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OBJECTION TO, AND COMMENT ON COLCHESTER BOROUGH COUNCIL LOCAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN POLICY - REFERENCE SS14 (ROWHEDGE)
LAND SOUTH OF BATTLESWICK FARM
I object to any proposal for future development of the land on or around Battleswick Farm on the basis of all the following points.
* This undeveloped area of greenfield land abuts relatively undisturbed and ecologically sensitive sites (e.g. some SSSI's, Coastal Protection Zones, Natural Areas and Essex Wildlife Trust 'Living Landscape' areas no.68 Roman River Valley, and no.78 Hythe-Wivenhoe, the latter of which appears to include all of the Battleswick Farm fields), including the SS14 site.
* The SS14 site slopes approximately 15 metres from the proposed access road (the current Farm entrance) in a southward direction down to Birch Brook, into which any contaminating run off is likely to drain. The Brook is already prone to rapid and extensive water level rises after heavy rain, and made worse if this coincides with high tides in the River Colne. This water level rise can approach 2 metres, and already risks flooding the lowest properties of Hillview Close. Further hardening of land north of the Brook resulting from any development can only increase this flood risk.
* Birch Brook itself, and the shallow valley that it runs through will be ecologically sensitive, and has not yet been fully surveyed for species by Essex Wildlife Trust, however it certainly contains an Eel population, and there have been reports of Water Voles in the Brook, both protected species. It should be noted that long sections of the Brook are in the Middlewick Range military lands, and have therefore remained relatively undisturbed since the mid 19th century, which makes it more likely that locally rare or other protected species, are present in the vicinity of the SS14 site and further upstream.
* The CBC Local Development Plan itself says of Rowhedge in paragraph 6.189, "the north of the village is separated from the urban area of Colchester... by a relatively short but valuable expanse of greenfield land... much of which is designated as coastal protection belt because of its high landscape value". The next paragraph 6.190 actually states that "Rowhedge is unsuitable for extensive new development".
* The SS14 site and the nearby fields also include some evidence of Iron Age archaeology. This has been identified on a "Cultural heritage resource" map, figure 4 (see extract below) of the WA Heritage (Wessex Archaeology) report no.68560.1 completed March 2008, which is an archaeological assessment of Fingringhoe and Middlewick Ranges military lands for Landmarc Support Services Ltd. Paragraph 1.3.2 in this report states that "The Historic Landscape Characterisation for Essex defines the fields as mainly pre-18th century irregular fields of probable medieval origin, although some areas of the heath were enclosed in the early 19th century".
* The CBC Local Plan Policy ENV1: Natural Environment states that any proposals for development should not cause direct or indirect harm to designated sites, protected species and irreplaceable habitats, which include important Hedgerows. The original hedgerows and field boundaries of Battleswick Farm that still remain, have an early origin. This can be seen by overlaying a current Ordinance Survey map of the area with an amalgamated 1838 St Giles Tithe Map, and 1840 East Donyland Tithe Map (see following).
* A detailed field map of Battleswick Manor dating from 1818 (reference Keele Library BW 240) after the final implementation of the 1811 Battleswick Act (the private Act of Parliament relating to the enclosure of Old Heath Common) further confirms the existence of these field boundaries and hedgerows. It is noticeable that one of these boundaries between Garden Field (parcel 14) and First Five Acres (parcel 13) appears to align with an Iron Age feature referred to in a previous paragraph, and appears as a trackway in the 1805 Old Series Ordinance Survey Map.
* The current Rowhedge Road from Cleavelands to Rowhedge over Battleswick Farm land was constructed from 1846-1876, meaning that the hedgerows that run alongside it would date from a similar time, (source: British History Online - East Donyland: Introduction). This road is certainly shown as being a fenced road on the 1881 First Edition Ordinance Survey 6 inch map.
* Battleswick Farm itself is of medieval (early 13th century) origin, and the proposed access for the SS14 development is via an original means of accessing the marshlands of the River Colne floodplain from the Farm itself. Whilst some of the hedgerow along this track has been lost to earlier residential development, current Ordinance Survey maps and satellite images indicate that significant stretches still remain. The trackway and farmyards in this area are noted as Homestead, Buildings and Yard (parcel 15) in the 1838 St Giles Tithe map land apportionments.
Establishing the antiquity, or otherwise, of the hedgerows was considered essential as a cause for objecting to this further residential development plan by the Colchester Borough Council representatives in attendance at the public information event held at Rowhedge Village Hall, 2nd August 2016. I believe the aforementioned points establish the age of these hedgerows and indicate that a diverse wildlife and ecology is most likely to be present in and around them, supported by them. In my opinion it is likely that some of these old field boundaries would meet 'Protected Important Hedgerow' criteria.
In addition to the ecological, historical and landscape value of not proceeding with the development of the greenfield site at Battleswick Farm, the following points are further causes for objection to the proposed SS14 Local Development Plan.
* Rowhedge already has significant planned development totalling some 250 residential properties ongoing at the Wharf Development sites. This will put an increased strain on already overstretched local amenities and services.
* Valuable greenfield arable farmland will be lost in this ecologically sensitive area.
* The local infrastructure is insufficient to support any further development.
* Local schools are at capacity, and any more development will be unsustainable in this regard.
* Rowhedge GP surgery is already close to capacity, and the large scale Wharf Development will overburden the practice, to the detriment of the existing local residents.
* I am given to understand that the landowners of a brownfield site (previously occupied by Blackwell's Nursury and Ramplings Plant Hire Business) off Rectory Road and towards the western edge of the village have recently been refused permission to build residential properties on this site, on the basis that the site is designated for business use only. If any further residential development has to occur in Rowhedge in the future (which is not desirable due the unsustainable stress it will place on the local area and amenities), it must surely be best practice to develop an already compromised brownfield site rather than any greenfield site.
Compilation date: 03.09.2016