but with the common stricture that it is illegal for them to be disturbed unless the reason reflects imperative public interest. In this case no such interest pertains. There is no overriding or imperative public interest in a change of use to residential, a large possibly unitary workshop and/or office facilities (Although we maintain that there is a limited local need for a small number of non residential workshops). Disturbance would be caused by the major building works proposed, which include the buildings in which the bats' presence has been noted, the introduction of a substantial and partly inward commuting human population with the synergetic effects of its presence (Possibly between 100 and 150 on a relatively small site), by the inevitable need to light the site throughout the night, and by noise. The proposed mitigation factor on a specially designed bathouse in the NE corner of the site is not convincing. We have received expert advice that horseshoe bats are unpredictable in their selection of roosts and there is no guarantee that they would, having been disturbed, take up residence in such quarters.

It would be contrary to law in both word and spirit to give permission for the bats to be disturbed in their summer quarters , or to create a situation where, on return to their summer quarters, they find these denied to them, and a radical change of environment has taken place including the presence of a number of human introduced features and activities which could disturb them. The argument that the buildings of value to the bats are deteriorating and that the goodwill of the owners of the site cannot be expected to extend to maintaining them in a condition attractive to the bats , and that therefore inappropriate development might be acceptable to ensure the provision of bat housing, is fallacious, particularly as alternative uses for the site are possible. Disturbance could and should lead to legal proceedings.

The building of the proposed permanent bat house is outside the building line of the Mill buildings, and is not re-use, but new development.

APPENDIX E : THE RE-USE OF BUILDINGS AND ARCHITECTURAL CONSIDERATIONS

1. Re-Use of Buildings.

This Council is aware that the proposals include re-use of the shells of the existing industrial buildings, many of which are of a very unsightly and inappropriate to the surroundings. The overall industrial image of the site has not been removed by these proposals, but modified to some extent. WGB.1 (2) clearly states that permission will not be given except in very special circumstances, for the re-use of existing buildings in the open countryside except within the scope of policies CH. 3 and EMP.13. ( We note that this is a question of "And" not "Or", and that both policies apply).

Policy CH3 (iii) excludes Freshford Mill as it is "in an isolated position away from public services and unrelated to an established group of buildings." This accords with the Countryside Agency policy on the location of new settlements in AONBs which clearly excludes the site for development because of its location and also possibly, subject to definition, because it is not "Small scale".

CH.3. (viii) also we understand applies in the strict application of European and English law , but this is dealt with in Appendix Ecological Considerations. We maintain that the proposal takes very little, certainly insufficient, account of the need to protect roosting and nesting sites of bats and barn owls.

The combination of care for the green belt built into WGB1 and CH3 more than offsets any loophole which may be provided by interpretation of EMP 13 (Which does not in any case allow for housing in converting " Other rural" buildings and in this case only B1 might apply .

Policy EMP.13. needs careful interpretation and elucidation. A definition of small scale is needed, but we affirm that the proposed development is not small scale in relation to the Parish of Freshford, or its neighbouring parishes , or the surrounding countryside (for instance, 103 car parking spaces is scarcely small scale) as it would have a major impact on traffic, and inward commuting and resident population. Nor are the buildings small scale in relation to the immediate area around the site. Also definition is required for "Other rural buildings". The buildings concerned are in a rural setting but are industrial , and not rural in the agricultural , horticultural or forestry sense. Had the policy intended all buildings in rural surroundings to be included, it would surely have stated "Buildings situated in rural areas", or suchlike clarification. Industrial buildings are not , we suggest, rural buildings in this context and we doubt very much if it was intended in drafting EMP13 that industrial buildings were included in the vision of "Other rural buildings" .

Notwithstanding these definition problems , the policy states that permission will not be granted if EMP.13 (i) "the proposed use would make no material contribution to the rural economy. "

This isolated development would attract inward commuting (non rural) workers to the offices, and only the workshops with living accommodation above might contribute, although with the living accommodation it is doubtful if these would be perceived as of value to local residents. The proposals include no management plan to ensure the rural and local economy would benefit . The argument that the increase in population would contribute significantly to the rural economy is specious and could be applied to any increase in local population.

EMP.13 might been seen as providing a route for permission (Except for housing) but subsections (iv) , (vi) and (vii) clearly rule this out. Item (iv) The buildings are clearly out of keeping with their agricultural surroundings. Item (vi) states that the amount of vehicular traffic likely to be generated is unacceptable and would perpetuate or create a traffic hazard - certainly applies on the two access lanes, the narrow winding and steep Rosemary Lane and the

narrow Crabtree Lane. Item (vii) excludes permission if "access and parking is unsatisfactory and not in accordance with policies TPO.1 and TP.18.

This site therefore does not fall within the scope of EMP 13 permission in relation to WGB1 (2), nor does CH3 permission apply in this relationship.

2. Other Considerations .

TP.1 (i), (iv) horseriders use Rosemary and Crabtree Lanes frequently. (vii) clearly applies, and (viii) Emergency problems are covered in Appendix B , "Hydrological Aspects" .

