Buckinghamshire Council pedals back on Country Park commitment

In the meeting today, Buckinghamshire Council decided to accept the recommendations of the report with regard to the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park (see our earlier post). This is despite the numerous complaints sent to local Councillors (some of whom tried to defer the report) and Cabinet members.

Our community deserves the extent of the Country Park that we were promised in the 2019 Local Plan. A place for nature and recreation and a means of preventing inappropriate development that would destroy the area’s character.

Please continue to write to your councillors, object to developments and support us to continue the fight.

Buckinghamshire Council seeks to change its position on Country Park THIS TUESDAY

In an unprecedented move, on Tuesday 11th October at 10 am, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet will be hearing and voting on a report regarding the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park. You can read the report online.

The main recommendation of the report is to not consider “Country Park” status for the whole area (contravening its own Local Plan), but only for the land in the Council’s ownership. This makes it easier for developments such as the film studio and the football fields/sports centre in the remainder of the area. These speculative developments are even quoted in the report and seemingly have provided “evidence” to support the council making this recommendation.

The report is full of inaccuracies and we strongly disagree with the suggestions. The reason we are in this position with the Country Park is wholly due to inaction by Buckinghamshire Council itself, so claiming this situation “just happened” is misleading their constituents.

Our local Councillors have requested the report be withdrawn to be rewritten prior to Cabinet consideration, however, this has been refused. We believe any decision based on the conclusions of this report would be improper and feel a Select Committee investigation is required.

We urge everyone to write, as soon as possible, to:

You can watch the Cabinet Meeting via webcast.

Bucks Climate Change Relay: this Sunday 2nd October

Residents all across Buckinghamshire are taking part in the Bucks Climate Change Relay, as part of The Great Big Green Week. It is a symbolic walk to connect and pass on the ‘Climate’ baton to a neighbouring town to raise awareness of Climate Change, carrying our collective requests (3 top priorities) for Buckinghamshire Council when it comes to acting on Climate Change.

This Sunday 2nd October, Marlow will do its part of the Relay. We will set off at 10 am on The Causeway, walking via the Volvo Bridge through the Greenbelt under threat from Dido Property Limited (Guernsey) and others, to Little Marlow.

After a survey of Marlow residents, our top three Climate Change requests to Buckinghamshire Council are:

  1. Prevent inappropriate developments within our valuable carbon and water-capturing Greenbelt, from bringing further traffic, pollution and concrete to our green open spaces.
  2. Protect and enhance our wildlife-rich habitats, supporting multiple protected and propriety species, to create a balanced ecosystem and help nature recover.
  3. Restoring water quality in the Thames River.

Come and join us on our walk on Sunday! More information, including the route, can be found on the flyers below.

The film studio and local access – or not

Buckinghamshire Council’s Strategic Access Officer has written an extensive response to the film studio planning application, including requesting certain conditions if granted.

They have highlighted concerns with regard to the existing registered footpath and a new permissive path proposed by Dido Property Limited (Guernsey), which requires land beyond their control.

The officer has also highlighted the conflict between the existing unlimited access to the field southeast of Roach Lake (paths we requested to be registered with your public evidence) and the planning application. This is shown in the map extract below – the blue paths are our claimed paths on top of the proposed development.

You can read the full statement online.

You can’t claim to “enable the Country Park” and take away a community’s access to the green space it currently offers. You can still object if you have not already done so.

The Environment Agency objects

Another valuable high-profile objection has been submitted by a statutory consultee for the proposed film studio development.

The Environment Agency has recommended refusal of the application on two really important grounds:

  1. We object to this development because the risk of pollution to controlled waters is unacceptable. The information submitted does not demonstrate that the risk can be mitigated.
  2. We object to the development due to its potential impact on eutrophic standing waters and the Westhorpe Watercourse. Insufficient information has been provided to assess the risks posed by the proposal on these habitats of principal importance, and insufficient details of mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures have been submitted to address any risks identified.

You can read the full objection online.

The lakes and waterways in and around the proposed site, provide a vital lifeline to the flora and fauna reaching far and wide. They also serve us as sources of water and leisure. The risk of pollution and loss of habitats far outweighs any proposed or possible site mitigation.

Hopefully, this important agency objection will further boost the numerous objections to ensure Bucks Council make the right decision when considering the application.

Green space & air pollution absorption

There is another reason why protecting our Greenbelt from inappropriate, irresponsible and reckless development, is so important. Not just for the environment, but for human health and well-being and the national economy.

An estimated 1.3 billion kg of air pollutants were removed by woodlands, plants, grasslands and other UK vegetation in 2015, according to a study produced for the UK Natural Capital accounts by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Based on national statistics, on average 9 people in Marlow die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution, especially as parts of Marlow are in an Air Quality Management Area.

How much pollution does 90 acres of vegetation remove?

You can calculate how much pollution is removed by vegetation in your area to the square kilometre level.

Postcode SL7 3RB gives the approximate location of the film studio: that’s just above the national average of pollutants removed per square kilometre, contributing to the approximately £15.5 million a year of healthcare savings across Buckinghamshire (in 2012 prices; this is about £20.3 million today).

