A couple of weeks ago someone noticed that two planning application had been submitted by to demolish the Marsworth yard and build 14 houses on the site. On closer investigation it turned out the applicant was H2O one of BW's property development partners. (To view the applications and submissions visit http://tinyurl.com/yepu8c2 and search for references 09/01945/APP and 09/01946/ACD).
At the time of the discovery just a couple of days remained before the deadline for objections but the reach of the internet ensured within a few hours the word had spread and a number of people and stakeholders put in their objections.
As one might expect, the objections express a mix of concern about the loss of part of our heritage, appearance, style and number of the proposed new buildings and whether the current boating facilities would be retained. One respondent complained about a local press feature which reported a BW representative as saying 'demolition was expected to start on Nov 30th.'
A few of us made the point that the planning process should halt until BW had performed its obligations to consult with its stakeholders on what is clearly a sensitive issue. It wasn't long before Stuart Mills, BW Property Director published an informative clarification in which he apologises for not consulting with a 'wider range of stakeholders' and states that boaters facilities will be relocated (see http://tinyurl.com/5abxc). This was followed by an invitation to local boaters to attend an open meeting on Dec 10th with BW and the developers H2O. The date clashes with the local IWA Chiltern Branch Christmas celebration but at least the proper consultation process is starting.
Ed Fox, PR Officer from BW, added that it's going to be all right anyway because BW have already got 'plans' to sort out the boaters issues and preserve the odd crane and bit of the wharf. But good intentions aside, the fundamental issue is that NONE of this is written into the current planning application(s). BW don't have any planning approval to construct alternative boaters facilities, nor is there any way to legally enforce the preservation of any parts of the old yard based on the current planning application. Some commentators have observed that the suggested site for the replacement boater facilities is itself in a conservation area which, if true, may mean that the chances of getting permission granted are minimal if not zero.
What people don't seem to realise is that the outcome of the planning application dictates only what must happen; anything else can be and usually is avoided. IF the current planning applications are allowed, then neither BW or the developers are under ANY obligation to provide relocated facilities or preserve any heritage, so no amount of bolting of stable doors will change anything.
Our hope is that someone will raise these points at the meeting on December 10th.