We maintain that the above interpretations of WGB.1, EMP.12, EMP.13, CH3 and TP.1 clearly rule out any permission being given under WGB.1 (2)., and Very Special Circumstances would be difficult if not impossible to justify. WGB.1 should be applied and permission not given as the exceptions allowing permission are invalid.

3. Other Claims in Support of the Application.

(a) A number of other points are important in Relation to PPG and Local Plan Policies.

(b) Government Policy PPG2. The RPS Report "Planning Policy and Overview" (3.11) claims that the proposals meet the PPG2 fundamental statement that "Openness " is core to the policy. How does the claim that the openness of the site is "Greatly increased" stand up. Certainly not in terms of the visual impact of the retained buildings . The claim that lifting tarmac and greening of the site contributes to openness is not justifiable. It is desirable in aesthetic terms but "Contributes greatly to openness" ? Not so. Furthermore , carparking and the building of a bat house do not contribute to "Openness". We would point out that no vehicles have been parked in any numbers on the site for ten years, and even those very few that have , have been there very temporarily and not on a routine basis.

(c) The same RPS report in 3.12 states that the development will "Assist in preserving the setting of an historic town. What town? the nearest historic towns are Bath and Bradford on Avon. Freshford is not part of the setting of these towns, the site is kilometres (Or more powerfully and colloquially "Miles") away from these towns, and cannot be seen from either of them.

(d) RPS Report 3.13 should read "The proposal will specifically meet only two of them". It cannot justify " Improving damaged land close to an urban area ." What urban area ? This stretches the interpretation of "Close" beyond belief.

4. General Comments on the Architecture and Practical Problems.

1. The ugly roofscape is unaltered to any significant degree from that which developed piecemeal from the late 18th. century until the mid 20th. It reflected the B2 usage pattern. Heights remain the same except for an unspecified increase in building H.

2. We are concerned at the lack of access, or easy emergency exit routes , for people with disabilities, particularly but not exclusively those with mobility problems. Particularly in buildings D and E.

3. We observe only very limited provision for refuse bins either to serve the office/workshops or the domestic buildings. This development is likely to be an high refuse generator, and there is only a small area designated for waste bins on the ground floor and basement of building E. In the case of the basement there is no direct outside access, so is this position suitable for waste bins ?

4. There is probably an aesthetic problem with building A as a councillor was informed by the developers at a previous presentation on the site that the black had penetrated through the stonework and was not suitable therefore for cleaning.

5. Building C. What is the point of residential upper floors in these workshops if the scheme is intended to meet local needs and to avoid commuting. There seems to be very little internal storage space.

6. In buildings D , E and Q in particular the design retains the appearance of industrial buildings . An environmentally unsympathetic industrial block effect would still remain and is probably inherent in their basic design and layout. We believe that the addition of the glass atrium does nothing to improve the external general appearance and is of no consequence in this context.

7. The raising of the roof level of H1 and H2 should not be such that it overpowers the surrounding buildings. This collection of buildings is in very close proximity to one another on probably the most crowded part of the site and the altering of the roof height of of one could be detrimental to the cohesion of the whole. Much early morning and evening shadow will be created in this area.

8. To warrant serious consideration we suggest that a scale model is necessary. These plans are not to scale (See disclaimer at end of booklet) and from the drawings it is not possible to build a clear picture of how the changes poposed will interact visually with each other from a myriad of viewpoints in a location of outstanding natural beauty and sensitivity.

9. Overall, we accept that the proposals remove the derelict appearance of the buildings, but maintain that they do not, indeed cannot remove the overall industrial image created by them without substantial demolition.

APPENDIX F : DEMOCRATIC CONSULTATION AND PARISH COUNCIL EXTRAORDINARY MEETING

The objection to this scheme and the comments and questions raised in this response are made in pursuance of the interests of the citizens of Freshford Parish and the proper application of WGB.1. in both word and spirit. At an extraordinary meeting on the 22nd. July 2002 , this Council (Except those councillors who excluded themselves by declaring an interest in the Freshford Mill Association's furtherance of a projected alternative scheme) voted unanimously to object to the application. Those three councillors who are members of the Freshford Mill Association neither commented nor voted.

Consultation was achieved by advertising to all Freshford households, by individual household drops , that the application and full plans and supportive documentation would be available for sighting and comment in a comments book at the Freshford Memorial Hall between 5.00pm and 8.00pm on 15th. and 17th. July.

The turnout was high at 68. 54 objected to the scheme by writing in the book provided, and one, subject to traffic problems being overcome, in favour. The majority of the balance stated that they objected and would be writing directly to Mr. Flanagan of BANES.

The Parish Council have a clear mandate for objection and believe that, reinforced by this mandate, the arguments against approval put forward in this response to the application are overwhelming.

The minutes (unadopted) of the Extraordinary Parish Council meeting on the 22nd. July are included in this appendix for information.

Freshford Mill : Application Reference 02/01575/FUL.

