Category Archives: Council

Abbotts Walk Meadow – Winchester City Council Letter

Winchester City Council should have sent all residents of Abbotts Walk a letter regarding the meadow & open space.

Essentially, it looks to be giving additional detail about the site meeting minutes that have been shared and conveys a bit more of the background that didn’t come across before.

I’m sure people have their own views on each of the issues, so I will just jot down some thoughts:

Introduction

I had been led to understand the consultation would have originally happened before the transfer, based on an email form Stuart Dunbar-Dempsey on 18 Nov 2013:

Dear Mr xxxxxxxx

Thank you for your email. Your understanding of the arrangements for the provision of children’s play facilities at the Redrow development is correct. The s106 agreement included a sum of £65,859 to be paid by the developer to the City Council for the provision of play facilities on site, in lieu of them providing a facility themselves.

This amount has been ‘ring-fenced’ for this purpose but as you correctly state the development is some way off being completed and the land has not been transferred to the City Council yet. The intention would be to ensure that by the time the land was transferred a plan for a facility will have been agreed.

There has been no design work so far. However plans have progressed for the main area of open space to the rear of the development.

As the open space will also be available to adjacent residents, a meeting was held with some residents, elected Council Members, the developer and council officers on 20th March 2012. It was agreed that above all the main area of green space should be a safe area for children to use: well away from any vehicle manoeuvring area, enclosed and contained but well overlooked.

It was also agreed that there should be some formal play facility but only for the very young but that the specifics should wait until enough residents had moved-in before organising a consultation exercise.

So yes, you would be most welcome to contribute to the discussion when the time arrives however this will not be for at least another year to allow the developer to lay out the open space to a satisfactory condition and to maintain it for 12 months.

Issue 1 – Boundary

Seems like somewhat a moot point as the planning condition is in and the HIWWT stance seems pretty firm. It might be a possible ‘bargaining chip’ for issue 2, but then that negates the initial argument that required access to be blocked so unlikely. My understanding is that the public right of way is not the sensitive part, but the area across the river.

Issue 2 – Future of the meadow

It clarifies where the incendiary term “sterile municipal green space” came about. No mention of HIWWT’s specific plans but guess that is for them to propose. It doesn’t mention that they were asked to ‘develop’ their proposal either. Appreciate there’s a slight chicken and egg situation as they need to develop it in order to propose it, but still seemed somewhat premature to have kicked that off before even this letter.

Issue 3 – Play area

A bright primary coloured play area probably is inappropriate in this space. More natural woody type equipment could be appropriate, which happens to be what Tetlow King, the original master planners specified. The earlier email also stated:

It was also agreed that there should be some formal play facility but only for the very young but that the specifics should wait until enough residents had moved-in before organising a consultation exercise.

So not really sure what was agreed at the 2012 meeting. However, the councils ‘saved policies’ at the time were to adopt the NPFA 6 Acre Standard. My reading of which, as the Chaundler Road play area is between 430-640m walking distance of the homes on the development, requires a LEAP (Local Equipped Area of Play for under 8’s) as they are more than 400m walking distance or 280m linear distance. The policies were superceded in 2013, where the distance looks now to be set at 480m, but a significant number of homes are still beyond this. Just not sure whether an individual meeting would be allowed to override standing council policy. It may seem close to the other play area, but I think that may just be because Winchester is particularly short, it only has a quarter of the play space it should have across the city. That’s no excuse to keep to a poor standard of provision though.

It’s also worth noting the amount of money was index linked in the S106 agreement.  The most up to date number appears to be £79655, but will depend on when it actually gets paid. The interest forms part of the commuted sum and should not be transferred off elsewhere by my understanding.

Issue 5 – Future Maintenance of remaining spaces

If the other spaces are initially transferred to WCC, surely they are no longer part of the ‘managed land’ that homeowners are responsible for paying service charges to the management company for, at that point (as part of the title deed covenants). Can the management company then take on ‘additional land’ and ask homeowners to support that through service charges? Pragmatically, as it’s the same land it may seem sensible enough, but I guess the extreme example is, could the management company be given/acquire a piece of land several miles away and charge homeowners here to maintain it! I’m no legal expert, but it might not be as straightforward as it seems.

Issue 6 – Drainage Basin

Redrow and WCC need to stop calling it a ‘pond’! I understand this is going to be looked at in more detail by the council’s drainage engineer, but the basin and weather is relatively is dry at the moment so difficult to check.

Conclusion

The May elections look set to add a bit of a delay, although I guess there’s nothing to stop residents setting up a meeting for an informal discussion, inviting councillors and council officers (not sure if they’d be allowed to attend though)? just a thought.

Meadow/Play Area response to WCC [updated]

Following my previous post, detailing some of the new ideas around the meadow area, have responded to Stuart Dunbar-Dempsey sdunbar-dempsey@winchester.gov.uk at Winchester City Council with the following email.

