The objectors claim that it is only by way of a covenant with them that there can be proper "control". Stratford District Council Planning Department strongly disagrees. Furthermore their opinion is that "the objectors covenant was overly restrictive, unreasonable and impractical to enforce" and they thought that "any provisions can be dealt with by the planning conditions", as do other planning experts. So although we very much hope to, if we do not manage to reach consensus because the objectors version of the covenant is different from what we originally agreed to (e.g. in the pub, that evening) the village can rest assured that rules we made in the agreement will be contained and dealt with satisfactorily in the planning "conditions" written into the planning permission.
Please also be advised that:
1. The drafts that Bridget's lawyer drafted varied considerably from what we agreed and read out in the pub. For instance, to give two examples, their first draft included “not to vary, extend, or change in any way or apply for any variation, extension or change any planning permission in relation to the property” for 20 years. Their second draft applied our agreed 'campsite rules' to the Retreat Centre (no children under 12, no dogs, no groups of over 5 people (our normal weekends average 15 people) and no more than 31 people on site – which would mean we could no longer host the occasional 3 generational 70th birthday parties or wakes where there might be, say, 70 people.
2. They insisted we get legal advice for signing the covenant and our lawyer is not yet satisfied that we should sign in it's present form, so naturally we are taking his advice. Until he says it is OK, we are, quite obviously, not going to sign it. However, we are very nearly there now. If Bridget's lawyers had stuck to what we read out in the pub there is every chance the document would have been signed already.
Despite what the objectors claim in their website, the major delays in signing the covenant has been for the above 2 reasons.
The actual facts of our Planning Applications in brief.
The strict planning conditions agreed with SDC attached to the present Planning applications, (incorporating the points in our draft agreement with the neighbours ) states that the planning permissions are for Sally and Andy Birtwell only and they end when they die or leave. The site has to then revert back to residential and agricultural use. The temporary planning permission lasts only 2 years on the campsite, in order that SDC can test out whether those tough conditions actually work properly and enable SDC to tighten them up if they don’t.
If granted the two parts of the site (Holistic Retreat Centre and Campsite) will become sui generis – i.e. outside identified class use. In such cases there are no automatic rights to convert to anything else, unless otherwise written into the planning permission. Any granted permission will not allow a bingo hall or any other fanciful idea that the objectors suggest. It will only allow for what is being applied for and nothing more.
Our application is only for what we have been doing for the last few years and is a considerable reduction in numbers from the last camping planning application.
And in more detail
Contrary to what you may have heard about the future of Holycombe if we were to sell, here is what our planning consultant had to say about it " The planning process is designed to control current and future developments and uses of land and to ensure there is no harm to acknowledged interests, which includes neighbour amenity and the character of an area. Planning conditions attached to any permission are designed to ensure that there is sufficient control.
The Current plan is that any permission for the Retreat will be for the benefit of Mr and Mrs Birtwell only. Should they leave then the lawful use reverts to a single dwelling and either two ancillary residential properties or two holiday cottages. Such uses are appropriate to the locality and are common in village locations such as this without the need for further control.
The Retreat and campsite are to be run under a strict Management Plan which will be agreed with SDC prior to the determination of the applications. If the current occupiers breach that Management Plans it will be a breach of a planning condition and there would be consequences.
The planning permissions sought are to ensure the ongoing use is properly managed. If granted the two parts of the site will be sui generis i.e. outside any identified use class. In such cases, there are no automatic rights to convert to anything else, unless otherwise written into the planning permission. So, any grant will not allow a bingo hall, a nightclub, a campsite for 500 people or a restaurant. It will allow only what is being sought and nothing more. Anything else would be properly and separately assessed by SDC.
Finally, just because the District Council has chosen not to enforce against the current breaches of planning control for so long does not mean they would not in future enforce against breaches of condition. Indeed, it would be far simpler for them to do so if a planning permission were in place and thus far more likely."
If you have other specific questions not answered below, please do get in touch and we will try to respond.
Are the planning applications just a formalisation of how Holycombe and the Campsite are currently run?
Yes and no. The applications seek permission for the development which has already occurred, with the only addition being a change to the campsite access. They will be determined against the current National and Local Planning Policies and if they comply then permission will be granted. If not they will be refused. Any permission will come with several conditions which will control the management and future use of the site. Any breaches of those conditions would result in consequences.
Will Holycombe operate in the same way as it does today?
