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Planning Appraisal Group - TrustNews Dec 2005

Would that space in TrustNews (and possibly also its readers' patience) allowed a full account to be given of all the interesting - and sometimes alarming - applications seen recently by the Trust's panels. Sadly, this is impossible and only a selection can be reported.

Interesting new applications include the residential development at 16 & 16A City Road, which was discussed in the last TrustNews, a retirement residential development at Milesdown, North brook Avenue, and a day centre for Trinity Winchester on the site of Durngate House, Durngate. The Trust had reservations about the long and massive block of flats it is proposed should face onto Baring Road at Milesdown, and about the block facing the road at Durngate, but found the City Road development generally acceptable.

Refusals of previously mentioned schemes include the second proposal to replace St Cross Lodge, St Cross Road, with a block of 13 flats, primarily because of the effect the bulk, size, scale and design of the proposed building would have on its surroundings.

Permissions have been given for the new university centre for University College Winchester, Sparkford Road, the residential development at 23 City Road, and the proposal to alter and extend 98-102 Sussex Street to form 14 flats. A second scheme for this Sussex Street site, to replace the structurally sound Edwardian terrace with a structure of dubious contemporary architecture, has been refused and it has just been learnt that the applicant has gone to appeal, by Written Representation, against this decision. The Trust will be writing in support of the refusal.

At present appeals seem to be the flavour of the month. These include an Informal Hearing against the refusal of two applications to alter the existing house and build new dwellings at 15 Chilbolton Avenue, and the Public Inquiries requested for two major schemes: the proposed Aldi store on the site of Chimneys & 1 Burnett Close, and the proposal to demolish Nos 2-4 Chilbolton Avenue & West Hayes Lodge, Sarum Road. The Trust supports the City's refusals of both these applications, being strongly opposed to siting a store of this type in this position, and finding it difficult to comprehend how Orchard Homes can claim (as is done in their grounds of appeal) that their scheme, with its 6-storey "elliptical landmark building" on the corner of Romsey Road and Chilbolton Avenue "would not introduce building which would be out of character and scale with the area" - or, indeed, anywhere else in suburban Winchester.

As no doubt members will have read in the local press, the proposal to re-clad the tower at the Police HQ, Romsey Road, has been dismissed on appeal. This has given rise to an amended scheme for the outline application made last March for residential development on the site. As was reported in detail in the June TrustNews we didn't like the residential development, finding the proposed density, height and formal layout very out of character with the neighbourhood, and wondering how the extra load of 500 residents or so could be borne by the existing local infrastructure. The amended scheme is little different, and the token reduction of six units from the original 300 results in a layout as rigid as that previously proposed. The scale and mass of the structures needed to accommodate the residents of the 294 units now put forward would still have more in common with the nearby institutional buildings, the prison and the hospital, than with the houses in West End Terrace and West End Close, and the Trust had no reason to alter its previous strong objection to the residential scheme proposed for this site.

The decision reached by the Inspector of a recent Informal Hearing is worrying because of the precedent it could set for future appeals. This was on the appeal by Banner Homes against the refusal to build a block of flats in place of 46-48 Chilbolton Avenue, which has been allowed. We felt that the ponderous block, with its somewhat inelegant mix of architectural styles, sea of parked cars and high density, would be detrimental to the character of the road, and could also overlook neighbouring properties. While saying he would bear in mind the findings and recommendations of the draft Chilbolton Avenue Local Area Design Statement (LADS) of March 2005, the Inspector's conclusions in fact seemed to pay them little heed. He found a density of some 42 dwellings per hectare (dph) acceptable, in a part of the road where a density of about 30dph was felt desirable according to the Chilbolton Avenue LADS. He also felt that the 28 cars parked in front of the building could be screened by means of a wall along the frontage, designed in "the Arts & Craft Movement style of the building, including brick panels with piers backed by a hedge that would be located between the new wall and the most adjacent car parking spaces. Such a feature would provide interest in the street scene." - and it would be very unlike the present boundaries along Chilbolton Avenue and therefore uncharacteristic of the neighbourhood. Another worrying aspect is that the Inspector appeared to rely very greatly on the screening abilities of trees (some deciduous) and hedges to prevent the block being seen or overlooking neighbouring properties. As has been said before, trees are subject to disease, natural disaster and human activities, and we feel they should not be considered as a permanent or reliable method of screening intrusive structures. This seems a bad decision, made by an inspector with no design qualifications, which could bode ill for future suburban developments in Winchester.

Shione Carden