As many of you will by now be aware, I attended the Meeting of Ashchurch Rural Parish Council this evening and took the opportunity provided by the Council for me to give my Borough Councillor’s Report to provide the following announcement and information concerning the Chicken Farm at Starveall and the use of Starveall Lane:
Madam Chair, if I could beg your indulgence, the news and information that I would like to share with both the Council and those Residents present may take me a few minutes more to cover than I would normally need for normal Borough business.
I do however feel that given the very specific circumstances and nature of the matter, this is perhaps the best place and time to bring this to everyone’s attention and feel sure that in a just a few minutes time you will agree with and understand my reasons for doing so.
To all of you listening, I would respectfully ask that you let me cover all the points I have ready to give you tonight before asking questions or making comments.
I will attempt to cover all eventualities that I am aware of within what I am about to say. I will also publish the full version of this on my Blog later this evening and make a copy available to the Parish Clerk for inclusion in the Minutes of this evenings Meeting.
Madam Chair, Councillors, Ladies & Gentlemen; over recent weeks and for a good time before, it would be fair to say that there has been an incredible amount of frustration, disbelief and dare I say it, bad feeling amongst many concerning both the Plans for a Chicken Farm at Starveall, and the change in use and anticipated reconstruction of Starveall Lane.
Before I go any further with what I have to say, I must with some regret make very clear right now that whatever happens as a result of this Meeting and the content discussed herein, there is currently no Legal device or approach that any one of us can now employ that would guarantee that the construction of the Chicken Unit at Starveall itself will not go ahead.
Indeed, many of the people present have learned through the process of this specific Application that the Planning system is arguably very detached from the realities of the issues which affect local people and the localities in which they live. We would probably all agree that our experiences to date well and truly give the lie to the concept of Localism in its strictest sense.
The fact is that the Planning system is arbitrary at best and the injustices of this one-size-fits-all approach to development are amplified beyond any reasonable doubt by the indifference demonstrated by political groups and their Members within Local Authorities who now make decisions based upon what they perceive to be the inevitability of a situation, rather than giving a voice to issues which in just one situation like this one in Pamington might bring about positive changes for the many more planning applications which will affect communities across the Country to come.
It’s wrong, but it’s real and I now have to ask for you all to accept that with Planning Granted, the Chicken Farm itself will most definitely be built, and as things currently stand, Starveall Lane will be developed and all poultry related traffic will come down Pamington Lane from the A46 and then use a heavily reconstructed and covered-over Lane that has until now provided pleasure for far too many people to mention, over a period which extends way beyond the lifetimes of any person in this room.
So with this in mind, you will now most likely be wondering what cheery news I as your Borough Councillor could possibly bring to this table that would make my request for you all to come this evening in any way necessary.
I can only begin by saying that in Planning terms, rarely does the opportunity for a Community such as this to get a ‘second bite of the cherry’ after the gavel of planning-permission-granted has fallen.
Whilst the Chicken Farm itself must now be considered a fait accompli in real terms, I can now tell you all that this is not the case as far as the use of Starveall Lane is concerned.
I must in fact tell you that there is now a very real second and alternative option that I am about to table to you this evening, which has the potential to take all of the poultry related traffic well away from the Village and thereby change the whole dynamic of what has become a very dark situation that we as a community have until today faced for some weeks without any hope of change.
Some people will be historically aware that the possibility of building an access route away from the Village was originally a consideration of FC Jones & Co and the Partner taking responsibility for this Development specifically, Mr Kinsey Hern.
However at that time – which we are talking about in terms of years, rather than days or months – and I will add, somewhat understandably, there was perhaps no will on the part of anyone opposed to the plans to take any action which might in someway suggest acquiescence or indeed support for the construction of the Chicken Farm – which as I am at pains again to say is now an eventuality that we cannot in any way influence.