Amended Drawings as per your letter and enclosures 19th. November 2002.

"Additional Site Investigations and Risk Assessment.

 

A. GENERAL COMMENT.

Thank you for forwarding the Draft Report by Messrs. Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The Risk Assessment indicates two basic areas of risk from contamination, viz .

1. Health risks to the potential residents or other future users from on site contamination , and

2. Damage to the environment by contamination arising from deposits in the Site. In particular migration of pollutants into the inferior oolotic limestone., and/or any significant increase in seepage into the River Frome to the detriment of its GQA Grade B (Good) classification.

B. OBJECTION "A".

We address the Summary of Risk contained in "Section 6 Environmental Assessment" and relate this to 9.2.1 "Recommendations". This Council applaud the proposals for the limiting of the above two main areas of risk , but take exception to the assumption that such proposals would provide an element contributing to a decision to approve the change of use involving human habitation unless all remedial actions were to take place before such a decision. Therefore in our opinion the statement in "9.2 Recommendations" is prejudicial insofar as it states that the report is "To support the planning application for the site". We submit that all the report can and should do is provide definition of the problems, and propose mitigation . To clarify this objection, we suggest that the offending recommendation might be acceptable if it were amended to omit "to support" and insert "to assist consideration of " et sequens.

Certainly it appears that the report provides recommendations which ,if applied , would enable one of many areas of objection to the application for change of use to be removed, but cannot reasonably be regarded in itself as being adequate to support change of use, even when the perspective is confined purely to the scope of the report, unless risks identified in the report are eliminated before change of use can reasonably and safely be considered . This we maintain is particularly the case where the current risk assessment in Section 6 is stated to be "moderate to high". If this sequential aspect can be confirmed formally to this Council as implied by the Planning Officers in their consideration of the report then this objection may be withdrawn.

C . COMMENTS PURSUANT TO OBJECTION "A"

In the interests of our residents we propose taking advice as to whether the current permitted usage, or more cogently the actual lapse of the site into near dereliction over a considerable period, and the undoubted contamination imply a legal responsibility (Statutory or otherwise) on the owners or previous owners to take action to remove any hazards. We give this notification in case such might impinge on planning procedures or considerations. We trust that BANES Legal can give a view on the principle of "The polluter pays".

We would ask the officers to explore the risk associated with the migration of pollutants from the Eastern half of the site if, as proposed, the current tarmac is removed, with resultant increase of effect by precipitation or flood. The report makes it clear that this is a major consideration in the western built segment , but we are unclear as to the effect on the much lower levels of pollution in the Eastern sector.

C. OBJECTION "B"

We object to the lack of investigation of the areas under the floors of the buildings in the western sector of the site. The results reported can only be a general guide to the nature of pollutants existing in deposited or migrated form under these buildings , or the degree of such. Whilst it might reasonably be argued , and is , that the pollution accruing over the past fifty years is all that need be considered, the question of migration still applies, and also there have been built features erected since 1952 and no record exists or has been addressed of contamination between 1952 and the date of the erection of such buildings. This is, we propose, especially applicable as most of the residential and office buildings are proposed to be erected over these built areas.

HINTON CHARTERHOUSE PARISH COUNCIL: Parish Council opposes Planning Application:- (1) Plan does not conform to Local Plan. (2) Insufficient thought to traffic problem which will impinge on Rosemany Lane.

ENGLISH NATURE: Freshford Mill is used by a colony of lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros). The bats roost in the office building (labelled B on figure 2/location map in the site mitigation and enhancement proposals document) during the summer months - they breed in the building. However, as they gain access to their roost via the loft hatch, lesser horseshoe bats would not have roosted in the building when it was used as an office.

This important colony is in a vulnerable position. The site is in a derelict condition in an isolated position away from the centre of the village. Vandals are attracted to the site and have gained access despite the barriers/fences erected by the owners - one of the buildings adjacent to the bat buildings, has been set on fire - fortunately the bat colony was not harmed. The site is likely to deteriorate, and eventually the building will become unsuitable for bats.

Dr Ransome is monitoring the site for bats this summer and has found that pipistrelle (pipistrelle sp), greater horseshoe (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), and a myotis species of bat use the site for feeding purposes, he has found no evidence of those bats breeding in the buildings. There has been no evidence either of bats using the site during the winter for hibernating purposes.

English Nature supports proposals that would protect the bats. The proposed mitigation measures for bats include the building of a bat house on the edge of the site. This building would need to accommodate the lesser horseshoe breeding roost and the greater horseshoe bats feeding requirements, and also encourage vesper type bats to roost in the building. The area of Freshford provides superb feeding habitat for bats. The bat house must be built at the early stage of development to enable the lesser horseshoe bats to become well established before building B is demolished.

I can confirm that if bats are found to roost in any of the buildings for part or all of the year a licence will be required to derogate from the provisions of The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc) Regulations 1994 which makes it an offence to deliberately capture, kill, or disturb a European Protected Species (which includes all species of bat) or to damage or destroy the breeding or resting place of such an animal. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are the licensing authority for work of this kind.

