Sitting between Evendons East and Finchampstead is Sandmartins Golf Club. After a planning application was submitted and subsequently withdrawn to extend the facilities provided, a new planning application has gone in and is now open for public consultation.
The application has been split into 2 planning applications (application numbers 210279 and 210233), with the new greenkeepers building being considered separately. I have been through both planning applications and now submitted my comments. Below is the text from my submission:
These are my comments for both planning application number 210279 and 210233, as they are both dependent on one another, and part of the same site.
I am in support of the application in principle as it ensures survival of a local business and creates new employment opportunities. At a time when the economy has been hit hard, this is something positive for our community. I am also pleased that some of the concerns of residents from the previous application have been taken into consideration. There are however some improvements I wish to be made and a number of conditions that I wish to be imposed:
- The development is being designed to meet current adopted policy. Those policies are outdated and will be improved in their next iteration in line with both our local and national climate targets. I would urge the owners to look to the future in this regard, not the past.
- I am very pleased about the use of air source heat pumps rather than piped gas but question that instead of an electricity substation on site, why renewable technologies and battery storage aren’t better utilised? The solar PV panels being proposed are not enough by a long way, and this can be improved greatly. There is currently no provision for the greenkeepers building (they state that they don’t need to which is not the right answer). They could put more PV panels on the roofs of the development and above the car parking spaces which would not only provide the electricity, but provide protection for vehicles from the elements, and not require additional land use. Any additional energy generated, would provide an income as it’s sold back to the grid.
- 10% EV car parking is woefully inadequate, particularly as no new ICE (internal combustion engine) cars can be sold from 2030. There needs to be a greater % of the car park with EV chargers now, and the remaining spaces must all be passive EV. Some of the electricity generated by the PV’s above these spaces (as mentioned above), can be directed into the EV chargers.
- I’m pleased to see the application talk about a biodiversity net gain which is in line with the Environment Bill (currently delayed in the parliamentary process). I can’t see how much net gain though. I would like to see a substantial net gain and for this to take into account the trees that were felled last Autumn due to the overhead power lines.
- A Fabric First approach, where the building is constructed in a way to minimise the amount of energy required, is the right approach and I’m pleased to see this mentioned. I would however question the standards being applied. The application talks about the BREEAM assessment and they’re only striving for a ‘very good’ rating when they could go for excellent and even outstanding? They could have considered Passivhaus accreditation which is considered more rigorous. This leads me to question whether they are greenwashing here. i.e. making it seem like they’re more environmentally friendly than they actually are.
- Has the applicant considered modular build techniques? Modular technologies are not like the old prefab and are just as strong as bricks and mortar. It has a huge number of benefits, including environmental as the construction can be built off-site and then assembled on-site. This would reduce the amount of construction vehicles reducing air pollution and noise pollution. The applicant may even find that it’s cost effective.
- As the planning officer stated in the pre-app letter, the location is not good for accessibility without a car. So whilst I welcome the inclusion of bicycle storage (and I hope that it is secure), what consideration has been given to actually get to the site without the need to use a car? Where is the nearest bus stop?
- One request is that there could be improvements to the PROW (public rights of way). Firstly, these could be widened to include a separate cycle track alongside the pedestrian track which would aid not just people accessing the facilities, but also to help the community travel through the site. This would provide a safe route for cyclists going between Finchampstead and Wokingham Town as currently Finchampstead Road is not safe enough. There is also the opportunity to improve the fencing that separates the PROW’s from the facilities of the site. This is something that will need to be considered in the near future by the green infrastructure team at the council anyway. So it would make sense now to be doing this rather than retrospectively doing it. May I suggest that the applicant and the green infrastructure team take a serious look at this now and come up with a scheme that benefits everyone.
- The application for the greenkeeper access has visibility site lines assuming the traffic speeds are around 35mph. As the community knows, this is a dangerous road with a 60mph speed limit and we have been campaigning for years to have this reduced. Whilst the 85th percentile speed is in line with approx. 35mph, speed surveys demonstrate that some vehicles do drive around the 55-65mph speed. As such, I would request that this application is only approved on the provision that it can not be implemented until the speed limit has been reduced in line with the 85th percentile speed.
- I am requesting a restriction on the number of deliveries to the greenkeepers building. In order to access the building, vehicles using the new drive need to cross a well-used PROW. This I am not keen on. The planning statement says currently there is on average 1 delivery a day. Should this been mandated to be maintained as a maximum, this would provide some mitigation towards my concerns.
- I also request that there are stipulations that the access to the greenkeepers building cannot be extended to connect up in the future with the drive that comes from Finchampstead Road. This would result in a cut through/rat run which would be detrimental.
- The planning statement says that a noise assessment couldn’t be done due to Covid and lower background levels of noise. I am requesting that the planning authority insists that a noise assessment is done before building commences, and a consultation with the public. This is to ensure that once the facilities are in use, local residents and wild animals are not negatively impacted by the noise coming from the facility. It may be worthwhile having operating hours stipulated.
- I have some concerns about the lighting, although appreciate consideration of the environmental and community impact has been discussed in the planning application. Like above, perhaps operating hours should be considered to minimise this impact.
- I am a little disappointed that there are a number of inaccuracies in the planning statement with regards to names of the local area. This may be something trivial to raise, but given this is for our community, getting the names wrong shows a disconnect.
- I am concerned by the proximity of the greenkeepers building to neighbouring housing. Will the green screening be enough? What about noise and odours? I do not feel suitably informed through the application that there won’t be a detrimental impact for these properties.
- I couldn’t see a statement of community involvement as suggested by the planning officer in the pre-app. I did attend an exhibition before the first planning application, but there has been very little since then. Other than an email a few days ago about the new application going in, there has been no further community engagement which is a shame. Many of the comments I have made above I fed into the applicant via the exhibition so I think it’s disappointing that the community have not been engaged as much as they could have been. Please remember it is better to do something with a community, not to a community.