As an individual resident, I may not get very far, so urge you to do likewise and to the local councillors if you are unhappy with the plans or lack of consultation. (feel free to borrow any elements of the text as needed :-) )


Further to my initial response and having also spoken with neighbours wanted to respond more fully. Regretfully, this is to express a certain amount of disappointment in the way things look to be going.

This is predominately based upon the site meeting minutes kindly supplied by yourself, so am aware that as I was not present there may be some misinterpretation, or missing detail. However, this in part demonstrates the lack of consultation with residents, with around 90 new households, so expect this to be in the region of 250 residents in addition to the Abbotts Barton residents who have shown an early interest.

The only resident who was at the meeting did so because they saw it happening out of their window!

I appreciate it was intended to be a site meeting, and the HIWWT were present due to the boundary, but to move that discussion on to handing over the meadow area to them and developing plans, without having aired such a possibility with residents, seems premature and ill advised.

The council’s reputation regarding consultations has recently come under heavy criticism, and my hope, following our email exchanges over the past 18 months or so, was that we would be included in them.

I understand there are initial ideas around holding an open event, but it feels as though these may only be to present plans that the wildlife trust have now already developed. Would any alternative developed plans be shown to allow a genuine choice to be made?

Another key point of note was that there were several mentions to exploring the S106 agreements and what their limits were. I understand that budgets are tight and it’s commendable to explore alternative mechanisms. However, based again on recent events, I feel the council is best not operating at the legal limits of agreements but following the original spirit of them. All the new homeowners will have been provided the S106s as part of the buying process and they are relatively clear cut as to the land to be transferred and the calculated sums of money for them to be maintained and a play facility to be built. Homeowners having invested in the development do also have specific rights with regards the managed areas detailed in their title deeds. For the council to now significantly vary these, leaves us and I expect many others feeling disenfranchised.

On some of the specific issues:

Issue 2 – The future of the 4 acre Abbotts Walk Meadow

The HIWWT plans for the field to be used as grazing land looks set to remove residents ability to use the area for other activities such as picnics, kite-flying, field games, etc. They have mentioned the use of electric fences which does not sit well with it being a child friendly area.

The plans and discussions throughout have been for a structured play area for young children, even when they were removed from Redrow’s plans and the commuted payment agreed so that the council could consult on the design. We look set to lose this with the current ideas, and find that unacceptable.

Having not been at the meeting, I am not sure how the term “sterile municipal green space” came about or who used it. I would point to the WCC Open Space Assessment of September 2013 highlights there is a 41.92 Ha surplus of natural green space, and 17 Ha shortfall of play areas, 11.6 Ha shortfall of informal green space, and a 12.82 Ha shortfall of parks space! So if anything “sterile municipal green space” is what is needed! Although, that is never what was envisaged, as the Design and Access Statement that was submitted and accepted as part of the plans talks of meadow species being planted in this area. So it should be informal green space with play area space. To provide additional Natural green space within the settlement boundary in preference to these seems illogical at best!

Issue 4 – Arrangements for the future maintenance of the remaining areas of open space

My concern here is what would happen to the maintenance sum that was apportioned to this area of land? As that contribution will be made from the sale prices of each plot on the understanding that the land would be transferred and maintained. For homeowners, to have to pay further service charges for the upkeep of the same land would be understandably difficult to understand.

I believe there has been some issue in ascertaining the identity of the management company. Perhaps, I can assist here:

Abbotts Walk Management Company Limited (Co Reg 8173000)
Redrow House
St David’s Park
Flintshire
CH5 3RX

Notably, this is the same address as Redrow themselves and has the same directors. I expect they will outsource the management at some point.

I would also say, that if there were consultation with residents, any homeowner could have provided this from their documents.

Issue 5 – the Pond

The basin has performed significantly better this past winter. However, would like to stress the design was always for a Dry infiltration basin not a pond. I would respectfully suggest that it be independently checked before adoption (which may be difficult as things get dryer) as I’d expect rectification costs to be quite significant if there were an issue.

Once adopted will there be a risk assessment carried out in regards to any potential standing water and accessibility of children.

I apologise if I have not got things quite right, but hope you can understand land ownership can be quite emotive and my genuine hope was that we’d be able just get this done. Please can we go with the original plan as it will also likely be the most expeditious?

[UPDATE – Response from WCC]

I am sorry to read your email and learn of your dissatisfaction with the way things are being handled. I would like to re-assure you that the Council is quite determined to see this process through to a satisfactory conclusion for the residents. A conclusion I might add which does not deviate from the agreed s106 legal documents.

I will deal with your points in the order you raise them:

1. The lack of consultation with residents: it is true that there has not been, so far, any formal consultation with residents. This is because the land is still the property of Redrow Homes and the s106 monies have not yet been passed over to the Council. We would prefer to consult with residents once we are in control of the land and the s106 monies.