ENGLISH NATURE (further comments): As you know, English Nature supports proposals that will protect the bats in the future in view of the potential hazards for them roosting on such a derelict site in a vulnerable position. I reiterate my previous comments that the bat house must be built at the very early stages of development. This will enable the bats to become well established before any buildings where bats were found roosting are demolished.

COUNCIL ARCHAEOLOGIST: Previous archaeological assessment work carried out as part of the current planning application has identified the existence of archaeological deposits and structures associated with medieval and post-medieval mills on the same site. Parts of the 16th century mill buildings also survive as standing structures as do the majority of the 18th and 19th century elements adding to an excellent and relatively rare survival of a rural industrial complex.. Previous development plans for conversion of Freshford Mill into largely residential had involved substantial damage to historic fabric and buried archaeology. The current application allows for the retention of the majority of historic fabric in converting to residential and represents a substantive material change that will greatly benefit the historic environment if managed sympathetically.

However, significant impacts on archaeology and the historic environment will still occur through works to standing structures and all groundworks associated with the proposed development and a programme of archaeological investigation will need to be carried out both prior to and during development. A detailed record of all the standing structures will also be required prior to any development. The programme of archaeological work will include building recording, historical analysis, excavation, recording, archive production and publication of results. This programme of archaeological work can be secured through the use of the following conditions:

"No development shall take place within the application site until a programme of archaeological work has been undertaken in accordance with a detailed written scheme of investigation which has previously been submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority." Reason: To ensure that archaeological deposits and structures are investigated and recorded to an appropriate professional standard.

"No development or demolition shall take place within the application site until a programme of archaeological work to record those parts of the building (s) which are to be demolished, disturbed or concealed by the proposed development has been undertaken in accordance with a detailed written scheme of investigation which has been submitted by the applicant and approved in writing by the local planning authority." Reason: To ensure that plan form, fixtures, fittings, internal partitions, joinery and any other features of historic and architectural value are recorded to an appropriate professional standard.

COUNCIL LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: I am happy with the principle of this development in terms of the impact on landscape setting. I do have some concerns over points of detail with regards the internal landscaping proposed:

1. I would like to see different paving material used in the vehicular and pedestrian areas. The use of bound natural gravel throughout is rather uninspiring. I am not looking for a fussy approach with myriad different pavings, rather an elegant and high quality design solution.

2. I notice the key has a notation of SS referring to "proposed natural stone setts, associated with building 'footprints'". I can only find this in two locations on the plan, both associated with steps.

3. I need convincing about the aesthetics of the formal internal hedges along the building frontages. I think that this will detract from the buildings themselves and add a rather monotonous element. What is wrong with a really high quality paved solution here with planting kept to a stylish minimum providing occasional foci of interest. Climbers might work well if used sparingly.

4. The access road into the site is uninspiring, running straight alongside the rather dull building Q [warehouse] and surrounded by car parking. It lets down the scheme as a whole. Would it be possible to move the entrance another couple of metres northwards and then create a strong avenue effect along the road using big trees? With a 5 metre verge on the building Q side there would be room for suitable cultivars of lime perhaps and on the other side the trees would have to go behind the line of cars.

WEST WILTSHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL: Thank you for consulting the Council on this application. This Council advises that the application should be decided within Green Belt, AONB, Housing and Employment Policies taking into account the traffic implications on West Wiltshire should the development take place.

WESTWOOD PARISH COUNCIL: Thank you for inviting Westwood Parish Council to comment on this application and for sending the Council a full set of plans. Westwood is, as you know, within two miles of Freshford and less than that from the proposed development site. This proposed major development is likely to have a long-term impact on Westwood particularly in respect of additional traffic and highway safety issues. The short-term impact is likely to be greater. The concerns of Westwood Parish Council relate primarily to highway safety.

The road (C217) from Freshford to Westwood and then to Trowbridge/Bradford on Avon and beyond is a minor road unsuited to heavy traffic. The bends are tight and some lengths of the road particularly steep - Staples Hill (within a half mile of the development site) is especially steep, narrow and includes a double bend. The projected additional Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) traffic is likely to use this C217 through Westwood. This traffic will peak during site clearance and construction work and will remain high thereafter servicing the resulting development. This is considered by Westwood Parish Council to present an unacceptable safety hazard to the village.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this application.

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY: Our Development Control Engineer has been in discussion with the applicant's consultants regarding the flood defence issues relevant to this site. The Hydrological and Hydraulic Report represents the core of the Flood Risk Assessment for the site, in setting out the requirements for development in the vicinity. More detail of features such as minimum ground, floor and threshold levels, access details, construction, waterproofing and tanking details to areas below flood levels, flood resistant construction details for finishes and landscaped areas within floodable areas etc., will need to be provided by the applicant, and approved by the local planning authority in conjunction with the Agency.

As a result, the Agency requires that the following conditions are attached to any permission:-

CONDITION:

No development approved by this permission shall be commenced until details of all proposed finished floor, threshold and ground levels have been submitted to and approved by the Local Planning Authority. The scheme shall be completed in accordance with the approved plans.

