MANOR FARM, ASH
At last Wednesday’s GBC Planning Meeting, an applications and appeal to build 69 houses on the site of the 750-year-old Ash Manor ‘home to the kings of England’ was once more refused. Ash Manor features in the top 6% of our historic buildings.
This land is allocated in the GBC Local Plan and WILL be built on at some point. But the heritage status of the building and the conservation of the biodiverse pond that teems with wildlife at some times of year must be considered before a scheme can be approved and in this instance, they were patently not!
The GBC planning officers recommended this for approval, citing the fact that there would be a distance of 150 metres from the manor to the nearest house, the fact that these were not ‘overly large properties’ with ‘adequately sized plots’ and an ‘interesting and varied street scene’ with gaps between the houses. The harm to heritage was deemed ‘less than substantial’, which several Councilors disputed.
Sue Wyeth-Price from Ash Green Residents’ Association (AGRA) stated in her objection that this was the 6th officer report into this development and that still the NPPF had not been met in 14 places. The Conservation Officer appointed by AGRA had commented on the ‘harm’ the development would cause. No survey of the pond had been carried out e g to find out its depth, and it was not mentioned in the officers’ report. The potential developers, Bewley Homes, had already conceded retention of a veteran oak tree with a subsequent reduction of 4 houses following earlier intervention by GGG’s Cllr Ramsey Nagaty.
Drainage design of the pond was being left to ‘conditions’ i e once development had begun, and this was deemed unacceptable by Cllr Nagaty, who explained that nothing of ecological value would remain in the pond if it was used as proposed. Cllr Nagaty said that destroying the pond would be ‘criminal’ and that he had been impressed with its outstanding beauty and the amount of wildlife there. It was part of the setting of the historic Ash Manor House (Grade 2* listed) and Grade 2 ancillary houses and buildings. Cllr Spooner acknowledged that Cllr Nagaty could elaborate “in a much better way than I could”.
Cllr Nagaty supported Cllr Spooner and helped draft the new motion to refuse the application. Chair Fiona White noted the former’s strong concerns over the pond. Cllrs Spooner and Nagaty provided sound planning reasons for refusal. These included contravention of several of the Local Plan policies including those relating to the potential harm to heritage, natural features of the site such as ponds, biodiversity, urbanization and lack of a sustainability statement.
Hence related policies were D3,HE4,Paras 199,200 and 202 of NPPF, D2, saved policy G1(12), NE4, P5 Reg 63 Conservation of Habitats and Species and Reg 64 of the Local Plan; together with absence of mitigation on infrastructure contrary to ID1, ID3 , SPD planning contributions 2017 and the NPPF.