Thursday, 21 January 2016

Draft Neighbourhood Plan - response

Opportunity to comment

The Parish Council has invited local residents to comment on the draft plan. After studying the Parish Council Report of the meeting on 12th January, I decided to submit a response in connection with potential development of Nocton Hall and the RAF Hospital site.

This is an extract from my submission:

"Thank you for the opportunity to provide extra comment following the Parish Council meeting on Tuesday.

I get the impression from the Parish Council Report that there was a majority view from those attending the meeting, that Nocton Hall is no longer worthy of retention as a ruined heritage asset. It also appears there is no appetite for any significant development that would maximise the amount of land available on the Nocton Hall/RAF Hospital site.

I think it is unrealistic to expect a restriction to just a few high-end properties, where a developer probably wouldn’t even see sufficient profit to cover the costs of clearing the contaminated site and developing it. This will act as great disincentive to any developer, with the result of no housing on the site at all... and open to the possibility of the land being used for other purposes. Indeed I see at the meeting on Tuesday that ‘Other uses’ was mentioned, but no indication of what type of suggestions were put forward.

If the Parish Council identifies a majority view from residents in the village that it is no longer worthwhile trying to save any part of Nocton Hall, it might be worth considering applying to Historic England for a delisting. The Grade II Listing may actually be hindering the possibility of getting a resolution to this dilapidated site, due to the financial burden of stabilising/renovating the Hall.

A delisting application requires that new evidence is made available about the lack of special architectural or historic interest of the building, or a material change of circumstances, for example fire damage – and Nocton Hall appears to fall in the latter category. We would therefore appear to have a valid application at least.

The matter would need to be considered carefully by the Parish Council – as on the one hand a delisting will certainly free up the site for a reduced development (without the burden of a heritage building having to be ‘saved’) – but on the other hand it could give a prospective developer almost a free rein without any restriction. It could of course be argued that the Grade II Listing has in fact worked to our advantage as a community to date, in stopping any major development of this site!

I just think we need to be very careful when using such ‘catch-all’ terminology as ‘Other uses’, as this could open a plethora of opportunities for NKDC and Leda. If the community have other ideas for the site, then these should be listed clearly and concisely with the reasons as to why these are much preferable to housing.

I think it is sometimes very easy to look at all the downsides of a housing development, but without looking at the upsides. An innovative use of S106 agreements could result in badly needed amenities for the village, especially as all we have currently is a small sub-Post Office and a deteriorating Village Hall. Perhaps we need more lateral thinking in seeking opportunities, rather than just concentrating on the risks?

In some ways, a sensitive housing development to join the two halves of the village together, could be the least of our worries."

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