Reasons to... Say NO to Static Caravans
Last update 12 June 2019
Key messages (sound-bites!) are in the green boxes
Deadline for objections has been extended further since the applicants have provided more information on 10 June. See the two sections marked NEW below
Impact on landscape and views
Policy 3 of North Northamptonshire’s Joint Core Strategy requires development to "safeguard and, where possible, enhance important views and vistas". Also it must "protect the landscape setting and contribute to maintaining the individual and distinct character".
Where else in the area is there a public space with views like this?
The views of, and from, Top Lodge will all be ruined
The application claims "there would be very limited visibility of the proposed development from the publicly accessible locations ... and leisure facilities at Fineshade Wood". The picture below was taken from the courtyard at Top Lodge. The nearest caravans would be 40m away, just beyond the far fenceline.
Access from the main road
The single-track to Top Lodge from the A43 is already extremely congested during the holiday season. There is a dangerous junction with the A43
This page of our website has pictures of previous traffic problems along the access route.
The writers of the Planning Application have clearly not seen these pictures, nor have they surveyed current traffic flows, before blithely stating that the static caravan site would not cause problems. The Highways Authority need to realise.
Can you help us share the link to this
gallery of pictures?
The single track lane to Top Lodge is already at capacity
These pictures were taken in early February this year. The picture on the right showed traffic parked on the verge (owned by the Forestry Commission) where the application proposes to create an access to the static caravans.
Update 26 February. Northants Transport, Highways and Infrastructure Dept initially OBJECTED to the application, listing 15 complex technical problems with the plans. You can see them here under Consultee Comments. However, they do not currently object on the basis that the single track road is already at capacity.
Update 6 March. FC have released the traffic data they have collected over the past year and this shows that, at peak times, the road is at carrying capacity. Will Highways now use this to strengthen their objection to the proposal?
Update 25 June. The applicants carried out their own traffic survey during the last two weeks
of May. They now predict that when the site is established, at peak times, there could be a total of 149 vehicle movements per hour which is one every 24 seconds
Over 1500 traffic movements in one day last year
Applicants' own prediction is that there could be up to one vehicle every 24 seconds at peak time - along a single track road!
Will it benefit tourism?
We say NO because:
There is no established need for more of this sort of accommodation in the area.
Nearby existing camping/caravan/lodge accommodation include:
Top Lodge Caravan and Motorhome site - discreetly situated just yards away
New Lodge Farm, 2 miles
Slate Drift Collyweston - 4 miles
Upper Benefield - 9 miles
Nassington - 10 miles
Fotheringhay 12 miles
Also Jacks Green/Rockingham Forest Park, Kingscliffe - 8 miles is being developed
Yarwell Mill static caravans and residential homes - 10 miles. 192 units!
Top Lodge, the gateway to Fineshade Wood, is one of the key tourist locations. The sight of wall-to-wall static caravans right in front of the visitor centre will make it far LESS attractive to tourists.
And in any case this is not designed to be holiday accommodation at all - see below.
No need at all for more holiday accommodation of this type
This would make Top Lodge LESS of a tourist location
Local Planning Policies would prevent it
The application must satisfy all the current planning policies. If it does not, the council will be able to reject it.
The applicants have paid RPS group to produce a most interesting and helpful document called the Planning Supporting Statement. You can download their 28 page document here. (12.2MB file)
The document is helpful in that it lists lots (but not all) of the pertinent planning policies.
It is interesting in that it make little or no effort to show the policies are satisfied.
Example 1... Policy: "Council will take a positive approach to development that reflects the presumption in favour of sustainable development". The section of the report on sustainabilty (sections 1.70-75) is very weak and full of holes. Direct employment on the site is unspecified, additional income to the area is unquantified, no plans are provided to provide enhanced infrastructure to support and enhance people's enjoyment of the outdoors, energy saving measures are unlisted. No mention is made of water supply or treatment of sewage. The flimsiest of evidence is given to support the three dimensions of sustainable developments (economic, social and environmental). It is hard to imagine a less sustainable development than that proposed.
Example 2... Policy: "design of buildings - proposals must relate well and enhance the surrounding environment". The document refers to "high quality timber lodges" but gives no detail except there will be decking and the provision of one (or two - it is contadictory) parking spaces. It is hard to believe that they will enhance the surrounding environment.