It was therefore perhaps always assumed thereafter, that access would depend on the use of Starveall Lane, which I now believe it fair to say has become a much bigger issue in Pamington than the Farm itself and especially so after it became clear that whilst any potential breach of the terms of the Planning could instantly be seized upon, there was in reality absolutely no way that any of us can prevent the changes coming to the Lane, unless Mr Hern should himself consider doing so, which today Ladies and Gentleman I am very pleased to be able to tell you that he and his Partners are willing to do.
I have delayed requesting the opportunity to discuss this possibility with you all until I had reached a stage through a series of discussions and meetings, where I have found myself confident beyond the balance of probability that what is now being tabled represents the very best solution for Pamington, when everything is put completely in context – something that I will now aim to do for all of you.
I will cover the points of the proposed alternative. I will then discuss the issues that this may raise. I will then consider the ways that these further issues may well be addressed and will add right now that this will actually be in ways which are certainly not located behind closed doors.
1.) To seek permission to build a completely new track or roadway running East from the Chicken Farm site. Immediately beneath the Southern property boundary of Pamington Court Farm and exiting or joining the B4079 on the second of the Severn Bends as you travel North from the A435.
2.) To seek an amendment of Condition 10 of the existing Planning Permission concerning Hours of Operation from the existing 7am to 9pm for deliveries and collections excluding Sundays and Bank Holidays so that there can be:
- Access for deliveries between 7am and 9pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 1pm Saturdays and under exceptional circumstances, that these be allowed to take place on Saturday afternoons, Sundays or indeed Bank Holidays if for any reason the feed supply chain should have broken down – for instance there is literally a break down at the feed mill which interferes with what I understand to be quite a precisely coordinated delivery and supply operation.
- Access for collections only be given flexibility to allow for activity outside these times to include during the night. This would I understand equate to no more than 20 nights out of 365 other than in the most exceptional of circumstances.
- Building this track or roadway without the involvement of any other land purchase – however small, will I understand require a left-handed exit from the proposed trackway or roadway to the B4079.
- This specific eventuality will I understand require all poultry related traffic to exit and potentially enter the site via the Eastern edge of Pamington, travelling to and possibly from Aston Cross.
- This would inevitably lead to the poultry related traffic travelling along the Eastern fringes of Pamington Village on at least the Northern journey which essentially moves a critical aspect of the problem from one end of the Village to the other – albeit with more appropriate road access and the added dimension that lorries would be moving slower in consideration of animal welfare issues – but with the requirement and therefore acceptance of greater flexibility of the times when HGV’s would be accessing the Chicken Farm.
It is safe to say that Residents at one end of the Village will therefore be breathing a great sigh of relief at the prospect of what the proposal on the table brings. However, its coming to fruition without any adjustment would inevitably lead to as much concern – if not more – for residents at the other.
Addressing the issues:
The reality of and chronology of the events which have led us to this point are difficult to describe as they include many different perspectives and have clearly caused varying levels of distress to many Residents, which as your Borough Councillor have concerned me greatly throughout.
Indeed I regret that I was only given the opportunity to interject fully in the period immediately before the Application first went to the Borough’s Planning Committee and at a point where there was really little more that I could do but advise on what was most likely to happen given the information I had available to me at the time.
Nonetheless, I have taken every opportunity, as I might add has Councillor Gordon Shurmer who also became involved at a similar time, to explore every possibility and approach which has remained, even after Permission was granted. This itself has latterly led me into dialogue with Mr Hern and the position I find myself in here today.
Fundamentally, the proposal on the table is a better option just as it stands right now for the Village, given everything that I know and understand to date.
For this reason I would ask that you all understand that I will have to be supportive of it in the sense that if it can be achieved – it will be a far better solution and situation for the Village as a whole, rather than the conclusion which will otherwise be faced by the people in this Village who I represent.
