Thousands of documents, diagrams, policies, previous decisions and opposing views on the acceptability, or not, of the Red Court appeal site have been trawled over by Redwood and Waverley’s barristers, expert witnesses and Haslemere residents before Government Inspector Helen Hochenhull.
Day 3 began with Redwood’s Barrister Heather Sargeant continuing examination of residents’ landscape expert Mrs Christine Marsh.
Mrs Marsh maintained there were cultural heritage features on the land proposed for 50 homes as it was once part of Red Court Estate, including mature trees, and ancient woodland which contributed to its landscape value. She later accepted under cross-examination that there was no ancient woodland there.
Mrs Sargeant argued there was no evidence that historically the site was ever part of the Red Court estate. Saying Mrs ~Marsh was relying on the Appellants Heritage Witnesses evidence provided by Montague Evans claiming no historic relationship.
Said Mrs Marsh:
My investigations show that it was part of Red Court. There is plenty of evidence that it was part of the historic parkland. In the 1800’s it formed the backdrop to the house. It was part of the historic landscape.
She said the land contributed to the setting of Red Court. The trees on the site’s southern boundary – firs and large pines, were connected with Red Court. However, she admitted the quality of the woodland was degraded and had heard there was invasive Japanese Knotweed there but had not witnessed it, as she had not been onto the site. Regardless, the site was still a visual amenity, rather than a timber resource. The acid soil was not affected by the Japanese Knotweed and, under different management, could be a very diverse resource. She argued it was up to the Inspector to decide whether the appeal site was a valued landscape or not.
Even if it was burned to the ground, it would still have its value- more to do with the soil resource than the trees. You cannot dismiss the value of this woodland. As for its future condition – that is pure speculation.
Despite evidence presented by Mrs Sargeant to the contrary, Mrs Marsh stuck to her guns saying:
I maintain there is “some” historical association with Red Court House and our site.”
The Waverley Web believes she was referring to the developer’s site?
Referring to old Sale particulars of the house, Mrs Marsh said.
“A newspaper article of June 1894 advertised the sale of the land in the area including Lot 2 parkland known as ‘Scotland’ with the enticement that it had been especially planted many years ago with the intention of erecting on the property a gentleman’s residence. The land owner recognised that the land’s location on the ridge line with full views over the South Downs was an attractive location for a mansion.”
To which Mrs Sargeant responded: “Are you relying upon that solely for your argument? You accept that you are not a heritage expert, are you?
Mrs Sargeant went on to ask if she believed the individual features on the site were rare or unusual, or whether the paddock field was in any way remarkable or publicly accessible?
This site has a strong sense of place where it is seen from Scotland Lane. said Mrs Marsh – it doesn’t have to be rare or unusual it is not just about grass, it is surrounded by natural large trees and a strong sense of place.
Your case appears to be that because the site can be “glimpsed” through the hedgerow boundary of Scotland Lane that it is important to recreational activity?
Yes, she said, If people walked between Haslemere and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty they would experience the site from public rights of way. People will use Scotland Lane as a recreational route between Haslemere and the AONB.
But, said Mrs Sargeant – there is no public footpath or right of way through the site
No, said Mrs Marsh – but there are some nearby.
“But there are endless routes across the country that you can access and walk on past AONB and AGLV aren’t there Mrs Marsh? That cannot surely mean that they have high recreational value?
But Mrs Marsh was not to be deterred saying … the site is “working on the visual senses.”
Wildness and Tranquility.
“Is it seriously part of your case Mrs Marsh that there is some sort of wildness attached to the site?”
She admitted cars could be heard going up and down Scotland Lane but there was a surprisingly rural character.
It is a greenfield site, takes runoff, provides oxygen provides an important function. ~It is a “valued landscape – there should be no homes built on this site.. and I am astounded that the effect of new homes viewed from the AONB wasn’t considered by Waverley planning officers as a material objection to the planning application.”
Redwood’s landscape architect. Christopher McDermott, responsible for the landscape design of the proposed new development followed.
The inquiry continues…