2. Allowing the Wildlife Trust to manage the Meadow is but one option or possibility which, I took care to stress in my site meeting minutes, ‘would need the full support of the Abbotts Walk residents (before becoming a reality) as the Meadow is after all an open space intended primarily to serve them’. So it is not by any means a ‘done deal’. I would point out however two things: the s106 Unilateral Undertaking of 2009 as amended by the Supplemental Agreement of 2012 does allow for all or parts of the Open Space Areas (as shown in green on drawing number AA.01 Rev C) to be transferred to a body other than WCC; and, the Wildlife Trust, as a neighbour with the responsibility for an ecologically sensitive Nature Reserve, were within their rights to ask the City Council whether they could ‘discuss long term management options for this land’ (WT letter to Planning Department 23 September 2011). However, nothing has been decided and the plans for the Meadow will be subject to resident consultation.

3. It is true that at the site meeting, at the suggestion of our grounds maintenance officer, we reviewed the proposal to transfer the inner greens and perimeter greens to the City Council as they are clearly not public spaces but semi-private or communal spaces enjoyed by the residents and which residents should pay for rather than the public purse. Again, the legal agreement permits this variation, but I stress that the final decision on this will not be taken until we have heard what residents have to say on the matter. The monies from Redrow for the future maintenance of these areas would go to the management company which may or may not result in a small uplift to the service charge. The choice will be yours: Either a fortnightly council mowing regime or a higher quality service more in keeping with the quality of the development. In the meantime it is the City Council’s intention to take transfer of ALL the Open Space Areas to begin with, if only just to get the whole process moving forward swiftly.

4. Your reference to the WCC Open Space Assessment of September 2013 correctly identifies the overall deficits and surpluses for the town as a whole but misses the point that most of the accessible natural green space is over the other side of town. ‘ This wealth of natural green space is, however, only really accessible to the population of the south, east and centre of the town. There are significant areas (mainly to the west and north-west) which are over 700m away from natural green space and which have poor access to these facilities’. Having said that I agree with your reading of the D& A Statement that the Meadow should be a multi-functional green space capable of supporting a wide variety of community activities and benefits, including children’s play. The WT are keen for it to also provide a degree of biodiversity and floral interest but I do not see that this would be incompatible with this.

5. The drainage feature will hold water after rainfall. This is what it is intended to do. Over a couple of days however the water percolates away. The feature has been checked by an independent person – the WCC drainage engineer – and WCC agree with Redrow that there are no longer any issues and it is working as intended. I agree however that a safety audit needs to be carried out before adoption and I will action this straightaway.

There have been delays which are not the fault of the City Council but legal transfers do take time I’m afraid. I would hope that the information I have supplied clears up any misunderstanding or misinterpretation and provides you with some of the missing details.

Stuart Dunbar-Dempsey CMLI
Open Space Project Officer

[And a comment back to them]

My particular concern around the meadow is furthered by emails that were sent on 4 March that were passed on by another resident indicated the intention might be to make the initial transfer in parts, direct to the management company and HIWWT.

I appreciate this position has changed now to a single transfer to WCC for expediency, but it appears the exploration of the possibility and intent was there. This is difficult to square away with the position that “We would prefer to consult with residents once we are in control of the land” as the consultation would need to happen before such a transfer.

Your email of November 2013 also previously stated “The intention would be to ensure that by the time the land was transferred a plan for a facility will have been agreed.“

I note your comment in the minutes. However, the appearance is that the WT are being given a significant ‘foot in the door’ and being asked to develop their plans before residents are even aware of what is happening.

Playtime – update

Been a while since posting, as most things have been settling down, but I am planning on some broadband and other updates when I get the chance.

But in the meantime, I have been supplied the minutes of a recent  site meeting regarding the Abbotts Walk Meadow & Play Area. The word document is linked below:

Site Meeting Minutes Feb 15

One of the interesting parts in section 5:

  1. Issue 2 – the future of the 4 Acre Abbotts Walk Meadow:

Instead of the Meadow being transferred to Winchester City Council, it has been suggested by the Wildlife Trust that it be transferred to them, either on a leased basis or a freehold transfer. This would enable the Trust to manage the land in a way more sympathetic to its position adjacent to the nature reserve rather than the Meadow becoming just another sterile municipal green space.   

MDR explained that, if this was considered acceptable, the Trust would do several things: (i) engage with the residents; (ii) draw up a management plan to include aims and objectives; (iii) consider grazing some cattle on the land; (iv) possibly erect stock proof fencing;

SDD commented that while this seemed on the face of it an appropriate arrangement it would need the full support of the Abbotts Walk residents, as the Meadow is after all an open space intended primarily to serve them. 