Reason: To ensure that the development is subject to minimum risk of flooding.

CONDITION:

No development approved by this permission shall be commenced until a detailed scheme for the provision of flood protection works to any part of the development below the design flood levels throughout the development has been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. Design flood levels are identified in Lewin, Fryer and Partners Hydrological and Hydraulic Report for Freshford Mill dated June 2002, ref 2109. The works shall be completed in accordance with the details and timetable agreed.

Reason: To limit the risk of flooding by ensuring the provision of a satisfactory means of flood protection.

CONDITION:

No development approved by this permission shall be commenced until a scheme for the provision and implementation of compensatory flood storage works has been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The scheme shall be implemented in accordance with the approved programme and details.

Reason: To alleviate the increased risk of flooding.

CONDITION:

No development approved by this permission shall be commenced until details of all proposed construction methods and finishes to exterior and internal areas including walls and floors etc below design flood levels, have been submitted to and approved by the Local Planning Authority. The scheme shall be completed in accordance with the approved plans.

Reason: To ensure that the development construction and structure is flood resistant and is subject to minimum risk to damage from flooding.

CONDITION:

No development approved by this permission shall be commenced until details of all access and egress routes, designed to provide sufficient and safe access above design flood level to all residential areas within all buildings within the development, have been submitted to and approved by the Local Planning Authority. The access to each building shall be completed before occupation of any part of that building and shall be constructed in accordance with the approved plans.

Reason: To ensure that a safe continuous dry access free of flood risk is provided to all residential areas of the development.

The Agency should be consulted on any details submitted pursuant to the above conditions.

The proposed development is in a location served by public sewers. The Agency understand that the development could be connected to a public sewer and requests that you discuss this option with the Water Company. If connection to a public sewer is not feasible, full details of the non-mains foul drainage system to be used to serve the development must be submitted in accordance with Circular 3/99 (Planning Requirements in respect of the Use of Non-Mains Sewerage incorporating Septic tanks in New Development). The water company in this case is Wessex Water and can be contacted on 01225 526000.

CONDITION:

No development approved by this permission shall be commenced until the Local Planning Authority is satisfied that adequate sewage disposal infrastructure will be in place to receive foul water discharges from the site. No buildings (or uses) hereby permitted shall be occupied (or commenced) until such infrastructure is in place.

Reason: To prevent pollution of the water environment.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Our Conservation Section wish to see preparation of a detailed Working Method Statement ot safeguard nature conservation interests during demolition and construction and we would strongly support provision of an 'ecological clerk of works' to oversee all ecological matters.

We wish to see a detailed management plan prepared for the flood compensation area to maximise its nature conservation interest and ensure appropriate long term management of the site. The applicant should consider who will have responsibility for management of this area, which may best be secured through an appropriate S106 agreement.

If foul water is to discharge 'direct to the river' Frome, a system should be in place to ensure the discharge will not compromise the water quality of the river. Planting of reeds around outfalls can provide a cleansing function in addition to providing wildlife benefit.

The Agency is currently in discussion with Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd., regarding necessary additional works to investigate contamination at the site. A revised risk assessment will then be submitted to the Agency which will recommend remedial measures, as necessary.

In the event of planning permission being given we request that the Decision Notice contains the following information:

Under the terms of the Water Resources Act 1991, the prior written consent of the Agency is normally required for any discharge of sewage or trade effluent into controlled waters, including groundwater. For your information this process can take up to four months to complete and no guarantee can be given regarding the eventual outcome of an application until the investigations associated with the determination have been completed. Such consent may not be granted where public foul sewer is available.

Under the terms of the Water Resources Act 1991, an Impounding Licence may be required from the Agency for the impounding of any watercourse, ditch or stream (e.g. by dam, weir etc.) and an Abstraction Licence may be required from the Agency for the abstraction of water from any inland water or underground strata. This is dependent on water resource availability and may not be granted.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the development will not affect any existing legal water interests in the area.

Site operators should ensure that there is no possibility of contaminated water entering and polluting surface or groundwater.

There shall be no discharge of foul or contaminated drainage from the site into either groundwater or any surface waters, whether direct to watercourses, ponds or lakes, or via soakaways/ditches.

Contractors/developer are advised to follow PPG 5 "Work in, near or liable to affect watercourses" during construction. A copy of PPG 5 has been setn to the applicants agent.

The Agency further comments:

The proposed plan for the site shows and ornamental pond. If it is the intetion to stock the pond with fish or to keep ducks them some form of water aeration should be considered. Numerous other such developments have found that such ponds eventually suffer rish losses through oxygen depletion. This is caused when overfeeding of fish or ducks results in high nutrient levels being produced in the water, this then causes algal blooms which can die rapidly resulting in the oxygen depletion. A simple fountain or waterfall can prevent this occurring.

In order for the Agency to monitor its effectiveness in influencing the determination of planning applications, a copy of the decision notice for the application would be appreciated.

