Bath Equestrian Centre, Middle Hill, Weston Farm Lane, Upper Weston
Given this land was part of the proposals set out by the 2014 Core Strategy review for land to be allocated for development, which was subsequently refused by the Planning Inspector, we question the fundamental principle and legality of development on this site. The site in question is previously developed land, but its use, character and appearance has a neutral impact on the openness of the Green Belt given that it has only a small amount of low rise built structures upon it. Therefore it is also a neutral feature in the setting of the World Heritage Site, neither harming nor enhancing it. In weighing up the planning judgement, the fact that this land was and is deemed too sensitive to the setting of WHS to be developed will no doubt be a great factor for consideration and debate, as will the weighing up of ‘special circumstances’ should this scheme be deemed to harm the openness of the Green Belt.
Leaving questions of principle aside, we are ambivalent to the concept of development on this site: on the one hand this is a useful agricultural/equestrian enclave that is relatively undeveloped, and could continue in this way. On the other hand, the provision of housing to meet local need, on this site, which sits right on the current urban boundary and could therefore assimilate well with it, does bring about public benefit that may outweigh harm. We have an additional concern in that it was the case that the landowner owned the field above the site, and if this is still the case there could be a viable risk that future pressure for further development up the hill and beyond the current site boundary – ‘site creep’ - will occur, bringing attendant cumulative harm to the OUV of the WHS and the Green Belt. Safeguards should be implemented to ensure that no such scheme can be put forward in the future.
In terms of the outline scheme itself, we consider it to be acceptable in broad terms, particularly in relation to the low rise nature of the dwellings, set in large plots with plenty of green landscaping. We would like to see a greater level of buffer planting but accept that that may be best left to the reserved matters. We would be very concerned if we were to see any additional pressure for more dwellings at higher than two storeys. This is such a sensitive site that forms an important element of the setting of the WHS, an asset of the highest significance, therefore over-development on this site, either in density or scale of buildings, is simply not an option. Should be case officer be minded to permit this outline scheme, safeguards must be in place to ensure that pressure for intensified development cannot be exerted at later date due to concerns regarding viability or unforeseen costs. In addition to amount, type, height and density of dwellings, detailed design codes for the site should be securely agreed at this outline stage.