Furthermore, as part of the planning permission, it had been agreed that some provision should be made on the Meadow or elsewhere on site for children’s play.  It had further been agreed, in one of the amendments to the s106 agreement, that Redrow  pay a sum to the City Council – the ‘Children’s Play Commuted Payment’ – of approx. £66,000 in lieu of providing an equipped play area on the Meadow.  So the proposals for future management should also explain how children’s play provision would be incorporated.

I’m not sure any of the residents of Abbotts Walk envisaged the meadow being turned in to grazing land like this and how that might even be compatible with a play area. The additional fenced-off areas would mean less area for residents to make use of, which seems to defeat the point somewhat.

Anyhow, it seems like the play area may still be some way off with more discussions to be had.

The original blog posting on the play area is here

The minutes also cover some of the other green spaces, which look set to be transferred to the management company rather than the council, so residents will be liable for shared costs of the upkeep which hadn’t been planned originally. Although they may get maintained to a higher standard, assuming they keep contracting the Lawn Ranger to come every couple of weeks.

If you feel strongly about the issue, then I would suggest raising it with the local Councillors:

Dominic Hiscock, dhiscock@winchester.gov.uk

Jim Maynard, jmaynard@winchester.gov.uk

Or anyone who comes knocking on your door for a vote over the next few weeks.

 

Another Broadband update!

Hampshire County Council are conducting another consultation on where there spending programme for superfast broadband upgrades.

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/broadband/state-aid-public-consultation.htm

This apparently follows on from a review of postcode provision in April. Unfortunately, this still does not include any of the Abbotts Walk postcodes despite having sent them to them and that they exist on the council systems (for school catchment, etc)

The previous post detailing this is here. I’d encourage responses to the consultation to help make the case for getting this little bit of Winchester up to speed.

The Duck Pond!

Last week, the construction fences around the open meadow area on the east side of the Abbotts Walk site came down. The play area isn’t due to be built for another year, as the site has to be handed over to Winchester Council yet (details here). However, we do seem to have a Duck Pond, where a dry infiltration basin should be!

image

The infiltration basin consists of a large underground soakaway that takes the surface water from roads and roofs across the development. The basin itself should only fill up if there is an extreme storm event. Our basin has had water in it since December, so may have been silted up with construction dirt or not been constructed as designed.

This seems to be a problem on 2 fronts, the obvious one being safety if there is to be a children’s play area a few metres away. There are some thorns/nettles around the perimeter, but they don’t go all the way round and still quite small. The second problem is that if it is decided to excavate and ‘clean’ the basin at a later point, will it be charged to the initial construction cost or as a maintenance cost by The Abbotts Walk Management Company and onwards to residents?

[Update]
3rd issue, as the basin is part filled already, it won’t have the capacity required to come with the flooding event, maybe not even a 1 in 30yr? So surface water would flow in to the Itchen and down towards the city. Wondering if the Environment Agency need to be aware.
[\Update]

What to do?

If you’re happy with a duck pond, all is well, otherwise:

Raise a planning complaint to Winchester City Council, where they have a compliance officer who is monitoring the site.

After recent dealings with the council, it’s best if as many people as possible could raise the issue, individual complaints don’t appear to get much attention.

The complaint can be raised by email, here’s a template if you’re short on time, but it’s also best if they are individually written than all to the same template. Here are some pointers:

Recipients:

planning@winchester.gov.uk  (WCC Planning Department)
dhiscock@winchester.gov.uk   (Dominic Hiscock, Ward Councillor)
jmaynard@winchester.gov.uk  (Jim Maynard, Ward Councillor)

Subject:
Planning Enforcement Complaint – Land at Francis Gardens, Winchester, SO23 – Infiltration Basin

Planning

In the Landscape Management Compartment Plan submitted as part of the application reference 11/01798/FUL, the drainage feature in the Eastern open space of this site is detailed as a Dry infiltration Basin. This feature has contained a significant level of water since December 2013 and has recently been made accessible to the public.

This is further detailed in the Flood Risk Assessment that formed part of the original planning application 08/1937/FUL. Section 9.3.6 reads:

The infiltration swale/basin feature has been sized so as to provide storage for the excess flow over the 1 in 30 year event, up to and including the 1 in 100 year plus climate change event. This 
feature which is intended to remain dry, but in the extremists of events (1 in 100 year plus 30% allowance for climate change), will store an additional 225m3 without overflowing

Safety

The current basin constitutes an immediate safety risk, whilst there is the beginnings of a vegetative barrier, it is incomplete and there is a steep slope 1/5 gradient into the basin. (RoSPA guidance indicates fencing may be required where there is a steep slope)

The original plans for this area included a children’s play area in the open space, and whilst not on the current plans, a S106 payment has been made to Winchester City Council to build a play area on site once it has been transferred to the council. This poses an obvious risk if the basin is not corrected to perform as planned.