16 Oct 2009

Threat to Ruscombe fields?

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) - catchy title - is a report undertaken to provide information on opportunities that exist to meet housing needs in the District. The aim is to identify sites to assess their housing potential - see my previous discussion here.

Photo: map showing sites and Ruscombe valley showing part of site 87 on the right of photo

We are currently at the stage where 296 sites, including the four local sites are being assessed by an independent company (Roger Tym and Partners). A final report will help inform the production of Local Planning Policies which will identify suitable areas for future housing development.

As noted before I think it is extremely unlikely that most of the sites mentioned will be identified as being suitable for any form of development due to the number of constraints - the Ruscombe fields (87) and Randwick (65) are particularly unlikely - however in discussions at the last Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish meeting we agreed to make clear to the District Council key objections. Below you can see some quick notes that I have sent on the sites including Callowell and Kitesnest Lane....

I would like to note support for the comments made by Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish Council re the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment - these are our immediate concerns regarding these sites and we would be happy to provide more information if needed.

Comments on sites that affect Whiteshill and Ruscombe are being assessed under the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment

RTPI 65 Land at Mount Farm Randwick
This site is a typical Cotswold hillside of limestone grassland within the AONB. It is a very prominent skyline location which if developed could be seen from miles around, and would significantly increase the urbanisation of the area. There are areas within these fields that contain a very rich diversity of species, such as bee orchids and skylarks, and help support a population of lesser horseshoe bats. It is part of a belt of agricultural land that separates the villages of Randwick and Ruscombe and the Parishes of Randwick and Whiteshill and Ruscombe. If development took place in this location the character of these settlements would alter fundamentally and additionally the division between parishes would be lost. The only access to the site it by narrow country lane that is already choked with traffic at peak times.

RTPI 87 Land behind Farmhill Rd Stroud
Much of this site is actually in Whiteshill; it constitutes about a third of the Ruscombe valley and if developed would profoundly degrade the rural nature of the valley. There is no suitable road access to the site which would have to be reached by driving through existing residential crescents. There are serious deficiencies in the current infrastructure such as the storm drains and sewers in the Ruscombe valley. Considerable flooding already occurs in the lower reaches of the valley causing pollution and damage to affected properties. This would only be increased should more houses be put in this location. The land already has an article 4 notice placed upon it preventing further development, clearly indicating the importance of maintaining this area as agricultural land. There are extensive badger setts on this land and a number of trees with TPOs. The grassland also contains a number of wet flushes, providing a wide diversity of habitat.

RTPID 121 Land off Kitesnest Lane Whiteshill
The description of this site is misleading. Kitesnest Lane is a very narrow tarmac track which has a mixture of houses on both sides. It contours round a steep hillside to a dead end. The proposed site overlooks these houses and would have to be accessed from the Whiteshill Edge road. Although this looks like a minor stretching of the village envelope, the gradient of the land and lack of space for footpaths means that this site could not be readily integrated with the existing settlement. Additional development has already been rejected by Gloucestershire Highways on the grounds of no safe area to access the road network.

RTID 148 Land south of Callowell Farm
This Callowell site is part of the start of the Painswick valley and to have housing on a prominent site at its start will have a serious impact on one of the most beautiful entries into Stroud. The development of this site would have a serious impact upon the infrastructure and potential pollution events since it leads directly into water courses running at the lower end of the land area.

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