Stour Valley Action Group
Current Activity
Photo Gallery
Contact SVAG
Stour Valley Action Group


26th October 2016 - Report on the Council Meeting to consider Application No: 16090 (pdf 86Kb)
Location: Land Adjoining Church of All Saints, London Road, Great Horkesley, Colchester

You may be aware that Colchester Borough Council’s Planning Committee met on October 20th in the Council Chamber to debate the plans put forward by W & H Park/Mersea homes for twenty-two houses (including four affordable homes) on the site of the greenhouses, London Road, Great Horkesley. The meeting was chaired by Councillor Theresa Higgins. The plans were unanimously passed.

A brief summary of the proceedings:

Simon Cairns, the Chief Planning Officer, presented the Mersea Homes/W & H Park plans to the Councillors. He emphasised:

  • only 3.3 hectares of land were to be developed
  • that the land to be developed was on the footprint of the current greenhouses
  • there is a package of public benefits - to be finalised dependent on the proposals being accepted -   which includes four affordable homes, £150K to be given to the church, money to the local PCC for maintenance purposes, improved biodiversity and landscaping
  • he drew attention to the fact that this is a departure application but said that the Inspector’s report had effectively given the Council ‘permission’ to build on this land by describing it as not technically greenfield land
  • the number of houses being planned are justified by discussions with Historic England. Fewer houses would not create the kind of synthetic community that Historic England called for
  • development creep would be prevented by restricted covenants precluding anything other than agricultural use (& the National Trust had not responded to calls for their involvement in covenanting the undeveloped land) and there is an options agreement with CBC to buy back the land at agricultural rates

Summing up, he posed the central question for the councillors: do the benefits outweigh the disbenefits that would result from building outside the Borough Plan? His clear and emphatic point was that they did.

Mike Hunter (Nayland and Wissington Conservation Society) put a rapid and detailed case against the proposals specifically pointing out how granting permission would go against many instructions continued within the NPPF and highlighted Paragraph 116. He questioned the efficacy of the proposed covenants and also the Options Agreement asking whether it would last five years, ten years, thirty years or in perpetuity?

Both councillors Christopher Arnold and Nigel Chapman - our local councillors - spoke in support of the Application. Neither of them are on the Planning Committee. Councillor Arnold spoke in support of the Officer’s position that the proposal would create a new community around the Church and remove a serious eye-sore from the AONB. Councillor Chapman spoke as a Councillor and as Chairman of the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Project and considered that the proposed development was consistent with the policies of the Project which was very important. W & H Park/Pigeon had done a very good job of Public Consultation and this was remarked on by Councillor Arnold.

Simon Cairns went to some trouble to emphasise that the Council had had the Inspector’s conclusion that development might be allowed on the site to remove a serious ‘eye-sore’ tested by legal opinion which had allowed them to support the Application. This was crucial to their case for acceptance.

Councillor Chapman started by giving the plans his full support adding that affordable housing is part of a large package of public benefits, that the countryside around the Church will be enhanced for years to come. He had some concern about possible light pollution.

Councillor Barton made reference to the Committee’s site visit that morning and saw the‘eyesore’ surrounded by beautiful countryside. She asked for a condition to be added that the affordable homes are used for local people.

Councillor Hazel suggested the homes be allocated by the local PCC. She also asked about the water and waste supply and ended by underlining Mike Hunter’s question about the length of the Options Agreement.

Simon Cairns responded by saying

  • it is not realistic to hold the view that this land would ever be returned to agricultural use - although not identified as ‘brownfield’, in effect it is
  • the Options Agreement would last in perpetuity and qualified this by adding or ‘for as long as they can arrange for it within the law’
  • the arrangements for water and waste are all contained in the Officer’s report as are provisions for the affordable homes to be used by locals
  • a Lighting Strategy could be adopted for the site

Councillor Higgins asked for a vote on the plans (with the implementation of a Lighting Strategy). The Committee unanimously voted to pass the plans. No abstentions.

11th May 2016 - Planning Application (pdf 77Kb)

You have yet to hear the committee’s view on the latest application for the London Road site at Great Horkesley, application 160906, you may be wondering what is going on. Many apologies for our tardy response. The truth is that we have been going through exhaustive discussions in order to come up with a response to the Council that reflects a range of views on the committee and, I suspect, in the community. 

Please note that the Council have granted us an extension: we now have until May 20th to submit a response. If you wish to express your own view we would encourage you to get your letter into the Council by that date. However, the planning officer informs me that all submissions will be considered until July 19th, the date the Planning Committee will meet.  Details of how to submit your response are given on the Council website

The Stour Valley Action group was established in 2001 with the sole purpose of opposing plans for the development of the Horkesley Park Heritage and Conservation Centre. This was a development of national significance entirely out of keeping with the rural setting that opened up the risk of significant commercial and retail operations within and abutting the Dedham Vale ANOB. 

