Forbury Gardens (Planning Application 191467): Most years in recent times the Grade II Registered Park and Garden at Forbury Gardens hosts a Winter on Ice Festival with an ice rink, with a marquee, skate hire and side stalls. For this the organisers need temporary planning permission between November and January. BGT have never raised any objection to this festival but we have had concerns about the damage to the historic gardens, which were restored in 2005 using a Heritage Lottery grant, over the Festival period. We are pleased that this year much has been done to reinstate the garden and its features.
A relevant map can be viewed at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000586
Palmer Park: Although the Park is not on Historic England’s Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, it is of great local interest as well as having the listed statue of George Palmer. It was first developed as a recreational area in 1889, donated by Huntley and Palmer and laid out with avenues, entrances, pavilions and an arena. Reading Borough have plans to provide a new swimming pool and to upgrade the park with new activity spaces, café, and landscaping. BGT have supported this proposal which is very much in keeping with the historical ethos of the Park. Detailed comments were submitted and we are pleased to see that many of our comments have been taken on board either in the published Framework which was adopted in April this year or promised as part of the final detailed proposals. Most importantly we wished to see the historic features and character of the Park retained and enhanced as part of the move for greater nature conservation and improved access.
Reading Borough Local Plan and Transport Strategy: The Local Plan was finally adopted in November 2019 on which BGT submitted comments during the consultation process. This plan has been followed up by the Reading Transport Strategy which was due to go out to consultation on 31 March this year but has been postponed due to Covid-19. The Transport Strategy is an ambitious plan for the Borough but also affects the neighbouring Wokingham Borough, West Berkshire and South Oxfordshire District. Once consultation resumes, we will review this document. However, as the Local Plan is reasonably strong on historic issues, it is hoped that the proposals will not have an adverse effect on the Borough’s historic parks and gardens.
Participation in the Planning Process:
Park Place, Remenham Hill (Planning Applications 182327 and 182524): Two planning appeals for extended polo facilities on the Grade II* Registered Park and Garden (RPG) at Park Place, Remenham have recently been dismissed by the Planning Inspector. A hearing was held in February 2020 where BGT played an important role in putting the case, together with Wokingham Borough Council which had refused the planning applications, that the proposed development would be harmful to the Park. Much of what BGT said at the Hearing was noted by the Inspector and contributed to his decision.
The Inspector placed great weight on the importance of the Park: Registered parks and gardens are key components of the historic environment. These irreplaceable, distinctive and much cherished parts of our inheritance are a fragile resource that can be easily damaged beyond repair. Grade II* parks and gardens are particularly important sites and of more than special interest. The Berkshire Gardens Trust (BGT) has informed me that Park Place is one of the very few Grade II* Registered Parks and Gardens in Berkshire.
He states that: I afford great weight to the harm to the significance of a RPG that is of more than special interest. I also share the concerns of the LPA and the BGT that the proposal, together with the existing riding arena to the west, the polo pitch to the south west and the pavilion, would have a cumulative adverse impact upon an appreciation and understanding of the significance of this part of the RPG.
He finally concludes that both proposed developments would harm the significance of the RPG and this harm would not be outweighed by the public benefits. Wokingham Borough Council now hope to work with the owners and will continue to consult BGT.
A relevant map can be viewed at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000588
Wokingham Borough Local Plan: The Council consulted on their new plan earlier this year. In our comments in April this year, we were very pleased to see that the plan was strong on protecting and enhancing the historic environment. Through the publication of their Landscape Character Assessment in 2019, the Borough identified the importance of not only the Registered Parks and Gardens but also some locally important parks and gardens. BGT had contributed a list of gardens to the Council for consideration. These now enjoy extra protection. In our comments on the new plan we also drew attention to the historic interest of other sites which might be affected by development, including parts of Whiteknights Park, Ludgrove School and Joel Park. The new plan is currently under further consideration by the Council.
BRACKNELL FOREST BOROUGH
Draft Bracknell Forest Local Plan Revised Growth Strategy: In March this year the Council reported on the comments submitted in connection with the new plan for proposed further growth in the Borough, mostly notably proposing a large strategic allocation at Jealot’s Hill. BGT made a number of comments supporting the Council’s approach although we would have liked to have seen greater recognition of the value of non-Registered local parks and gardens. We are pleased to see that none of the proposed additional sites for development would affect the Borough’s parks and gardens.
Grade II* listed, Ascot Place Historic Park & Garden (Planning Application 19/01072): The proposal to demolish an existing dwelling and outbuildings and erect a block of nine apartments at 127 Fernbank Road, Ascot includes reinstatement of part of the historic drive which falls under the Grade II* listing of Ascot Place Historic Park & Garden. BGT commented in April this year and raised no objection, welcoming an opportunity to enhance a rather untidy site. However we felt that more detailed information was needed on the reinstatement proposals and the existing tree cover to ensure that no harm arose from the scheme.
A relevant map can be viewed at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000580
BGT have also sent in minor or neutral comments on a number of less significant proposed developments around Berkshire. We are seeing a number of small changes, mostly to existing buildings within our parks and gardens. These have included up to the end of April this year: at Windsor Great Park, Legoland, Eton College, Ditton Park, the proposed updated Minerals and Waste Plan for Wokingham, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and Bracknell, and Crowmarsh Neighbourhood Plan.
The planning team at BGT are Bettina Kirkham, Charles Elly, Fiona Hope and Helen Parvin.