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY (further comments):- Further to our letter dated 6 August 2002 regarding the above proposed development the Environment Agency - South West Region make the following additional comments:-

Discussions have been held regarding the additional investigations and risk assessment (November 2002) for Freshford Mill, Bath.

The Agency accepts the conclusions of the report with regards to the need for further remediation at the site. The Agency therefore recommends that any planning permission is conditioned with a requirement to produce and implement a detailed remediation strategy. This could be undertaken in two phases:

- remediation of contaminated soils and removal of free product on groundwater.

- reassessment of ground water contamination and the implementation of an appropriate groundwater remediation strategy.

Should you require further advice on the above, please contact Mr Paul Doherty, Technical Specialist, on 01392 444000.

Please note that our letter of 6 August 2002 remains relevant to this proposal.

WESSEX WATER: The above proposal is noted located within a Wessex Water sewered area.

The developer has indicated that the disposal of foul drainage will be to a 'septic tank'.

The developer has proposed to dispose of surface water to 'soakaways'.

It is advised that your Council should be satisfied with any arrangement for the disposal of foul and surface water flows generated by the development.

Turning to water supply, there is a water main in the vicinity of the proposal. It will be necessary for the developer to agree a point of connection onto the system for the satisfactory supply of water for the proposal. This can be agreed at the detail design stage.

It is recommended that the developer should agree with Wessex Water prior to the commencement of any works on site.

COUNCIL'S SCIENTIFIC OFFICER (CONTAMINATED LAND): As you are aware, with the time constraints due to my imminent departure, it has only been possible take a cursory look at the draft Additional Site Investigations and Risk Assessment prepared by Parsons Brinkerhoff for the above application. I have advised them to contact my successor, in due course, in order to meet with them to discuss the proposals in detail.

Nevertheless I would accept , on a provisional basis, that the proposals for remedial actions would appear sufficient in order to prepare the site for the proposed end use. However, I have contacted Parsons Brinkerhoff to ensure that the Soil Guideline Values used are those for the end use of Residential without Plant Uptake and not Commercial/Industrial, as there appears to be some confusion regarding this in the report. This point should be clarified in the final report submitted and I will leave a note to that effect on the file in Environmental Health.

I therefore have no objection to the development proceeding as planned, on condition that the remedial actions detailed by Parsons Brinkerhoff are carried out and remediation validation reports are approved by Environmental Health, and that any other contaminated materials encountered during the redevelopment works are dealt with satisfactorily, i.e. with agreement of Environmental Health.

FRESHFORD MILL ASSOCIATION: Objection on similar grounds to those of Freshford Parish Council.

COUNCIL FOR THE PROTECTION OF RURAL ENGLAND: Objection on similar grounds to those of Freshford Parish Council.

BATH PRESERVATION TRUST: Objection on similar grounds to those of Freshford Parish Council.

FRIENDS OF FRESHFORD ASSOCIATION: Objection on similar grounds to those of Freshford Parish Council.

LOCAL RESIDENTS: 32 letters of objection on similar grounds to those of Freshford Parish Council.

DR MOWL - ARCHITECTURAL AND GARDEN HISTORIAN: Support for the scheme as the best solution to secure the future of this important historic site.

PLANNING ISSUES

PLANNING POLICY: The site lies in the Green Belt and the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In addition it also lies in the floodplain of River Frome whose corridor is a site of Nature Conservation Interest.

The Wansdyke Local Plan is the plan which carries substantial weight and it is against its policies that the development should be judged. Policy WGB.1 controls developments in the Green Belt and allows them provided they entail reuse of existing buildings within the scope of policy CH.3 or EMP.13. Policy CH.3 allows conversion of buildings to a new use provided inter alis that the buildings' form, bulk and general design are not out of keeping with their surroundings and the proposal respects local building styles and natures, provided the residential proposal does not deplete the sock of buildings suitable for employment-related uses and the applicants demonstrate they had made an effort to secure business re-use, provided it is not isolated for public services and community facilities, provided it would not affect the character of the area, or harm environmental conditions and local conservation interests, the proposed traffic levels would not be unacceptable, and provided it would not have a materially greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt. Strict control should also be exercised over extensions and alterations.

Policies LNC.1, LNC.2 LNC.10A and 10B and LNC11 seek to protect landscape from inappropriate development, the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and sites of special nature conservation interest including protection of habitat of species of local or national importance. Policy EMP.1 seeks to protect employment sites unless these are not capable of accommodating Class B1, B2 or B8 uses, and there would be a substantial environmental gain (including reduction in traffic level) Policy EMP.13 states inter alia that conversion of buildings for Class B1, B2 or B8 uses should meet the requirements of policy CH.3. Policies TP.1 and TP.18 require adequate permission of access and parking. Policy PH.7 deals with flooding issues and would not allow development if there is unacceptable risk from flooding and adequate mitigation measures are proposed.

GREEN BELT: Conversion of buildings in the Green Belt is appropriate if these buildings are capable of such conversion without substantial rebuilding or alterations. Extensions could be allowed provided they do not materially affect the openness and the visual amenity of the Green Belt.

