Agenda item

30936/007/FUL/JonH - Wield Yard, Yew Tree Lane, Wield, Alresford, SO24 9AJ

Hattingley Valley Wines


Building to provide storage and processing space ancillary to existing winery (as amended by plans received 10 April 2017.


Building to provide storage and processing space ancillary to existing winery (as amended by plans received 10 April 2017)


The Principal Planning Officer introduced the item and gave a background to the history of the site and the winery.  The winery had been granted planning permission in 2009 and since then wine production had increased. It was explained that the applicant required the building at Wield Yard to negate the need for their current off site storage and that it was estimated that the proposal would result in a reduction of approximately 323 vehicle movements associated with off-site storage.


He displayed an aerial photograph of the site, along with photographs of and from within the site and the street scene.  Photographs from an adjacent  footpath were also shown, which illustrated that the site was well screened and that there would only be a glimpsed view of the roof of the proposed building from the north-west. 


In addition he showed elevations and a floor plan of the proposed building, along with elevations for the original proposal.  The revised application was for a building 33% smaller than that initially sought and the height comparable with the existing winery buildings.


The recommendation was for approval.


Mrs Catherine Simon spoke on behalf of objectors to the application.


Local residents strongly objected to the application.  The winery was no longer a small local business, it had grown into a large international business that supported 19 other businesses and exported to 14 countries. 


The proposal would have an adverse impact on the area by virtue of noise, disturbance, light pollution and visual impact.  The proposed building would be out of character and result in the loss of agricultural land, contrary to policies CP19, CP20 and CP21.  No survey into the loss of habitat had been undertaken.


With regard to transport, Government transport policy did not support industrial premises in unsustainable locations.  The movement of large vehicles would also have an adverse affect on the area and present safety concerns for pedestrians, particularly children, due to the lack of footpaths on the narrow country lanes.  A Bus Stop for the local school buses was nearby and children, narrow lanes and HGV’s did not mix well.


Cllr Alwin Hutchinson, spoke on behalf of Wield Parish Council.


The village of Wield consisted of Upper and Lower Wield, about ¾ mile apart.  His brief report outlined an updated overall village response to this revised planning application which had been based on analysis of comments submitted to EHDC between late April and early May.  Every resident had previously been provided with the key points of the revised plan and had been invited to respond.  The parish council noted that whilst the results of this analysis were not clinically precise, neither were they based on a local pub straw poll.  They assisted in making any village-wide observations more objective.


Overall, response to the revised application had been limited, with only about one quarter of all residents responding one way or another, although the response had been higher in Lower Wield than Upper Wield.  Regarding specific comment, the revised plan’s changes and clarification were generally acknowledged and were welcomed by some, but a larger number of residents, mostly, but not exclusively from Lower Wield, continued to reject the application, asserting strongly that despite the changes, they didn’t go far enough.  The over-riding objection remained the suitability of Lower Wield itself for winery expansion.  Further objections related to the layout and size of the proposed building, the accuracy of the projected traffic figures, screening and to environmental issues such as noise, light and flooding, which had yet to be fully resolved.


There had been a majority view, but only in Lower Wield, where any impact of the proposed building would be direct.  Here analysis indicated that a majority rejected the application, with three of the households closest to the proposed site the most vocal in their opposition.  The balance in Lower Wield was made up of a small number who supported the application and a larger number who did not respond.  In Upper Wield, where any impact would be indirect, there was no majority view.  A small number objected with an even smaller number supporting, but it was apparent that both of these groups were heavily outnumbered by those who made no comment at all.


In summary, against a backdrop of limited overall village interest it was clear that despite changes to the original plan, a majority in Lower Wield still opposed the revised application.  In Upper Wield, an overwhelming number offered no response at all.  To conclude, regarding this revised planning application, notwithstanding some strongly voiced objections in Lower Wield, there was no unanimity of view within either part of the village or the village as a whole.


Mr Simon Robinson spoke as the applicant.


