Monday, 13 March 2017

English Heritage Plans to Block Historic Path at Stonehenge - Update

In November 2016 I reported on English Heritage's plans and how they block the historic footpath promised on the route of the A344. http://www.sarsen.org/2016/11/english-heritage-plans-to-block.html

In February 2017 English Heritage have gone back to Wiltshire Council with new plans for a variation on their plans for an improved Visitor Transit System and have kept, with small variation the plan to block the footpath.

This time not only have I objected* for the reasons below but so have Historic England

Historic England Advice
These proposed variations to planning consent 16/03988/FUL are largely acceptable with one exception. The proposal to vary the previously agreed post and wire fence on the south side of the Stonehenge-end visitor pick up/drop off would result in an adverse visual impact to views across this part of the WHS, including views towards Stonehenge.


Recommendation
Historic England has concerns regarding the application on heritage grounds.
We consider that the proposed variation to fencing at this location will have an adverse visual impact on this part of the WHS and in certain views towards Stonehenge. This would be contrary to the previously agreed principles of the Stonehenge Environmental Improvements Project (SEIP) and the Stonehenge Visitor Enhancement Project (SVEP) to minimise or remove visible infrastructure from the landscape. These principles are enshrined within the 2015 Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Management Plan, and whilst at face value a very minor issue, the proposed fence variation is in such a sensitive location as to run counter to the guidance in NPPF pargaraph 137 that new development within WHSs should be supported where it enhances or better reveals significance. A post and rail fence would not achieve this.



The background: English Heritage has failed to open the permissive path they are obliged to provide on the route of the old A344, which should have been done by summer 2016. They claim the grass surface won't be ready until 2017. It is no secret they wish they didn't have to provide this path despite it being an important historic route which will boost the sustainability and local access of the site.



The latest impediment to the permissive path is hidden away in a document where they are asking Wiltshire Council to approve a variation in how the Visitor Transit System works at the monument.

One small detail is they want to move a stock fence 3m from the field edge onto the route of the A344. There is no practical reason to do so apart from narrowing the A344 route. Leaving the fence where it is and using crowd barriers is more sensible if they want to corral the visitors.

But if they do erect the stock fence there then, as they point out, there is no room for pedestrians to walk along the route of the A344.





Click plans to enlarge


Quote from the planning document:

As a result of this layout people visiting the stones on foot along the A344 will cross Byway 12 and then cross the entrance to the bus turning circle east of Byway 12 to access the monument field (see Appendix A).  This is because there is not enough space on the southern VTS platform area to accommodate the loading of passengers on the bus and walkers coming from the west.  Visitors wishing to walk back to the Visitor Centre will walk along the southern platform and then cross Byway 12 onto the A344 designated pedestrian route.


Planning Condition these revised plans are designed to meet:

Planning Condition 4 states: 
‘Notwithstanding the submitted drawings showing the proposals for directing pedestrian arrivals in the vicinity of the A344 junction with Byway 12, prior to the commencement of the development hereby approved further details shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority demonstrating how pedestrians using the signed and lined route on the southern side of the A344 can access the Stones without having to cross the A344 or to walk within the route used by the Visitor Transit System to the east side of Byway 12. The approved details shall be implemented before the proposed bus turning arrangements are brought into effect.  

Note the requirement is that visitors should not have to walk within the route and yet the plans require them to do so  purely because the fence move makes the path too narrow. If the fence isn't moved then there is no problem and the planning condition could be met.

The only logical purpose of the fence move is therefore to prevent the permissive path being established. Wiltshire Council must not fail in their duty and approve these plans.

The suggestion the fenced off area is to allow the establishment of "swathes of meadow planting helps enhance the naturalistic feel of the space whilst helping integrate the facilities into the natural landscape." doesn't make sense as the area will be in a sheep field and English Heritage have shown us with the rest of the A344 it takes many years to establish such grass and it mustn't be trodden on during the establishment phase. A temporary barrier and leaving the stock fence where it is  would be more suited for grass establishment.

To comment by email click  Wiltshire Council

* My objection email:

The connected application 17/01217/VAR has plans which show their intended solution to the Condition and whilst they are an improvement on previous plans they still fail to meet the requirements of the planning committee.

To recite: Notwithstanding the submitted drawings showing the proposals for directing pedestrian arrivals in the vicinity of the A344 junction with Byway 12, prior to the commencement of the development hereby approved further details shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority demonstrating how pedestrians using the signed and lined route on the southern side of the A344 can access the Stones without having to cross the A344 or to walk within the route used by the Visitor Transit System to the east side of Byway 12. The approved details shall be implemented before the proposed bus turning arrangements are brought into effect."


The new plan whilst retaining the existing gate to the south of the road, which is an improvement, still has a crossing area just to the east of the gates within the route used by the Visitor Transit System.  The need for this crossing, which is contrary to the planning instructions, is purely because of the bottleneck introduced into the area by the erection of the new stock fence 3m further north east of the existing fence. If this fence is not moved but just renewed in its existing position and, as proposed, the existing gate is retained then there is no need for the crossing area. It is a simple fix that would allow the proposed plans to meet the requirements of the planning condition.

1 comment:

  1. It just beggers belief that this wasnt organised in the initial phases of planning the new centre

    ReplyDelete