The potential for harm to the countryside was clear to all and the membership of SVAG was unanimously committed to the common cause of preventing that development from taking place. After battling a number of applications in different forms, SVAG was instrumental in seeing the application refused by the Colchester Borough Council and in the subsequent dismissal of the appeal by the Secretary of State in 2014. 

Although the spectre of the Horkesley Park proposal was finally seen off by the administration of the Bunting and Sons business and the subsequent sale of their assets, including the site, SVAG resolved to remain in existence to monitor future development proposals. This was with the stated aim of gathering information about new applications, scrutinising the details and informing our membership. 

As you will know, the site was acquired by W&H Park Limited in 2014 for the purpose of residential development. The proposal now before us is for a development of eighteen houses and four affordable homes limited to the site of the present greenhouses and associated buildings. There is also a commitment to make improvements to the church of All Saints. We have liaised closely with W&H Park and the Borough Council to monitor these proposals and in particular to seek to minimise the impact of the proposed development. We seek to encourage the imposition of safeguards against further development through the provision of restrictive covenants and the requirements of any S106 Agreement (the legal agreement that the Council will require before Planning Permission becomes effective). As you will also know, that application has now been submitted and is available to view on the Council’s website. 

It has become increasingly clear that the unanimity of views that bound us in our
opposition to Horkesley Park no longer clearly applies. Within the SVAG committee and the wider membership there are a range of views – many object in principle to any development within the ANOB and to any residential development not in accordance with the local plan. Others are more tolerant of a “least worst” resolution for a site which they believe will inevitably be subject to redevelopment. 

Accordingly the SVAG committee has decided to summarise the key ways in which the application is a departure from current planning policy and the Local Plan, reserving judgement on a formal objection pending: 

  • clear restrictions on any further development across the whole of the site if the Council are minded to approve the application. 
  • a justification of the scale of the development. Has there been a Viability Assessment not yet in the public domain and if not we would like to know the justification for twenty two houses on this site? 

Your own opinion of this application will be guided by many things: where you live, concerns about policy and precedent and by your reaction to the proposals as you have examined them. 

The SVAG committee hopes to be able to post our letter to the Council at the beginning of next week.  Unfortunately the SVAG mailbox cannot be monitored over this weekend, please do contact me directly on if needed.

13th December 2015 - Update (pdf 85Kb)
On December the 5th at Little Horkesley Village Hall, Pigeon Investment Management Limited (“Pigeon”) and Mersea Homes Limited presented plans of their proposals for the construction of 18 houses and 4 affordable dwellings upon the site (“the site”) currently occupied by the greenhouses at London Road (the former Horkesley Park site).

3rd June 2015 - Update (pdf 83Kb)
Aware that you have had no news from us for many months, I thought you'd like to know that SVAG continues to monitor proposals for the greenhouse site on London Road. This brief message is mainly to reassure you of that fact!

Pigeon Asset Management, who currently own the land, have been focused on getting the sale of Westwood Park through and, as most of you will know, this has now happened. They are hoping to hold a public exhibition (possibly over the summer) with a planning application following on from that. 

17 July 2014 - The Way Forward For SVAG (pdf 17Kb)
SVAG met on July 3rd to discuss, amongst other things, the way forward. Despite excellent tennis on television from Wimbledon, approximately 100 of you attended. Following that meeting, I have now taken over from Will Pavry as Chairman of SVAG.

Will has already written to you outlining the agenda and the nature of the discussion that took place. I would like to add a note about Will. Thirteen years is a very, very long time to be heading a campaign, not just for Will but for his whole family. Will did an outstanding job, maintaining a calm, methodical approach throughout. He worked his way through endless lengthy documents, picking out their critical points or inconsistencies and setting them against government legislation so we didn't have to do this ourselves. With phone calls throughout the day, and the many meetings with planners, lawyers and environmental experts, his retirement was taken over by the demands of his role at the head of SVAG. Apart from anything else, his tireless work enabled SVAG to keep a step ahead of every new move the appellant made. Will feels very uncomfortable with praise so I will stop here: thank you so much Will & Angie.

The role for SVAG in the community hasn't ended with the demise of the Buntings' applications. We still have a job to do while the future of the London Road site is determined.

I don't wish to sound a negative note but feel it is worth highlighting that the next chapter for SVAG will be rather different: we are no longer united in opposition to an application that threaten to overwhelm the area. Houses might prove a more divisive issue.

As I am sure most of you know, Pigeon, or their development arm, W & H Park, hope to build up to ten high-end homes on the site of the existing greenhouses. Some people will be appalled by this; others will see it as the least worst option.

Along with the excellent SVAG committee, I intend to monitor developments and to keep you up-to-date with information as it emerges. If you have concerns which you would like to discuss, please get in touch.