However, I am not overlooking the very real impact that the proposal will have on Residents at the Eastern end of the Village and I have to say that somewhat thankfully, neither is Mr Hern, who both accepts, would like and is prepared to undertake the work necessary to build an entrance and exit to the proposed trackway or roadway which I understand would then require all HGV traffic to avoid the Village completely and route it to the A435, thereby removing the poultry related vehicles and the subsequent threat of noise from Pamington completely.
This however will require bridges to be built where today and for some of us present there will be very little will to do so.
To make it work, there will need to be a level of direct engagement and dialogue which rises above the personal feelings of animosity and grievance that I know and understand to exist, and recognises that there is a solution which through collaborative working and a spirit of getting the very best from this situation for everyone in the Village as it stands – can actually be achieved.
In very basic terms, this much better solution is dependent really upon just one thing.
Were it to be the case that more land were available for purchase – which is basically a relatively small triangular area at the West side of the proposed entrance and exit to the track or roadway, I have been given a commitment that subject again to the obvious approvals, FC Jones & Son would not only be willing to change the proposals for a left-hand exit from the site, they would also be happy to develop the entrance so that it is geared for HGV access and egress to the A435, and to as such take all steps necessary to make this happen.
So before I go any further, I would like to at this point make clear that I believe that if this can be achieved and gain the necessary approval, this solution should be seen as an even bigger positive step beyond the proposal already on the table, which itself should really be viewed in context as a gift to the Village when all things are considered.
Taking the proposals that one step further is akin to a quantum leap from the situation that on arrival at this Meeting, many of you will still have been expecting that the Village was guaranteed to face for the future and we would all perhaps be well served in attempting to find benefit from an appreciation of that.
For just that reason alone, I will be happy to facilitate any discussions necessary to achieve this aim on the understanding that the good will which is now clearly evident will be reciprocated on all sides and that there is a genuine desire on the part of all involved to get a solution which is genuinely the very best that we can achieve in the circumstances for everyone in Pamington.
The trade off:
The reality of this situation is that you, the Villagers want Heavy Goods Traffic kept as far away from the Village as possible and certainly off Starveall Lane, which it is safe to say that everyone wishes to be maintained and kept in it’s current state indefinitely.
On the other hand, Mr Hern appreciates this and has by his own admission stated to me that he had never anticipated that the issues surrounding Starveall Lane would create the level of animosity that it has, and which he certainly acknowledges.
On one part, Mr Hern is very keen to address this situation in the hope of moving things positively forward with you all. I do believe he is genuine in his wish to do so and to take the opportunity to address the issues over Starveall Lane whilst he is also seeking to address some of his own concerns which relate to the restriction of flexibility for what is effectively a 24/7, 365 day a year business, which may even seem less intense in terms of HGV access journeys through the area with the amendment for Hours of Operation that he would in parallel be seeking.
Beyond the stage we are here at today, Mr Hern is furthermore prepared to go the full distance – subject to the necessary support and permission being given or granted – and give us all a solution which resolves issues which otherwise and subject to the choices of people in this room, could still remain completely unresolvable.
Even the proposal as it stands is not a cheap option for FC Jones & Co financially and when all aspects of constructing a completely new trackway or roadway are considered, the financial cost will I understand be around double that which it will be to resurface Starveall Lane and place passing areas in Pamington Lane – which I must stress will remain the course of action if either alternative should for any reason prove not to be viable.
Any environmental consideration such as loss of existing hedging will be more than offset by a planned planting scheme which would cover the entire length of the new trackway or roadway and I understand this goes way beyond the expectation of what would be required in these circumstances.
However, probably one of the biggest wins as a result of seeing this proposal through is that the Applicant has made the commitment following the receipt of advice given by Tewkesbury Borough Planning Officers that in receipt of and as part of the process of Planning Permission being granted to build the track or roadway in either format, FC Jones & Co will enter into what I understand to be a commitment that would be facilitated through what is known as a Unilateral Undertaking under the Planning Act to rescind all rights of access for poultry related traffic on and along Starveall Lane.