Yes, absolutely. We don't intend to make any changes to how it is being run today.
If passed, will planning create more traffic in Whichford?
In short, no. There will not be any increase in traffic because we are not increasing the amount of people we are allowing here. We are very strict about our numbers. Here is a quote from the SDC planning portal re 16/04039/FUL our planning application:
"Having undertaken a full assessment of the above planning application, the response of Warwickshire County Council as the Local Highway Authority is one of No Objection."
The slight change of access they advised was passed by SDC on the last planning application.
Interestingly, a recent planning application by the primary objecting household to build five houses in the same street, applying for 13 car parking spaces, would have generated far more cars and traffic than we ever could. (This planning application was rejected. We have estimated that, had that planning application been passed, that it would have meant an increase of a minimum of 4000 car journeys a year. By contrast our campsite creates nowhere near this amount of traffic.)
Haven’t the you pledged to operate the site sensitively?
Yes, as we have been doing so for the last few years. We have listened to the small number of issues that have been raised. As a direct consequence, that is why we now do not allow, on the campsite, groups of more than 5 people, children under the age of 12, parties, weddings, dogs or music and why we explicitly advertise as a quiet campsite.
These conditions are expected to be incorporated.
You’ve already received planning permission, so why are you applying all over again?
We have received planning permission twice, in fact, from Stratford District Council (SDC) and both times the primary objecting household took SDC to Judicial Review at the high court where our planning was quashed for procedural errors made by SDC. This is why we have been forced to apply for a third time. All development, whether building or changes of use, requires permission from the Local Authority. This is to ensure that proposals do not harm the environment, neighbour amenity, or recognised interests. It also seeks to ensure the right development is directed to the right places.
The site has been operating for a number of years without complaint, so what’s the problem?
We understand that people may have had reservations or concerns. Complaints were made when we introduced weddings and large groups, which were stopped at the end of that same season, (2011) which have not been allowed since, and will not be allowed in the future.
These issues are historical and not current. The site has been running since 2002 for both camping and the retreat centre and should therefore be eligible for a lawful development.
We hope we will continue, as we have done these past few complaint-free years, to operate sensitively in relation to the village community. As was our pledge at the village meeting in January at The Norman Knight.
Where does this ongoing opposition come from?
As evidenced on the comments section on the planning portal for our campsite application there is a tiny minority have written to object.
Also, despite having 2 live planning applications SDC were pressurised on behalf of the primary objecting household to enforce against us.
Why is it taking so long to get planning?
As mentioned above, this is our third round of applying for planning, which we have been granted twice already. We are hugely looking forward to putting all of this behind us so we can get on with our lives.
As far as we are concerned this could have been done and dusted years ago. It is a tiny minority in the village who have forced this to go on and on by making sure our planning was quashed and for putting pressure on the council to enforce against us.
Isn’t a campsite and holistic retreat exactly the type local business we want?
Absolutely. Both these businesses are in line with government policy of supporting small rural enterprises. We not only provide jobs for local people, but we provide business to the other local enterprises in the village who are very clear on the significant contribution that our existence makes to their trade. We are also in line with the tourist government policy guidelines.
Doesn’t Government policy support rural small business?
Yes, wholeheartedly. Especially low impact ones such as ours and ones that support other local businesses in the village and beyond, even in AONBs and conservation areas.
When will the planning applications be determined?
We are expecting the planning applications to be decided in late May
How do I make my views known?
We have been touched by the overwhelming support from the village and from our clients. We feel, further, it would be unacceptable and set a dangerous precedent if an influential minority were able to override democratic process and dictate planning outcomes. If you have yet to contact the council has express your views, there is still time. You can submit your views directly to the Council. For Application One, Holycombe House 15/02005/FUL here For Application Two, The Campsite 16/04039/FUL here:
Alice Cosnett, the Case Officer, Stratford District Council, Elizabeth House, 4 Church Street,Stratford upon Avon CV37 6HX or via email to email@example.com or the direct links which are: The campsite application 16/04039/FUL https://appsstratford.gov.uk/eplanning/AppDetail.aspx?appkey=OIA714PMIRR00 Holycombe Retreat Centre application 15/02005/FUL https://appsstratford.gov.uk/eplanning/AppDetail.aspx?appkey=NPH056PMJKQ00
Or if you would prefer to write, send them by post to the case officer at Elizabeth House, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HX.