The site is a mixture of historic and modern buildings reflecting its original growth as an industrial site. The older buildings are visually important and their retention would be highly desirable. The later additions, especially the factory building with north-facing roof lights are less architecturally attractive. However even these have some merit in view of their contribution to the history of the site. Even with the neglect the site suffers from at present they could be brought back to positive use and the proposal seeks to do that (the majority of this building would be put to B1 use).

The proposed scheme takes an holistic approach to the site. It recognises which buildings should be retained, which could be retained and improved and which should be demolished. The four historic buildings in the core of the site (including the mill owner's house) are built in traditional materials and command an important presence on the site. Their retention and reuse would make a great contribution to the visual appearance of the area. Their current design possesses features found in local venacular architecture and their conversion to residential use would therefore entail relatively little alteration of their fabric.

The proposed extension to the main building would not affect the openness of the Green Belt. Its impact would be more visual but it is considered the proposed increase by one and a half storeys would not be so excessive as to be unacceptable having regard to the juxtaposition of this building with the rest of the site and indeed its history. It is therefore accepted the extension would not conflict with policy CH.3 or indeed the advice in PPG.2 - Green Belts. The more recent buildings would be adapted accordingly. The fringe two-storey buildings at the far end of the site would be reused as their scale allows residential conversion. Being on a visually important location on the edge of the site the improvements would entail provision of dormers and clay tiles, with rendered blockwork and natural stone quoins; these alterations would reflect the venacular architecture of the area.

The live/work units would be adapted from the relatively recent office block. The building has residential proportions and the adaptation of the ground floor for business use and first floor for residential use would be visually acceptable.

As stated above the main factory building (and the adjacent two-storey building) would be suitable and are proposed mainly for B1 use. The proposed glazed link between them replacing partially the exiting makeshift link would enable both buildings to be used more effectively. The main entrance would also be enhanced to provide an attractive feature.

The existing warehouse at the front of the site would be converted to B1 offices and workshop its design being suitable for the intended use.

A substantial amount of later additions (mainly covered links) between various buildings would be removed thus allowing more space about the buildings. This in turn would contribute to the enhancement of the openness of the site although it must be accepted that most of these areas would be within the site and benefitting mainly its future occupiers.

EMPLOYMENT USE: The applicants have actively marketed the reuse of the site for purely industrial uses for a number of years. Although inquiries have been made no single occupier has been found partly in view of the site's somewhat remote location and partly due to the neglected state of the site at present. Parts of the site were let from time to time on short term lets.

The applicants feel that only a mixed residential/employment use would be feasible owing to the known problems with flooding, contamination, lack of good access and the costs involved in dealing with these. Your officers are satisfied that the balance between residential and business in terms of floor space (60:40) would secure the site's restoration without serious adverse impact on the surrounding environment or the employment opportunities in the area. Should this development not go ahead the applicants are determined to continue to seek employment uses on the site with the present limitations without the environmental benefits they feel their scheme would provide.

VISUAL IMPACT: As indicated above the proposal endeavours to enhance the site by removing unsightly later additions improving the appearance of the buildings and providing a landscape feature around the proposed flood retention area. With the exception of minor details as raised by the landscape architect, and which are subject to further negotiations, it is considered the development would contribute positively to the setting of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

TRAFFIC IMPACT: The site has been inactive for many years and clearly has not recently generated any traffic. It does have valid B2 industrial use and could be brought to such use should this proposal fail. The applicants' agents provided a comparison between the proposed use and the potential industrial use and concluded there would be a reduction in traffic, especially heavy traffic. The Council's Highway Engineers broadly accept this view and do not therefore raise highway objections to the scheme. They are concerned about inadequate land for parking but this issue is being addressed through negotiations.

It is evident that traffic levels in the area would increase significantly of this scheme went ahead. However the site would not remain inactive and if it were to be brought back to general industrial use it would be likely to attract similar levels of traffic to those proposed.

The applicants propose to improve the nearby highway network especially the approach to the main Freshford-Westwood road.

In the absence of a highway objection it is considered the proposal would not conflict with the Council's transport policies subject to the resolution of outstanding issues.

SITE CONTAMINATION: The applicants have fully addressed this issue and are prepared to undertake the necessary remediation as referred to in their agents' Contamination Report. Both the Environment Agency and the Council's Scientific Officer are satisfied that if these measures are undertaken the site would be suitable for habitation. In the long term these measures should enhance the area and the river environment. A legal agreement under Section 106 of the Act would be necessary to agree the methodology and time scale of the remedial works.

FLOOD ISSUES: The applicants addressed the flooding issues in full co-operation with the Environment Agency. Their proposed method of sealing the basements/groundfloors of the affected buildings would ensure the retention of all the visually important buildings in situ whilst putting them to a beneficial use. They have taken into account the advice in PPG 25 on Flooding which in principle allows development in the floodplain provided adequate steps are undertaken to avoid potential damage. Again, similarly to the above item it would be necessary for the applicants to enter into an agreement under Section 106 of the Act to secure a timescale for the measures and future commitment to continued improvement.

