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Richborough Appeal Hearing

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On behalf of the Haddenham Village Society, Townsend Green resident Richard Hirst attended the public hearing held in Aylesbury on Wednesday 4th July at which Richborough Estates Ltd was appealing AVDC's decision to refuse planning permission to build houses on a plot of land East of Churchway (opposite Rosemary Lane). Here is his personal take on the proceedings.

'Tricia and I attended the first day of the Appeal Hearing. We were joined in the public area by AVDC Councillors Judy Brandis and Brian Foster and by villagers Brian Fattorini, Jane Newton, Tim Chowns and Ernie Pusey (who owns the field next to Green Lane which forms part of the site). The Inspector was happy to take input from the public; our Councillors made some useful points and all of us contributed to the discussion at various stages.

The Developer was represented by a team of four, led by a QC, and backed by a further group of six. AVDC fielded a team of five, led by a young barrister, who complained that he had not been briefed until Monday, and included David Marsh, the BCC Senior Highways Development Management Officer.

The morning session, from 1000 until a break for lunch at 1320, was largely taken up with a detailed discussion of whether the site was a "valuable landscape" and the level of landscape impact of the proposed development.. The session ended with a brief discussion on the value of the agricultural land. The whole session was very frustrating as there was a lot of technical discussion but it was difficult to hear much of it as the room acoustics were bad and no microphones were available — apparently all the AVDC microphones were in use elsewhere.

The Developer tabled a chart showing how the previous village boundary had been breached by various other developments. The Developer noted that the surface of Green Lane was being tarmacced, and claimed this was "urbanisation" of the area.

In the afternoon, the chairs were rearranged so that we were closer in, but it was still difficult to hear all that was being said.

The Developer's highways consultant presented his assessment which showed that the traffic impact of this development was minimal and that there were no traffic problems at the junction with the A418, at the junction by the Post Office or at the double mini-roundabouts at Banks Road. This was endorsed by the BCC Highways Officer who said that there were no traffic issues to justify rejecting this application. Brian Fattorini had tabled the Trevor Ellis report of December 2014 on Traffic along Dollicott/Townsend Green/Rudds Lane (produced in response to the Cala proposal for the Dollicott development and quoted in the Haddenham Neighbourhood Plan).

In response, the Developer stated that "our residents would not use that route" but would instead travel to the station via Churchway and Banks Road. I challenged these statements, saying that traffic to and from the station had already increased significantly along Rudds Lane and would increase more so with the proposed development to the detriment of properties in the Conservation Area, and that my experience of trying to cross the A418 between Cuddington and Haddenham at peak times was that it was difficult and dangerous even before the proposed developments along Churchway. Sadly, those giving evidence on behalf of the Developer and BCC are professionally qualified highways experts and I am a mere unqualified amateur...

Under Agenda Item 5b, the Developer made much of the economic and social benefits that the additional houses would bring with additional spending in the area. I pointed out that, with the limited infrastructure (shops, schools, medical facilities) in Haddenham, the additional money would have a negative effect on Haddenham, with additional traffic as people drove off to spend it elsewhere.

Our two AVDC Councillors supported us well, but we were not well served by the AVDC Officers who failed to provide satisfactory facilities for the Hearing and whose barrister contributed little and failed to challenge the various questionable statements made by the Developer. I found the view of the BCC Highways Officer that there were no traffic problems associated with the development to be particularly worrying.

This morning, the Inspector carried out a site inspection in two parts — firstly a walk around the immediate area and secondly a drive around the wider area. Brian Foster, Brian Fattorini and I joined the Inspector and representatives of AVDC and the Developer on the first of these. We met initially in Ernie Pusey's field, looked across to the rest of the site, walked down Rosemary Lane noting the narrow pinch points, walked up the path alongside 'Cobweb' onto the HAD007 site and looked at the views across to the Appeal site, continued along Rosemary Lane to Rudds Lane and then Townsend Green, noting the narrow blind corner, then along Townsend Green to Dollicott. We then retraced our steps and continued along Rudds Lane past the pond to the Post Office and then along Green Lane to look at the views of the site from there. We said goodbye to the Inspector on return to the field.

Brian Foster, Brian Fattorini and I took the opportunity of talking to David Marsh after the site visit, and expressing our concern about traffic issues, and in particular the increased traffic down Rudds Lane. David Marsh still seemed convinced that traffic would not use that route to the station. When we asked his advice on what could be done to limit traffic along Rudds Lane, he suggested that we raised this at the Local Area Forum (LAF). Brian Foster noted that the LAF had met last week and said that he would get together with Judy Brandis and prepare something for the next LAF.

After a drive around the area to look at the various view points, the Inspector was reconvening the meeting at 1300 to discuss the final sets of conditions that would be applied if the Appeal were to be upheld — those of us from the village saw no point in attending that meeting.

We wait now for the Inspector to complete her deliberations and issue her report. In view of the poor performance by AVDC, my guess is that she will uphold the Developer's appeal.