Planning Policy Wales (PPW) Chapter 6 Conserving the Historic Environment states clearly
6.5.17 Should any proposed development conflict with the objective of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area, or its setting, there will be a strong presumption against the grant of planning permission.
Why then, does the PCNPA Buildings Conservation Area officer, Rob Scourfield, make the blatantly misleading statement that
“The setting of a CA is not a material consideration”?
In the past, this same Mr Scourfield has been involved in establishing the importance of the Feidr Eglwys site in the setting of the Newport (Town) Conservation Area
To say that those of us from Newport who worked with Rob Scourfield in development of the Conservation Area Statement for Newport and Newport Parrog now 13 years ago, once again feel hugely let down and disappointed by his comment on a major application affecting Newport, is an understatement.
For, we were let down before by Mr Scourfield when he wrote in support of the retrospective application for Bettws Newydd. That Mr Scourfield was wrong about Bettws Newydd was eventually proven, when the Inquiry Inspector wrote ….
“…I take the view that when completed the building would fail to harmonise with, or enhance the landform or landscape character of the National Park…”
“I consider that the completed building would be visually intrusive and insensitively sited within the protected landscape of the National Park due to its scale, design and location on rising ground above the coastal scene”
The sites in both these cases had been referred to in the Park’s own Conservation Area Statement under the heading “Landscape” to be “important to the setting of Newport itself” (Chapter 5 page 12) – a fact which Mr Scourfield has chosen, in both cases, to quietly forget.
In the case of Bettws Newydd, this was because “the slopes below Feidr Ganol and Feidr Brenin” are described as “undeveloped and highly visible”
In the current case of Feidr Eglwys fields the Statement refers to,
“Prominent land to the south of the town, particularly land around the church and castle, contributes to the setting of these monuments and the wider landscape setting of the town.”
This statement goes on to say,
“Traditional field banks are characteristic of the area, there are particularly good examples which should be conserved adjoining Feidr Bentick, Feidr Eglwys and King Street.”
Mr Scourfield actually repeated this view when as Buildings Conservation Officer he submitted a statement to The PCNPA Potential Site Analysis for Site 825 North of Feidr Eglwys Newport 27th February 2009 which was written during the development of the LDP, as follows
“Abutting Conservation Area boundary to west boundary, with good hedgerows bounding and within site. Part of important outlying area and a key element of the Conservation Area setting both from distant views and upon entry into the Consevation Area. Potential for archaeological consideration given proximity of castle”
Even as recently as 2012, Mr Scourfield made comments on pre-application drawings and a statement from the agent for Feidr Eglwys to Julie Evans, the then case officer, which included
“The submitted report addressed various issues, one of the critical ones – the effect on the character of the CA which lies immediately to the west and north”
At that time, Mr Scourfield also remembered that
“I made comments on the LDP allocation – which hinged on the critical factors of retaining existing boundaries and positioning more dense areas of development within the lower areas of the site. These remain my main concerns, along with the treatment of new access road junctions”
Yet now such statements as
“Part of important outlying area and a key element of the Conservation Area setting both from distant views and upon entry into the Conservation Area”;
“the critical factors of retaining existing boundaries and positioning more dense areas of development within the lower areas of the site” and “the treatment of road junctions”
are conveniently long forgotten by Mr Scourfield, for such concerns are mysteriously nowhere to be found in Mr Scourfield’s all too prompt response to the current application.
This is dated 8th April, only a week after validation, the first consultee response to be received, when Mr Scourfield had not benefited from seeing the highway’s stipulation that access sight lines to the site must be 25 metres wide. This will mean that massive lengths of historic hedge bank will be taken out if the development goes ahead. We have asked Liam Jones, PCNPA Head of Development Management, and now case officer for this application, if he would kindly notify Mr Scourfield that this is the case – in the vein hope that Mr Scourfield will revisit his statement
Planning Policy Wales Chapter 6 also states under Listed buildings
“ 6.5.9 Where a development proposal affects a listed building or its setting, the primary material consideration is the statutory requirement to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building, or its setting, or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses.”
Mr Scourfield this time accepts that the setting of the Church (& Castle) is a material consideration. He concludes that the main panoramic views from the south (downhill) and north (from the Parrog with Carningli as the backdrop) will retain both buildings as landmarks The developed site was hardly likely to obscure them! But he makes no assessment of the effect of introducing a large housing estate into the setting. Nor does he mention that following the Inspector’s report, LDP Appendix 2 requires that
“Development of this site will need to respect the character and setting of the Conservation area and church and additional and significant planting within the site will be required”
and fails to observe that the density of housing is so high that this requirement has not been met.
Mr Scourfield may know a lot about historic buildings, but he is not an expert in landscape, nor is he an architect or planner, but should we therefore have to forgive him for deciding that
“…. the proposed layout of the development nods towards the medieval grid pattern of the existing streets without introducing an incongruous pattern of development in terms of scale, density and form”
or concluding that the proposed development will provide
“… a sensitive extension of the town”?
Contrast his view with that of a qualified PCNPA planner –
“The landscape value and importance of the site to the setting of the town, its Conservation Area and nearby listed buildings are of fundamental importance to developing the site. Critical factors to preserving these qualities would be the retention of existing boundaries and associated vegetation, and orientating the proposed dwellings to harmonise with the existing grain of the settlement The proposed cul-de-sacs of open –market housing and the affordable housing courtyard are discordant features, at odds with the pattern of the town”
Julie Evans to the agent March 2013
Well said Ms.Evans, as far as we are concerned accurately reflects the “plain as a pike-staff” objective opinions of us ordinary folk, who will have to live and walk with this discordant monstrosity !