Kate Charlton-Jones, Chairman -  

8 July 2014 - Meeting on 3rd July 2014 (pdf 24Kb)
A meeting of the Stour Valley Action Group was held in Little Horkesley Village Hall on July 3rd 2014. It was attended by approximately 100 people.

1. Recent History:
Will Pavry opened the meeting by reviewing some of the key points of the most recent Planning Application from Bunting and Sons which had finally culminated in the letter of rejection by the Secretary of State on April 16th 2014. He said that this had been summarized in the Newsletter of April 22nd  2014 which is on the web site. He thanked the membership for their support at the Public Inquiry and for the magnificent turnout at the Council Hearing on February 28th 2013 which had been crucial in persuading the Planning Committee to vote against the Application, thereby triggering the Appeal. Many people and organisations had contributed to the positive outcome of the Appeal and he thanked Dedham Vale Society, the Colne Stour Countryside Association, Nayland with Wissington Conservation Society, CPRE Essex, Little Horkesley Parish Council, Bernard Jenkin MP, Tim Yeo MP, Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project amongst others for their major inputs to the Public Inquiry. He also thanked the membership for their major financial support throughout the various campaigns which had been necessary to obtain the level of professional support required. He also said that Simon Taylor had been very helpful in persuading English Heritage to give the Chantry a Grade II listing at the eleventh hour and that Georgina Harding had worked very closely with the CBC in providing nationally-renowned academics to give Expert Opinions on the Chinese Garden and Constable Gallery aspects of the Application.

He concluded by saying that SVAG has been successful over the 13 years of its existence in leading public opinion in the defeat of five separate applications for the London Road site in Great Horkesley.

2. W&H Park Ltd:
Kate Charlton-Jones reported on the developments since the acquisition of the Bunting assets by W&H Park Limited, a subsidiary of Pigeon Investments. She reported that she had attended two meetings with them and that they seemed very eager to consult with the local community before finalizing their proposals for the site. She said that they wanted to drop the name “Horkesley Park” as this properly belonged to Littlegarth School. Their preferred option was for a limited number of high quality houses within the confines of the greenhouses and that this would include a common area around the Church. W&H Park recognized that this was outside the provisions of the Local Plan and that it would be a Departure Application. There would be a further meeting of all interested groups, chaired by Little Horkesley Parish Council. This would probably happen in September and before any submission of plans to Colchester Borough Council.

In discussion following this presentation, Steve Clarke, Chairman of Little Horkesley Parish Council, said that the intention was to try to get covenants on any proposed building to prevent further exploitation by others in the future and also to get a possible ‘right to buy’ on the agricultural and woodland areas with the concept of these going into common ownership.

3. The way forward for SVAG:
Will Pavry said the Committee had met on May 18th 2014 to consider the way forward for SVAG. They had reviewed the original Terms of Reference dated 12th June 2001 which specifically limit the activities of SVAG to the London Road Site, formerly owned by Bunting and Sons. They considered it would be very difficult therefore to widen the remit of SVAG to become a more general Lobby Group whatever the title Stour Valley Action Group might imply. They also considered that wider representation was well catered for by the other organizations listed in para 1 above. The recommendation from the Committee was that SVAG had a continuing important role to play until such time as the fate of the London Road site was determined. This was accepted by the membership at the meeting.

4. Election of Officers:
Will Pavry said that it was not his intention to offer himself for re-election as Chairman having held this role for over 13 years. He said that he had received various nominations for Kate Charlton-Jones to stand as Chairman. The nomination chosen was from Chas Bazely, seconded by Fred Grosch. Kate Charlton-Jones was duly elected as Chairman overwhelmingly by a show of hands at the meeting.

Will Pavry said that he had not received any nominations for other posts but that Simon Oats had offered himself for re-election as Vice Chairman, Carolynn Pissarro as Treasurer, Katie Romer-Lee as Membership Secretary, Andora Carver, Chas Bazely, Patty Ramsay, Alison Shaw, Georgina Harding, Mike Hunter, Mark Rogers, Fred Grosch and Vicky Minet all as members of the Committee. This group was elected by a show of hands at the meeting.
Kate Charlton-Jones thanked Will Pavry at some length for his tireless work as Chairman and also Angie Pavry for supporting him throughout.

5. Any other business:
Fred Grosch asked that particular thanks should be given to Lorraine Brooks for managing the SVAG web site so professionally. He also asked that Robin Duthy and James Maturin-Baird, both of whom have died recently, should be remembered for their major contributions to SVAG.

23 May 2014 - Meeting on 3rd July 2014 (pdf 15Kb)
There will be a meeting for members of SVAG and other supporters on  3rd July  2014 at 7.30pm in Little Horkesley Village Hall.