Example 3: Policy: "the distinctive historic environment will be protected preserved and enhanced. Proposals should protect and enhance key views and vistas of heritage assets". The document suggests that the harm done by 32 caravans located in rows close in front of the Grade II listed farmhouse would be balanced by the public benefit.
And so it goes on - policy after policy where this proposal is obviously and seriously non-compliant.
It is hard to imagine a less sustainable development
Application is non-compiiant with many of the most important planning policies
Adders and slow worms are regularly seen on the fields and the areas all around it. There are also other protected species including foraging bats, rare butterflies and plants.
In their Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (dated December 2018) the applicants' own ecological advisors stated that it would be necessary to carry out detailed surveys for reptiles and plants at the very least. As these are protected species, this could not be carried out after Planning Permission is granted (surveys of this importance cannot be "conditioned:")
A reptile and plant survey (but not bats and invertebrates) was therefore carried out this spring. Many reptiles, including Adders were recorded (even though the survey was commenced after the main period for Adder activity.) The plant survey failed to find flowers of note - hardly surprising since the field had been heavily grazed by sheep in the months leading up to the survey.
The applicats' new Ecological Assessment (dated 10th June) therefore proposes mitigation for the protected reptile species. What is proposed is basically to capture all the reptiles and translocate them to an area at the other end of the field away from the proposed caravans. This area is shaded by trees for much of the day and, in our opinion, it is therefore an unsuitable receptor site.
Next a "destructive search" would be carried out, destroying any suitable habitat around the proposed caravan site. All the details of what is proposed can be read in the revised Ecological Assessment. However this new report fails to respond to the detailed objection submitted by Northants Bat Group in March 2019. Nor does it address the question of destruction of habitat for butterflies, glow worms and other invertebrates.
What is clearly apparent is that there is no suggestion of biodiversity gain as a result of this development as required by planning policies.
Above is the now rare White Letter Hairstreak butterfly pictured at the edge of the field last year.
Ecology Assessment issued 10th June 2019. (A 7.8 MB file)
It is proposed to capture and move reptiles to unsuitable habitat the other end of the field, and destroy the habitat they are using now
No net biodiversity gain
Male Adder on 14th March 2019
Photo by Sandy and Chris Barker
On the left an Adder and a Slow-worm, both protected species that would not survive on a high-density static caravan site
Above a Glow-worm which can be seen on the field as you walk by on summer nights
What's the difference between a holiday park and residential caravans? It's certainly much easier to get planning permission for a holiday park.
Wouldn't you expect a holiday park to have employed people? (reception staff, on-site wardens, cleaners, maintenace staff etc). This application specifically says NO ONE WILL BE EMPLOYED!
A holiday park would have an office, a store, bike sheds, lighting, security etc. This application has none of these - just 32 self-contained static caravans.
A holiday park might well have two car-parking spaces per cabin. As you can see from the plan, there would be just one - suitable for the sort of couples that might be interested in buying residential accommodation.
The company behind the application only operates residential developments and seem to have no experience of, or interest in, holiday accommodation.
It seems pretty certain that this is a proposal to get permanent residential accommodation at Top Lodge in the guise of a holiday park
A barely disguised application for residential development
Impact on the setting of Grade II listed buildings
Planning law makes it clear that the setting of listed buildings should be protected and if possible enhanced by proposed development.
The application accepts that there will be damage to the setting and views of the Top Lodge house and farm buildings, but tries to claim that the harm done will be "less than substantial". This of course is a matter of opinion so it is well worth telling the Planning Officer what you think about this. Here is one objector's opinion:
"My objection is based on the fact that the proposed development will disrupt the established field pattern (through introduction of buildings and screen planting) and obliterate the direct relationship between Top Lodge and its closest grazing meadow. This will have the effect of making it more difficult to read the historic connection between Top Lodge and its agricultural role and setting.
The assertion that the impact is ‘negligible’ and that ‘The topography of the proposal site means that most of the accommodation units would not be visible in views from or across Top Lodge’ is not borne out by examination of the proposed location and density of caravans. The result of this analysis is the absence of any measure to manage the impact of the proposed development on the setting of the listed building"
Please tell the Planning Officer what you think.
The distinctive historical environment and setting of Top Lodge would be ruined by 32 timber cabins