Local Planning Applications
Applications where we have recently made representations are listed below. In each case we show the Planning reference which can be used to find more details, including our and others’ comments, on the Vale of White Horse District Council website.
Northcourt: land adjacent to the Abingdon United Football Ground (ref. P18/V2449/O). An application was made in 2018 for a block of 10 flats (subsequently reduced to 9) on the former cricket pitch, with access from Northcourt Lane. The Civic Society objected, largely on the grounds of the impact on the Northcourt Conservation Area, and there were numerous other objections e.g. on grounds of loss of sports facilities and additional traffic on Northcourt Lane. The application was refused by the VWHDC Planning Committee, so the developers appealed. The hearing was held in January 2020 and we presented a strong case in support of the decision to refuse permission. The proceedings were not completed by the end of the day: the inspector asked the developer and the VWHDC to address some more questions and the hearing was due to be reconvened on 2 June 2020, but was postponed because of Covid restrictions. The reconvened hearing took place on 8 March 2021 and we were represented once again. The inspector has recently announced that he has rejected the appeal, so the development will not go ahead.
Abingdon School has submitted two proposals (refs. P19/V3213/FUL and P19/V3212/LB) for major new boarding facilities adjacent to Crescent House (on Park Crescent) and Waste Court (now known as Austin House) on Bath Street. We have strongly objected to both on the grounds that the new buildings will substantially damage the Conservation Area. In addition, Waste Court is Grade 2 Listed and Historic England has advised against approval of the plans. After a long period of silence, amended plans were submitted towards the end of 2020 with further amendments in early 2021. None of these properly addressed the concerns that we and others had raised. The proposals went to the Planning Committee on 31 March and we made strong representations based around the fact that the “public benefit” of the proposals did not outweigh the harm to the conservation area and the setting of the listed building (an important requirement of planning law). Several Committee members expressed reservations and some opposed the motion to approve, but it was approved by majority vote.
This situation underlines the need for the Conservation Area Appraisal, which has been completed, to be adopted so that there are enforceable ground rules for development proposals in the area.
The Old Gaol
Although preliminary work on preparing the space in the original Old Gaol building proposed for a Café/Bar has been completed, there has been no further progress because of Covid-19. Not surprisingly, no-one has been prepared to open a new hospitality venture under the current restrictions. However an advertising sign has now gone up and the unit is being marketed again. The same problem applied to 27 Bridge Street and that has now been refitted for offices. Therefore, apart from Costa, none of the main Bridge Street frontage contributes to town vitality. This not what we were promised, but it is not surprising given the impact of Covid-19 restrictions.
North Abingdon developments: see our “Large Developments” page
An ongoing concern is the increasing number of applications for very small dwellings in unsuitable locations. Therefore we are extremely pleased that the Vale has recently refused permission for for two such applications: a development in the plot behind 39 Ock St (ref. P19/V3185/FUL), and a three-storey extension to 167 Ock Street squeezed on to a very small plot at the end of a symmetrical Victorian terrace (ref. P20/V3204/FUL).
Another area of concern is the conversion of empty shops into very small flats. An example of this was the proposal to convert 40 Bath Street (Eileen’s dress shop) into a single-bedroom ground-floor flat (ref. P20/V1413/FUL) with inadequate outdoor amenity and little privacy as the large window fronting directly on to Bath Street was the only substantial source of natural light in the flat. This was granted permission despite our efforts. Empty shops and offices are often unsuitable for conversion into residential accommodation, as this application shows, but this is likely to become more prevalent if the proposed Planning White Paper becomes law and planning permission is no longer required for such conversions.
There have been a number of proposals in the town centre frequently, but not always, for modifications to listed buildings. One ongoing example is for substantial modifications to 25–27 Stert Street (ref. P20/V3044/LB), a pair of 17th century (or possibly older) buildings. We have collaborated with the Vale Conservation Officer on this application and it is clear that these are two important buildings which need careful handling. We will continue to monitor this application closely.