Thursday December 13th 2012 saw not just a first, but third meeting held locally to discuss the pending Planning Application made on behalf of FC Jones and Co, to build a ‘Poultry Unit’ at Starveall Farm near Pamington.
Emotions ran high amongst what was a very large local audience for a Parish Planning Meeting, made up of Residents, Farmers and those representing local Businesses not only from Pamington itself, but also from Ashchurch, Claydon, Tredington Fields and the surrounding areas. It would be fair to say that the Applicant and their Agent Bruton Knowles’ unsolicited decision to step back from their request to take part in the Meeting only hours before, probably led to a far more productive evening for those present as questions were methodically asked of Borough and County Officers, whilst a list of growing concerns were tabled.
As a local Elected Member of Tewkesbury Borough Council representing the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward, it was clear from the moment that the Applicant’s ‘Community Consultation Scheme Summary’ hit my doormat in September that the Plan would be at best controversial, and it wasn’t long before the true level of local concern over what some consider to be the possible creation of an industrial sized ‘chicken factory’ became very clear indeed.
From my own perspective, each and every one of the issues which have been raised to date are very real indeed and many in isolation should be justification enough for the rejection of a Scheme which could negatively impact upon real lives in many ways. However it is once again inappropriate use and traffic levels along Pamington Lane which cause the greatest level of concern, when misuse of an ‘access only’ road by through traffic, speeding and littering are already a major and historic concern for residents and Councillors alike.
Adding regular and repeated Heavy Goods traffic onto a road which simply wasn’t constructed with this purpose in mind would arguably create an additional and therefore unacceptable level of danger to road users, pedestrians and even horse riders in a rural backwater where it genuinely does appear to be the case that it is only the Herefordshire-based Applicant who is in favour of the change.
Equally, access to the Starveall site itself is yet another issue which is far from clear as the Applicant does not own the historic, picturesque and wildlife-rich trackway to the site, which I understand has never required any form of upgrade since it was used only by horse and cart, and would require further development to be genuinely fit for purpose – a matter which has not even been agreed with the landowners.
It is in fact probably on this note and that of the Applicant’s and their Agent’s approach where much of my own early concerns were raised when it became immediately clear upon written request that the ‘Reports’ which would have substantiated the statements made on the ‘Consultation’ document stating that all areas of concern had been addressed were basically not then available.
Minded that many of the serious environmental-impact related questions raised by participants at the December Meeting should have already been at this stage answered by the existence of this apparently robust set of Reports, many will share similar concerns that the last of the Applicant-based Consultation material was not made available on the web until what I understand was just a matter of days before the Application was submitted.
It would perhaps on this basis be easy to conclude that a meaningful consultation did not therefore take place with all those who would be affected and likely that many would also conclude from the chain of events that comprehensive support for the Application may have simply just been assumed.
Ashchurch Rural Parish Council’s Planning Meeting was held and facilitated that evening in a highly professional manner which is a fitting endorsement to this comparatively new, but highly proactive Council. The Committee unanimously voted against both the Application for the Poultry Unit and an associated Domestic Dwelling, and the matter now passes to the Planning Committee of Tewkesbury Borough for decision, probably early next Month.
Environmental factors and Road Safety will surely be the biggest points for consideration, but I also hope that impact upon the quality of life of those who already call these Villages home will be clearly in mind.
After all, it is not just today’s residents who may be affected by the plans. The poignancy of the future for the Ashchurch Camp is illustrated only too well by the recent opening of the Ashchurch View Care Home, where residents currently enjoy open and freshly fragranced field views across our beautiful countryside. Should the site be closed, few would doubt that its development as part of a Joint Core or the preferable Single Core Strategy for Tewkesbury would follow. But even large scale Developers are unlikely to give good money for land which people may no longer pay top rates for once developed and this may well be a fact that the decision makers would wish to ponder.
Members of the Planning Committee will consider the full list of concerns that have been raised along with the evidence that has been provided. We can only ask that the Councillors concerned draw a similar conclusion to Residents and formally decide that Pamington and the surrounding areas simply don’t need an industrial sized Chicken Farm.