Case Study: Service area, Vale of White Horse District Council

Background

Our client sought to bring forward proposals for a service area off the A34 at Chilton, Oxfordshire, compromising of a petrol filling station, electric vehicle charging points, parking, retail and a food and drink outlet. The proposed site was ideally located for such a development – a small triangle of farmland cut off by highways upgrades at the Chilton A34 junction, located on a stretch of the A34 with no northbound services for 40 miles.

Challenge

  • The site was within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and officers were concerned the proposals constituted ‘major development’ in the AONB.
  • Additional concerns were raised that the scheme would generate a significant level of increased traffic at the interchange, and poor sightlines on the northbound slip road.

Solution

  • We launched a community consultation website outlining the proposals and providing our contact details for residents and stakeholders to direct enquiries and comments.
  • We sent out a detailed briefing letter to nearly 800 local residents and businesses, directing them to visit the consultation website and leave feedback, receiving almost 90 positive responses.
  • We arranged a series of meetings with stakeholders, including the site ward councillor, the Oxfordshire County Councillor, the Parish Council and neighbouring Parish Council, as well as the Harwell Campus and neighbouring businesses. The ward councillor proved extremely supportive, and agreed to call the application in to Planning Committee.
  • Crucially, we organised a series of meetings with the North Wessex Downs AONB Board, which culminated in the Board writing to Vale of White Horse District Council supporting our stance that the proposals did not constitute ‘major development’.
  • SP Broadway arranged a meeting with the site’s Member of Parliament, who supported the proposals and wrote to Vale of White Horse District Council urging them to consent the application.

Result

The application went before the first Planning Committee after local elections, where the Conservatives had lost their majority to the Liberal Democrats, who did not share the previous administration’s enthusiasm for the Service Area and refused the application.  An appeal was subsequently submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.

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