ECOLOGY: The site contains several types of bat, a protected species, and the applicants in negotiation with English Nature are proposing to provide a bat house and a general enhancement of the area to encourage the bats' survival in this locality. They are prepared to enter into an agreement with the Council in consultation with English Nature, to secure the reclocation of the bats and enhancement of their habitat. Similarly they are willing to provide two other holts and this provision would also be incorporated into a Section 106 Agreement.

DRAINAGE: The applicants propose to construct a small sewage plant on the site, close to the warehouse, to serve this site. A suitable condition can be imposed.

CONCLUSION

This is a large-scale scheme which no doubt would have some impact on this locality. Your officers carefully considered the proposal in the light of both local and national planning policies. They have accepted that with adequate safeguards through conditions and agreements under Section 106 of the Act, the proposed scheme would not cause harm to interests of acknowledged importance such as protection of the Green Belt and the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The scheme would result in an environmental enhancement of the area and would secure a reuse of an important historic site without adverse impact on the area. Subject to the resolution of outstanding issues addressed through negotiation the proposal can be recommended for approval.

RECOMMENDATION

A. Authorise the Planning and Environmental Law Manager to enter into an agreement under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act to secure the items referred to above:

B. On completion of that Agreement authorise the Head of Planning Services to PERMIT subject to the receipt of additional information and outstanding negotiations and with the following conditions:-

1 The development hereby permitted shall be begun before the expiration of five years from the date of this permission.

Reason: As required by Section 91 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and to avoid the accumulation of unimplemented planning permissions.

2 No development shall be commenced until a hard and soft landscape scheme has been first submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority; such a scheme shall include details of all walls, fences, trees, hedgerows and other planting which are to be retained; details of new walls, fences and other boundary treatment and finished ground levels; a planting specification to include numbers, density, size, species and positions of all new trees and shrubs; details of the surface treatment of the open parts of the site; and a programme of implementation.

Reason: To ensure the provision of an appropriate landscape setting to the development.

3 All hard and/or soft landscape works shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details. The works shall be carried out prior to the occupation of any part of the development or in accordance with the programme agreed in writing with the Local Planning Authority. Any trees or plants indicated on the approved scheme which, within a period of five years from the date of the development being completed, die, are removed or become seriously damaged or diseased shall be replaced during the next planting season with other trees or plants of a species and size to be first approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. All hard landscape works shall be permanently retained in accordance with the approved details.

Reason: To ensure that the landscape scheme is implemented and maintained.

4 The existing trees and hedges shall be retained in accordance with the approved details. The development shall not be commenced unless the identified trees and hedges have been so retained. Any retained tree or hedge which within five years of the approved development being occupied or completed, whichever is the sooner, dies, are removed or become seriously damaged or diseased shall be replaced by a similar species of a size to be first approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority during the next planting season or in accordance with a programme of replacement to be agreed in writing with the Local Planning Authority.

Reason: To safeguard the appearance of the development and the surrounding area.

5 The development hereby approved shall not be occupied or the use commenced until the means of vehicular access has been constructed in accordance with the approved plans, and shall thereafter be retained for access purposes.

Reason: In the interests of highway safety.

6 No development or demolition shall take place within the application site until a programme of archaeological work to record those parts of the building(s) which are to be demolished, disturbed or concealed by the proposed development has been undertaken in accordance with a detailed written scheme of investigation which has been submitted by the applicant and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority, and the completion of the approved programme of work has been confirmed in writing by the Local Planning Authority.

Reason: To ensure that plan form, fixtures, fittings, internal partitions, joinery and any other features of historic and architectural value are recorded to an appropriate professional standard.

7 The development hereby approved shall not be occupied until works for the disposal of sewage and surface water have been provided on site to serve the development in accordance with details to be first submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority.

Reason: To ensure the adequate provision of drainage infrastructure.

8 No development shall commence until a schedule and samples of the materials to be used in the construction of the external surfaces, including roofs, have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The development shall thereafter be carried out only in accordance with the details so approved.

Reason: In the interests of the appearance of the development and the surrounding area.

9 The development hereby approved shall not be occupied or the use commenced until provision has been made within the site in accordance with the approved plan(s) for the parking, turning, loading and unloading of vehicles, and such area(s) shall not thereafter be used for any purpose other than the parking, turning, loading and unloading of vehicles associated with the development.

Reason: To ensure that sufficient provision is made for off-street parking, turning, loading and unloading of vehicles in the interests of highway safety.

10 The dwelling(s) shall not be occupied until space has been laid out within the site in accordance with the approved plan(s) for the parking and turning of vehicles and such area(s) shall not thereafter be used for any purpose other than the parking and turning of vehicles associated with the development.

Reason: To ensure that sufficient provision is made for off-street parking and turning of vehicles in the interests of highway safety.

11 Any other conditions as a result of outstanding consultations.

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