Freshford Parish council: Freshford Mill -Inspector's Report

The letter, republished below, was sent to all residents of Freshford in June 2000. This letter adds further information as to why there should be an enquiry into why a decision was made, in spite of the wishes of Freshford residents and of the inspector, that the proposed development at Freshford Mill for residential use should have been approved.



Freshford Mill


Those residents who attended the Parish Meeting on 8th. May will be aware of the outcome of the Inspector's report on the future of the Freshford Mill site.

The Inspector has, as part of the B.A.N.E.S. Local Plan preliminaries, investigated the possibilities for the Mill site's future and, quite independently of any views from the Parish, stated in his report that :

"I do not think that a similar approach to that of Policy H.0.6 can be justified on this site nor would it be reasonable to prepare a planning brief for residential purposes. ".

H.O.6 is the policy that states the criteria for permitting housing development in the Green Belt. The inspector's caveat against a "Similar approach" strengthens the case against residential development.  You should be aware that B.A.N.E.S., in preparing the drafts of the Local Plan, followed the Wansdyke policy on H.O.6 and did not consider the site to be suitable for change of use to residential. The inspector has recommended that the site be considered by B.A.N.E.S. for Major Development Status, but as you will observe from the above , specifically not including residential options.

Some developers have plans for Freshford Mill.  The parish can expect marketing and public relations pressure from them (or their agents or architects) who will have invested in the chance of the site becoming available for residential purposes.

The argument that residential development is the only way to improve the visual aspects of the site is fallacious. In the two documents which we produced for consultation with residents (July 1995 and January 2000) we examined many of the ways forward and the result has been the formulation of two preferred options.

The first is recreational and involves returning the land to wood and grass land, preferably in village ownership. A specific plan is being drawn up for pursuing this and will be put to the Parish in due course. Few residents are aware that there is not one square foot of communally owned land; in the Parish, excepting the cemetery and the war memorial, and thus none on which they can, for instance, have a picnic if the landowner objects. This stricture includes even the Tyning. We wish to redress this by use of the superb site at the Mill

The second preferred option means no change of use. There is the possibility of the land being used for acceptable light industry. For instance, the original proposer of the film studios idea confirmed last week that this plan is still a possibility.

We have not rushed into thinking that an architecturally acceptable solution is worthy of consideration if it means residential development. There is no local need for more housing (Except "affordable" for which there are better sites than the Mill), the approach roads are clearly inadequate, the Mill site is  separate from the village and would create a new community which would be, prices being what they are, affluent, and not therefore contributing to the village social mix, (The inspector also made the point that the site is well removed from even the Sharpstone residential area), and there is  the question of traffic , both commuter and services. These are just a few of the many factors militating against residential use.

We do not feel that anyone in Freshford should be rushed into supporting any plan (No matter how convincingly it is marketed) as the village will have to live with the consequences for a long time.

Freshford Parish Council 4th. June 2000

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