B&DBC Cllr Keith Watts has added a comment to the online version of the Basingstoke Gazette article Vacant pub ‘of little interest’ in which he concludes:
“Thousands of words written about conservation and planning are seen to be vaccuous in the hands of spineless Council leadership.”
The article is about the Harvest Home on Winchester St. The property’s new owner submitted a demolition notice to B&DBC – to which the council cannot object. But they have the power to stop the demolition until the future use of the site is decided – which would include consultation with Whitchurch residents.
B&DBC have so far refused to use their powers citing liability concerns. The council has officer’s liability insurance with Zurich that has £nil excess.
Cllr Rob Golding, cabinet member for planning, transport and infrastructure, said yesterday on Kestrel FM radio, “we don’t think that it is an issue where it would be right to ask taxpayers across the borough as a whole to pay…compensation for something that is a local matter for Whitchurch”.
In response, local campaigner John Buckley stated on the Whitchurch Forums:
All the decision power is with [Cllr Golding] and Basingstoke Council. Have they abdicated their responsibilities towards anyone outside of Basingstoke?
Or is it that by releasing land for housing here in Whitchurch it will mean less pressure on his own Ward?
STARBUCKS CONSULTANT HIRED
The developer has hired the sole planning consultant to Starbucks Coffee Company in England and Wales to manage the Harvest Home development. Pegasus Planning Group is based in Bristol, and has other clients.
With no planning application for the property, it is unknown what will become of the site if the building is demolished. The Railway Inn pub was converted into a car park after it was demolished.
Cllr Golding said, “If it was demolished and there was a planning application for something to go in its place then there would certainly be further opportunities for the public to make their views known.”
Campaigner Andrew Reeves-Hall responded, “We can comment after they let it be demolished?”
The owner of the Harvest Home is a company called Harvester Properties (UK) Ltd (company registration 07530545) who received the funds to purchase the site from Martina Schmidlin of Holland Park, London. Attempts to contact the new owners have not been successful.
SOCIAL FOCAL POINT
B&DBC procedure says that it is the “local importance of the building and not the merits of the redevelopment scheme” that determines if the council should act. So far, the council has refused to act on behalf of Whitchurch residents.
The local importance of The Harvest Home is well established: it is listed with B&DBC because “it is largely intact and therefore rarer”, is of high visual prominence and is a “social focal point”.
Officers at the council stated in January that the “pub building itself is attractive” and went on,
The close proximity of the Conservation Area [next to the building] and the need to protect its setting, along with the general requirement for new development to respect the character of the area, gives the building some indirect protection.
Additionally, the building is noted by the council as being of “local architectural or historic interest and importance [which] adds to the richness of the local built environment, and should be preserved wherever possible.”
The council’s ‘local list’ was established in 2006 and contains about 576 properties. Just two have been or are threatened with demolition: one on Worting Rd , Basingstoke and another in East Oakley.
Campaigners say that there has not been any liability claim in the UK for a council acting to stop demolition using an ‘Article 4 Direction’; that B&DBC carry liability insurance with £nil excess; and that B&DBC have misdirected themselves regarding their liability figures and risk.
On a related note, B&DBC are currently considering the (retrospective) planning application for the 8-foot high hoarding which extends around 3 sides of the site. Officers and councillors visited the site this morning, Friday 12 August 2011 to assess it.
The hoarding was erected by the developer in April without planning permission. It is directly next to the Conservation Area.
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Other news items about the Harvest Home are linked from the campaign webpage HERE.