Hattingley Valley was a rural success story and the company now directly employed 17 full time staff plus part time and casual staff and indirectly supported other local suppliers and businesses.  Hattingley Valley was also part of a national success story with exponential growth in sales both domestically and internationally.  Its quality compared favourably with its overseas competitors.  It was clearly a land based enterprise as its output was directly related to the annual grape crop.  Typically, both vineyards and wineries were situated in the countryside, connecting the source product to the final product.  As an emerging agricultural enterprise vine growing was dispersed, but concentrations were developing in Sussex, Kent and Hampshire.  Hattingley Valley was already part of this emerging wine region and with other Hampshire producers was working with Government to encourage Winchester to become a leading centre of the industry.


This application was about consolidation and logistics and making the business, as it grew, economically and environmentally sustainable.  Production was governed by the size of the harvest and the winery.  This production would occur irrespective of this application.  What this application allowed was a more efficient operation on a single site with substantially reduced traffic movements.


The wine making process was a complex multi-stage operation which required unfinished bottles to be stored, usually between 18 months and five years.  Currently wine was made, stored remotely, then returned to Lower Wield for completion; most of it also then removed again to store before returning for final despatch.  This multiple handling resulted in unnecessary and unwelcome vehicle movements, most of which were by lorry or tractor and trailer.  By increasing the storage capacity on the site, traffic movements between the winery and these storage sites were removed.  This had been acknowledged by both the district and county council, who as highway authority, had raised no objection.


It was apparent from the officer’s report that the proposals had a very clear and compelling planning policy support.  Specifically, policies allowed businesses to locate within the countryside and to expand.  The policy referred to reasonable expansion which was the main driver, with clear benefits in terms of reducing overall traffic movements.


They were acutely aware of their responsibilities to the countryside and those living nearby.  In all cases they had tried to respond positively to comments made and mitigate any impacts which may arise.  They had thus reduced the scale of their proposed building and improved its design, siting and landscaping.  They remained committed to operating from this site in a manner which added wide ranging and tangible benefits to the local economy, whilst safeguarding the amenities of the community where he lived and within which they played an active role.


He therefore trusted that the committee was able to support the clear recommendation of the councils’ professional officers.


The Democratic Services Officer read a deputation that had been submitted by Cllr Costigan, the local ward councillor.


“As the committee is aware, there have been a substantial number of objections to this development proceeding.  Not only are these from within the local community, but also from local neighbourhoods.  All will be affected by transportation to and from the site. 


The committee will appreciate, having been to the site, that the road structure is completely unsuitable for HGV traffic, some of which will in the future, so I am led to believe, comprise articulated lorries.  This would be further compounded, as each year the roads seem to narrow as the overgrown hedgerows encroach unchecked. 


The surrounding road framework is constantly in need of maintenance as pot holes are forever re-occurring, so whether the traffic is increased or not as a result of this application, this is a factor that needs to be considered. There is very little maintenance work carried out by Highways at the current time. 


I note from the details contained within the application that they claim that traffic movements would, in fact, reduce by using larger vehicles.  The situation is compounded as suppliers, in conjunction with either their own drivers or those from independent delivery firms, do not abide by the delivery times as stipulated by the winery.  There seem to be a number of unscheduled arrivals which to date, have not been managed.  The applicant would seem to have little or no interest in how the residents are affected.  It is difficult to understand how the department for Economy, Transport and Environment of Hampshire County Council could state on the one hand that the "surrounding highway network is not well suited to accommodate large vehicles" whilst on the other that, in the greater scheme of things, that the "proposal will not result in a severe impact on the local highway network".


I would refer specifically to the e-mail dated 3 November 2016 to the Planning Department from the Clerk to the Wield Parish Council and, more importantly, to the letter dated 8 November 2016 from Mr. S. C. Gray and addressed to Mr. Jon Holmes. I would therefore submit that any "reduction" in traffic movement will be solely down to the size of vehicles involved and the larger they are, the more impact there will be on the environment and the state of repair of the roads, verges and hedgerows. 


