The Sherbourne Developments Group, who want to turn the St Peter’s School building on The Parade into a hotel with a restaurant and a ‘modestly sized gym’, and eight new homes, have submitted new plans to Wiltshire Council.
It is not easy to see precisely how these plans differ from the original submission made in December last year, which Marlborough Town Council welcomed adding the expectation that ‘a strategy for car parking provision’ would be forthcoming. No letter from the developers explaining the changes has been posted on the Wiltshire Council planning website.
However, by analysing new reports by consultants that cover the most controversial parts of the planning application, we can see the main changes. They address the comments made on the issues raised about traffic, planning, ecology, drainage and flooding.
Traffic and parking: The poor provision of parking was issue the town wanted remedied. Parking provision and the ‘substandard’ access to the site for the hotel and homes, ledWiltshire Council’s Highways Development Control Officer, Hannah Jones, to object to the application.
After meetings with Wiltshire Council, the access has been moved 1.85 metres further from the London Road pedestrian crossing. The addition of a new parking space outside Messrs Dible &Roy (the work to be paid for by the developers) and foregoing the proposed external dropping off point for taxis, means there will be no loss of parking spaces in The Parade. There are still just two visitors’ parking places for the new homes.
However, there will be no parking for the restaurant on the site. Ms Jones’ statement that “…the applicant is best advised to look to reduce the number of units numbers to free up some space [for parking]” has been ignored. And bizarrely favourable comparison of parking needs for the new use of the school site is made with the high levels of parking at start and close of school in years gone by.
The consultant’s report states: “… it is envisaged that parking associated with the modestly sized gym and restaurant would take place on The Parade, or within nearby public car parks, such as Hilliers Yard which is an approximate 500m walk (around 6 minutes) and is free to use after 6pm.”
It continues: “Although demand for parking is high on The Parade, these proposed uses are typically associated with evenings when local shops may be closed.”
Neither the Wiltshire Council Highways Development Control Officer’s report or the new consultant’s report makes any reference whatsoever of the expected parking needs of The Parade Cinema. Joined up planning policy should surely take that into account.
Flooding and drainage: Wiltshire Council’s Drainage Engineer objected to the original plans because neither the Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) or the drainage strategy met ‘the required level of detail’. This was especially true in the case of flooding as the new homes were sited very close to the northern bank of the River Kennet.
In addition the Environment Agency objected to the original application ‘due to the absence of an acceptable Flood Risk Assessment and the proximity of the works to the watercourse.’
The new FRA is very detailed. It recommends that some of the new homes on the eastern side of the site should be constructed with voids below the floor to allow for flooding and there should be some raising of the ground level on which building takes place – with compensatory storage for flood waters.
In line with the wildlife protection measures proposed in the new ecological appraisal, the developers have moved the new houses so no building comes within eight metres of the River Kennet.
Among other minor changes will be new screening to protect existing Town Mill homes from being overlooked.
Finally, previous pupils at St Peter’s School will be pleased to know that “All existing ‘quirky’ elements [inside and outside the school building] will be retained in situ to maintain the historic record…these would include: existing school bells, the plaque between front entrances, carved entrance signage, fume cupboards, …internal signage, existing carved graffiti from past school pupils, curved metal strapwork over side door (fire exit door)”.