Removing 90 acres of vegetation in this patch will result in a 36% reduction in pollutant removal, putting it well below the national average. And we will all pick up the tab for the increased healthcare costs. Unless you are registered in Guernsey, of course.

Object to the film studio while you can.

The real fact check

You may have received another flyer recently from Dido Property Limited (Guernsey), branded as Marlow Film Studio, which contains a “fact check”. It’s worthy of a fantasy film.

Here is the reality to their claims:

The jobs created will not go to locals and the benefits will not be felt in the local economy.
Dido Property Limited (Guernsey)/Marlow Film Studio is proposing a facility rental model. They will have absolutely no say on who gets hired or from where, by the renters. Facility maintenance and security jobs are likely to be outsourced to giant contractors at the cheapest rate.

There is no guarantee any traineeships for local schools, will actually get delivered. And will the traineeships be in property from the developers? They are not film makers and have never run a film studio!

The company won’t pay taxes in the UK or give back to the local community.
Dido Property Limited (Guernsey) will extract rent from companies, on which it won’t pay any UK taxes. Why would they register the property company in Guernsey, where they neither live or operate, unless to take advantage of the tax laws?

The studio will stop the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park.
Removal of 90 acres of green open space enjoyed by many, from the designated Country Park area, to create an industrial warehouse landscape will definitely impact the entire area. This land was designated for the benefit of the community. Dido Property Ltd (Guernsey) are trying to ignore the adopted Local Plan for financial gain. A mechanism and funding for delivery of the Country Park already exists.

The site will get flipped for housing once planning is granted.
If the planning application is approved, the greenbelt protection is removed and it will be open to speculative planning applications or modifications in the future (see precedents from Bray or Pinewood). The directors of Dido Property Limited (Guernsey) might decide to cash in and sell the land with planning application to a third party, who could build something quite different.

The studio will destroy wildlife and biodiversity.
The area is not ‘low-grade infill’ as described, but wildlife rich habitat supporting many priority and protected species. The developers own ecological statements confirm this, as well as indicate that net gain biodiversity cannot be achieved on site. They have not detailed where the mitigation will be delivered, so most likely they plan to pay money into an off-setting habitat bank – not an acceptable practice, as local populations will simply die.

There will be thousands of extra car and HGV movements on the A404.
The Transport Assessment in the planning application details the thousands of extra vehicle movements. National Highways have objected to the development for good reason. It’s pie in the sky thinking, to expect 40% to use public transport, when less than 2% do so at Pinewood. Once the planned bus service is demonstrated to be unviable, it will be stopped too.

Conclusion: object to the PR smoke and mirrors

The portal is seemingly still accepting responses, so please object and spread the word among friends and family to do the same.

Alternative Site Assessment (Part 2): English Farm

Dido Property Limited (Guernsey) claim there is no other “preferable site where the benefits that will flow from the development can be secured.

From our desktop study, we have identified other alternatives that are still suitable according to the criteria proposed by the developers.

We already talked about the Stonor Film Studios. Here we look at the land near English Farm in Nuffield, Oxfordshire, located within easy reach (close to the proposed magic 30 miles) of the West London film cluster. It is owned by one of the directors of Dido Property Limited (Guernsey), namely Robert Laycock.

The area is not designated as a Country Park or does not fall within the Greenbelt. This alternative site “is considered to be of medium/low landscape value furthermore it is considered that the Site has a low susceptibility to the proposed change brought about by the proposed scheme.

In terms of access, we believe that “with [a] robust Sustainable Transport Strategy in place that the impact (…) would be manageable” on the A4130. “The mean maximum queues would be well accommodated” by other nearby roads.

Why was English Farm not considered as an alternative site for the film studio project? Is it because one of the directors lives there?

We don’t need a film studio on our doorstep either. Object to it now.

Alternative Site Assessment (Part 1): Stonor

Dido Property Limited (Guernsey) claim there is no other “preferable site where the benefits that will flow from the development can be secured.

From our desktop study, we have identified other alternatives that are still available according to the criteria proposed by the developers themselves.

The first one is the land at Stonor, located within easy reach (close to the proposed magic 30 miles) of the West London film cluster. It is owned by the family of one of the directors of Dido Property Limited (Guernsey), namely William Stonor.

The area is not designated as a Country Park or does not fall within the London Greenbelt. It appears to be kept as a private “deer park”.

Situating the Stonor Film Studio here, will “enhanc(e) the economic strength of the area and mak(e) it a better place to live, work and visit.” Given the relatively small impact of the film studio on the overall land area available in Stonor Park, “it is not considered that there is any loss of designated outdoor recreation space or (…) Park.

Why was Stonor not considered as an alternative site for the film studio project? Is it because one of the directors lives there?

We don’t need a film studio on our doorstep either. Object to it now.

I am not worried about the Film Studio, I won’t be able to see it.

Let’s ignore the increase in traffic, pollution and the loss of biodiversity and green breathing space. You might think that the Film Studio buildings will blend into the surroundings, but tall grey sound studios will be visible far and wide.

How far? From the whole of Marlow, Bourne End and surroundings:

You can study the visibility map for yourself in detail on HeyWhatsThat.

It is not too late – object now.