Posted by: dorsetcpre | August 8, 2014

NDDC reject the Crown Estate’s proposals to build on the Crown Meadows

The Bryanston Park Preservation Group press release on NDDC final vote

There was considerable jubilation amongst Blandford townsfolk on Friday 25th July when NDDC councillors voted unanimously to abandon the Crown Estate’s proposal to build 200 houses on the Crown Meadows and to allocate the site known as St. Mary’s Hill in Blandford St. Mary instead.  This follows a heritage assessment carried out, by North Dorset District Council at the instigation of English Heritage, owing to concerns that the proposals to build on the Crown Meadows had not taken into account relevant evidence about the historic environment and were therefore unsound.

Proposals to build on the Crown Meadows first became public in February 2010 when the Crown Estate proposed a location West of the town as a suitable site for housing development.  This was accepted by the local councillors and incorporated into the Strategic Housing Plan for North Dorset.  It came as a bombshell to both councillors and townsfolk of Blandford to learn that land West of Blandford was in fact Bryanston Deer Park, commonly referred to as the Crown Meadows.  By the time the subterfuge was recognised the land had been identified as the preferred development option for Blandford in the Draft Core Strategy, published in March 2010.

Crown Meadows in  Blandford

The proposal caused immediate concern over the impact that development of the Crown Meadows would have on the historic environment of the town.  This was highlighted both in public consultations carried out by the Council and at a public exhibition staged by the Crown Estate in the Corn Exchange.  The Bryanston Park Preservation Group (BPPG) was soon established to lobby against the development and coordinate opposition.  The Group gained considerable press and television coverage when it was able to hand over to the Council a petition signed by 5,756 persons opposed to the development.  Subsequently the Group prepared a questionnaire asking residents whether they would prefer housing development on the Crown Meadows or an alternate site at St Mary’s Hill. Of the total of 1,372 questionnaires submitted to the Council, 98% were in favour of the St Mary’s Hill site.

John Cook, chairman of the BPPG, commented: ‘All of us at Bryanston Park Preservation Group are delighted that NDDC has at last agreed to listen to the Town and reject the Crown Estate’s proposals to build on the Crown Meadows.  We have consistently commented upon the historic importance of the Meadows and of the iconic visual setting they give the town.  Our arguments have now been supported by English Heritage whose added weight has proved decisive.’

He continued: ‘It has been a long and expensive campaign to move the NDDC planning Officers away from their entrenched position of favouring the development of the Crown Meadows in preference to any alternative site.  At times it seemed to be an impossible uphill battle and we would not have succeeded without a great deal of help and support.  BPPG would like to thank the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) for its moral and financial support throughout the 4 year consultation period. We are also grateful to all the elected Blandford councillors at Town, District and County level, who have consistently opposed the development of the Crown Meadows.  Then of course there are special thanks to the very many individuals, both residents of the town and from elsewhere, who supported us both morally and with their suggestions and donations.  The rejection of the Crown Estate’s proposals was, to some extent, dependent upon an alternative site being available.  Accordingly we are grateful to the St. Mary’s Hills team for pulling out all of the stops to table an acceptable proposal in time for inclusion in the New Local Plan.’

Mr Cook noted that in addition to the Crown Meadows remaining as an iconic setting for the town, the new proposals would have other benefits.  Housing development on the site would have worsened the already chronic traffic chaos in the town centre at peak hours and this is now avoided.  Also there will no longer be a risk to river and associated wildlife, including the protected Greater Horseshoe bat.

He added that the Crown Meadows were a major asset to the town.   ‘Previous local plans had recognised their importance, but these had been cast aside to accommodate the ambitions of the Crown Estate.  We need to take action to ensure that they are never again put at risk and remain to be enjoyed by future generations.’

We now face yet another NDDC consultation process due to take place from 1st August – 12th September 2014 and there is every likelihood that The Crown Estate will appeal. So we must remain vigilant and continue to campaign vigorously so that the independent Inspector is fully satisfied with the changes at the Examination in Public.

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