Thursday 17 November 2016

Planning Problems at Stonehenge - Summary

Immediate problem: English Heritage’s contractors are busy cutting down trees and moving dirt about to create a new coach park and transit system turning circle. Various posts on this blog have highlighted the various planning problems at Stonehenge but this is an attempt to summarise them into one post.

The planning permission for this is: Wiltshire Council Planning application 16/03988/FUL,863043

The decision  has conditions 3- 11 which all start “No development shall commence” or similar – I have concentrated on Condition 4 : ‘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.”

There is a discharge of conditions document on the website  which shows that Condition 4 plans are “to follow” and I have it confirmed from the council that they haven’t yet been agreed.

The plan that English Heritage want agreed is outlined in the plans below and the text at and it states: “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.”

The key point here is that the proposed plan has visitors walking across the entrance to the bus turning circle when the requirement of Condition 4 is that is that they don’t have to walk within the route of the visitor transit system (the buses) . The council don’t want tourists and buses to mix for obvious reasons. As an aside it would a simple matter for English Heritage to fulfil the requirement in their revised plans, all they have to do is not move the southerly fence, not remove the temporary footpath that is already there and not close off the gate that is also there.

Click plans to enlarge

The background of why English Heritage want to complicate the route walking visitors have to take lies in previous decisions - The Landscape Management Plan approved under condition 13 of planning permission S/2009/1527/FUL anticipated reinstatement of the permissive path between along the section of the former A344 between Byway 12 and the A303 at Stonehenge Bottom in ‘Summer 2016’. – Unfortunately since 2009 English Heritage have increased the area they charge people to visit at Stonehenge and it now includes the former A344 so they are reluctant to allow it to be used as a permissive path. They have applied for a years extension until October 2017 as the grass isn’t “ready” yet. This has not been agreed to yet by the council who have had an expert look at the grass and a report produced (I haven’t seen it yet).

The decision for the coach park planning 16/03988/FUL as an informative adds; ” Wiltshire Council own the row of Beech trees shown on plan 1515/242 Rev P13 (located between the A344 and the coach park/VTS turning loop). These trees help to screen the coach parking and are therefore important landscape features. Any tree works other than those shown on plan 1515/242 Rev P13 will require further consent from Wiltshire Council.

It seems the contractors have cut down many more trees than in the plan. The planning application 16/03988/FUL details one short 7.5m gap to be cut through the belt of trees that Wiltshire Council owns at the site.

I have done a quick overlay of a photograph and a scale on to the plan.

Click to enlarge

So we have a development started when conditions that have to be agreed pre-commencement haven’t been agreed.
We have a proposed condition discharge which is in direct contradiction to the wishes of the committee
We have a failure to discharge a condition from a previous planning application
And we have trees that belong to the council being felled without permission.

All of this within a World Heritage Site and highly protected landscape.

There are other similar breaches but these are enough for now.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim,

    I find this all very confusing, particularly as regard the section of the former A344 between Byway 12 and junction with A303 and the stopping up order pertaining thereto.

    A stopping up order is always subject to a planning permission for development. In this case it has been authorised under Section 247.

    Q1) Does the Planning Permission "require" that the former A344 be kept open for public use along the whole of its length, or consultations/agreements written elsewhere imply clearly this to be the case?

    In short was it the intention, on the part of the Planning Authority on granting full permission, that the whole length, including the eastern section from Byway 12 (which appears to be categorised as "permissive" rather than a public right of way) remain accessible in some form to the public in perpetuity?

    If this is the case, use of the category "Permissive Path" without definition is nonsense. As a legal or implied "requirement" the Planning Authority should have sought confirmation from the local authority's "Rights of Way Committee" that an agreement was in place to ensure this intention. Such agreement should specify the duration of the "permissive" status - in this case clearly stated as in perpetuity, or if not stated then legally implied. If this hasn't been done then any "permissive" status is voluntary and English Heritage can remove this "privilege" to the public, at any time it wishes!

    This is very important, because if "permissive by agreement" with an intention for perpetuity, then English Heritage can claim that the local authority is responsible for the upkeep, after conditions for establishment have been met. If they don't claim this, then in any case the public can do so on their behalf to ensure that firstly the planning conditions are met, and secondly that the local authority has the authority to impose any direction, at any time, to ensure that this remains the case in perpetuity - even if it has to meet the costs itself!

    In short, if via agreement, the path remains in practice, a public right of way, even if not identified as such on the definitive map.

    Q2) Have you pursued this matter with the Rights of Way Committee? That is where you should find what the future holds for the rights of public use along the whole of the former A344 section from Airman's Corner to the junction with the A303.

    At least that's what I understand the situation to be.




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