I hope you will all agree that this is not an offer to be taken in any way lightly.
The current situation:
As we meet here tonight, I can now tell you that considerable effort has been going on behind the scenes and especially so over the past two to three weeks.
This has involved not only Mr Hern and his Advisors who I can now tell you have made considerable inroads towards these Proposals in terms of ecological surveys, land purchase and traffic surveys.
Approaches have also been made to the various Agencies with required involvement such as Gloucestershire Highways and although they would of course be consulted formally as part of the Application process which will be necessary, I understand that in principle there are unlikely to be objections to either form of the Proposal based on what is known to me at this moment in time.
The efforts to date have also involved considerable input and advice from Borough Officers who have helped me with my work on this in what have been far from day-to-day circumstances. My thanks goes to all of them for taking on board the comments and concerns that I have raised in respect of the previous Application process and the subsequent approach taken to dealing with all issues, which regrettably may not be fully apparent to all of you at this stage.
The proposal – as it stands with access travelling via the East of Pamington – is basically ready to go.
It has however been held up by Mr Hern at my request, so that I could bring this before you all today in the hope that we can together hopefully find the necessary will and means to facilitate a position where the Applicant can pursue the very best option for everyone concerned, with access to and from the A435.
Without change and therefore your support, it is currently planned for this Proposal to be submitted this Wednesday as a full Planning Application to Tewkesbury Borough Council. On this basis you will therefore appreciate how quickly we will need to work together with Mr Hern to take the additional steps necessary and for a genuine commitment to be made to doing so in order for the process to be held up that bit longer whilst any further accommodations are dealt with and put in place for the benefit of all concerned.
I have little option but to say that Pamington has what is genuinely and in effect the opportunity to get the very best possible out of a bad deal.
I know that you don’t want the Chicken Farm at Starveall, but that ship has well and truly sailed.
What we have on the table here represents what in these circumstances is the silver bullet that I know many of you and not least of all The Hill Family and Pamington Residents Association have been looking for over a period of many painful weeks and months.
I have taken the time to look at and consider all of this and even gone as far as to approach Mr Hern concerning remedies for the damage on Starveall Lane which has caused such recent levels of concern.
Even though this specific matter itself would normally be an issue for Gloucestershire Highways, given our understanding of some of those involved and the way the process works, it may take many weeks to obtain a result which could otherwise be delivered much sooner and potentially in a much more agreeable way.
I am confident that with your support, a new approach is now possible and imminently achievable which will as good as sort this one issue out in perhaps just the few days to come, whilst potentially giving everyone the sleep filled nights that I am sure you are now after as part of a much bigger and much happier solution for all.
I must conclude by stressing that nothing I have tabled here today is in any way guaranteed.
It is subject to a great many things, not least of all the support of you all in principle and throughout the necessary Legal processes which must be cleared in response to the proposals which will be made.
It will inevitably require from some of you a willingness to engage in dialogue which nobody will believe will in the first instance to be easy, but if done fairly and considerately, will benefit each and every one of the people here and within the wider community which is involved.
Without support of any kind, there remains a very good chance that Starveall Lane will soon be in use as a quasi-industrial roadway.
With just a little will and support, we might see Starveall Lane saved and traffic moved to the East of the Village.
However with all the support given that we all can possibly provide, there is a genuine chance that Starveall Lane will remain just the same, and what is more, that Pamington will never have to witness the poultry related traffic travelling to or from the Chicken Farm whilst it is built or for the period of its operation thereafter.
I can only end by asking you all most sincerely to see this opportunity for what it really is, and consider how I am sure you were all feeling about this before I began speaking.
Thank you all.
From the response at the Meeting there is clearly support to move forward and after initial conversations with both Mr Hill and Mr Hern, the first Meeting to discuss next stages is likely to take place in the next couple of days.
Thank you for your support.