‘Urban’ Appearance Of New Shaftesbury Estate Disappoints

In November, Shaftesbury Town Council turned down Redrow’s plans for 170 homes at Littledown because they thought the development was ‘mundane’. Last night, councillors backed amended plans for the estate but there was disappointment voiced at its ‘urban’ appearance and concern that requested sustainability measures are not included.

ThisIsAlfred’s Keri Jones attended the meeting.

Councillor John Lewer isn’t pleased with what Redrow hope to do with land at Littledown. “It still looks like a suburban estate rather than anything that is sitting in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is why we, as a Town Council, objected to it at the outline planning stage,” said John.

Five Redrow spokespeople, the developer’s staff or consultants, put on a presentation at the Town Hall last. It included a 3D aerial video simulation of the proposed development opposite the entrance to the Wincombe Business Park. Councillors asked to see how the estate would appear to drivers heading into town. Mock-ups of that approach were not shown because the Redrow team weren’t pleased with the graphics, which looked like something from ‘Minecraft’, the video game, we were told.

The meeting wasn’t about whether Redrow could build on the fields abutting Virginia Hayward. Planning permission was granted to another builder, Gleeson, in March 2017. The Redrow staff were there to seek the Town Council’s consent for the estate’s design and layout before North Dorset District Council planners make the final decision.

The land is adjacent to the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. That’s why the advertising sales hoardings call the development Cranborne View. Redrow consulants were at pains to point out that they’d considered its proximity to the AONB.

Open Spaces member Bernard Ede stated that the removal of overhead power lines would be ‘a planning gain’. And Redrow’s people explained how new trees would be planted at the top of the slopes to extend the existing woods. In November, semi-mature, 5 metre tall trees will be installed along the northbound side of the A350 and a grass verge of wildflower-impregnated turf will be laid.

A wider area of grassland will be retained and one-third of the site – 3.2 hectares – would be designated public open space of parkland, downland and a wild flower meadow. There will be two play areas, one with equipment.

Site from Wincombe Business Park entrance

Redrow expects a management company to look after it but Mayor Piers Brown wasn’t happy at that. He argued that meant residents would effectively pay Council Tax twice. The Town Council would wish to take on maintaining the space and protect it ‘in perpetuity’, Piers said. Tim Burden on Turley Planning Consultants spoke for Redrow and suggested that was not normal. Piers repeated that he wanted the green space offered to the Town.

The developers flashed up an artist’s impression of what resembled a country park. They are confident that people will want to take in the panoramic views over the Blackmore Vale from the viewpoint. They’re putting in seating and a 22 space public car park, anticipating visitors.

Areas of grassland will provide a drainage system, which will be sustainable and is future-proofed for climate change challenges, we were told. But Members were less convinced about the development’s green credentials. There was disappointment that no public vehicle charging points have been incorporated. The developers explained that wasn’t their job.

Last November, the Town Council made sustainability recommendations including solar panels and Cllr Tim Cook repeated that request on Tuesday night. He was told that the properties’ hip roofs, designed to create ‘a spacious feel’ wouldn’t accommodate them. He suggested photovoltaic cells and asked Redrow to try harder to gain ‘brownie points with the AONB’. Redrow didn’t really respond.

Bernard Ede felt Redrow could have done more. “In terms of site planning, orientation of buildings and solar gain. These things I don’t think have been addressed, I think it is a very conventional development.”

Around 30% of the site’s homes would be affordable. These 51 dwellings would be clustered together because housing associations prefer that approach for easier property management. The developer had reduced the tallest buildings from 3 to 2.5 storeys after negative feedback at the last Town Council discussion. A member of the public felt that was window-dressing. The taller properties will be built alongside the A350. The family homes will be further inside and will follow the ‘arts and crafts’ building style of the Edwardian era.

Redrow consultant Tim Burden assured councillors that the firm uses higher quality materials than on some other Shaftesbury developments. Redrow won’t use much render, because the design style features hanging tiles and brick. They tend to use rough cast render, which is better quality and in keeping with the style of development.

Redrow will erect a wall made of local greenstone along the side of the A350. Civic Society member Charlotte MacKay wondered whether it could be tall enough to ‘hide’ the estate. It won’t be. It’ll be four feet high.

Bernard Ede wanted soft green landscaping of the development and was most unhappy with mocked-up images of the estate’s access road leading from the soon-to-be-built A350 roundabout. “I think it contradicts the original outline, which was almost a generous boulevard or avenue type space with buildings set back,” Bernard said.

He felt that the driveways and hard surfaces gave an urban appearance and he asked why those features were included. Redrow’s spokesman said that North Dorset District Council planners wanted that style. It isn’t in line with what Shaftesbury Town Council’s delegation had negotiated with developers.

“I think that the District Council has let us down,” said Bernard. “They have changed the name of the game along the road. The perception of the development is going to be of a routine housing estate with lots of car parking, lots of drives and this is contrary to the outline permission which this detailed application is supposed to reflect. That is of broad, generous swathes of tree lined spaces along the entrance avenue and along the distributor roads. So I feel quite disappointed.”

ThisIsAlfred asked North Dorset District Council for a comment. We’ve had no reply.

Councillor Tim Cook urged the developers to respect the town and warned that, “If things aren’t as good as they should be, we’ll be telling people who made the development.”

After almost two hours of debate, councillors backed the plans by 3 votes to 1. Lester Taylor wasn’t that pleased but he voted in approval. He felt it was time to draw a line under the matter.

“I wasn’t happy with it right from the very start when we rejected the initial proposal. What we’ve now decided, though, is that since we are having it forced on us, we want to make the best of it,” said Lester. “So we have gone through a period of negotiations and we have taken a lot of views. I personally have come to a balanced view that this is the time to make the decision to move on and we’ve got, I think, as much as we realistically can out of the developers.”

John Lewer voted against the proposal. “I feel as though the negotiations, if you can call them that, between the Town Council and Redrow hadn’t run their course. There are an awful lot of questions still to answer and I just think it’s premature and they’ve been in too much of a hurry. I don’t know why they’re in such a hurry to get their application in. But I don’t think it’s the right time. I’m not ready to agree to it yet,” he said.

Bernard Ede is far from happy with the decision. “I think it’s going to be too urban. Is it housing set in generous space, in a general tree-rich landscape opening out to the down land? Or does it look like a conventional interwar housing estate? I think we might be disappointed when we see it build,” said Bernard.

North Dorset District Council will collect £1million from this development in Section 106 money, or developers’ contributions, Redrow’s Dave Lee revealed. The cash is ring-fenced for schooling but it could be spent anywhere in the Local Education Authority area.

The representatives of Redrow declined our offer to record interviews. Dave Lee said he was happy with how the meeting went. A final issue was the name. Cranborne View will be dropped for a new title to be determined by developers.