Further, photographs have been provided, which I assume will be before the committee, showing the effect of a little rain on the roads.  A large number of large vehicles using this on a regular basis would, I submit, ruin what is already a poorly maintained highway.


My understanding is that the applicants have alternative options available to them where the packing facility that they are seeking to install could be sited at the transport yard that they own, "transport" meaning that it is suitable for heavy goods to operate to and from, yet this option has not been considered. This would, of course, be a far more sensible solution to the whole issue of transportation and storage.


The committee should also be mindful that the business has substantially changed over the years, to what I deem to be called a "contract packer". This means that it is not just their own grapes that they are handling, it is those belonging to third parties. This is even mentioned on their website.  If it was not for this extra business, and they were solely reliant on their own crops, I suspect that this extension would not be required. One has to question the use of the facility as a contract packer - is this deemed as agricultural? I would suspect not. 


We cannot ignore the volume of complaints received both as a Council and as Councillors.  We must take into account the local residents and, of course, those that live within the catchment area, in making our decisions.  The fact that there have been so many complaints indicates to us that there is no local support for this extension.  It is also clear that these complaints are, to a large extent, because the applicant cannot, or will not, police its own staff and enforce current conditions.  As they said, when the original concept was agreed, it was based wholly on Hattingley Valley Wines producing its own product with the structure specifically designed for that purpose.  It is as a result of the extra third party packing that the original facility is no longer suitable.  Therefore, please do not ignore the residents wishes. 


As indicated at the beginning, I object to this application being approved and would ask the committee to support my stance and reject the application.”


The committee discussed the application and focussed on four main areas: traffic issues, impact upon the landscape, the need for the building on this site and whether the building would be classed primarily as a storage or processing facility.


With regard to traffic, the applicant had stated that one of the main reasons for the application was to reduce vehicle movements and consolidate the operation onto one site.  The applicant saw this as a key element to the growth of the business, although some members of the committee were disappointed in the lack of quantitative evidence to back up this claim.


However, the committee accepted that traffic movements would be likely to reduce, although with an expanding business, some concerns were raised about the large size of vehicles that would be used.  The rural lanes around the site were very narrow and devoid of passing places, although it was noted that agricultural vehicles already used these lanes. 


The condition of the roads had been mentioned, however this was a separate issue under the control of Hampshire County Council and outside of this application.


Members of the committee highlighted the sensitive and very rural location of the site, which was currently green field agricultural land.  Some members of the committee felt that the proposed building and expansion would be inappropriate in such a completely unspoilt location.  The site was however well screened and the proposals made by the applicant to dig the building into the ground by up to one metre and soften its frontage with cladding were welcomed.  In addition, the lowering of the ridge height would make the proposed building virtually the same height as existing buildings on the site.  The Principal Planning Officer confirmed that the landscape condition required all details to be agreed by officers and that it would be expected that all sides of the building would be screened.


The committee appreciated that the decision would be finely balanced against conflicting policies designed to promote the rural economy (CP6) whilst protecting the countryside (CP19 and CP20).  The committee had mixed opinions as to whether the economic benefits were strong enough to outweigh the potential harm to such an unspoilt rural location.


With regard for the need for the building on site, it was explained that only bonded sites could be used for the storage of alcohol.  The nearest such facility off site was in Romsey.  Some members of the committee found it hard to believe that buildings in more suitable locations, such as Alton, could not be bonded and thereby used for storing wine. 


The committee agreed that condition two be amended to restrict the usage of the building to the percentage split between storage and processing as shown in the submitted floor plan.


The committee voted on the officer’s recommendation for permission, as amended by the supplementary matters sheet, and with the amended condition restricting the usage of the building to the percentage split between storage and processing as shown in the submitted floor plan.


Following the vote, the recommendation was declared CARRIED, 9 Councillors voting FOR permission, 2 Councillors voting AGAINST permission and 1 Councillor ABSTAINING from voting.


Cllr Ashcroft joined the meeting.

Cllr Cowper rejoined the meeting.

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