Oxford City Council Depot South Park Cheney Lane Oxford
8 May 2017
Erection of Visitor Centre comprising cafe/restaurant, tasting room and bar for distillery and public conveniences (Use Class A3).
The application is the third of three recent applications relating to this site (not including 16/1480/FUL – see below).
The first (16/01267/FUL) was validated on 25th May 2016 with permission granted 20th October 2016, for a change of use of the former depot to a distillery. The approval noted that the application was a ‘revised proposal omitting café and visitor centre’.
The second application (16/01480/FUL) was validated on 9th June 2016 and approved on 20th October 2016, for the erection of a (temporary) barn (now erected) – the application form makes no reference to the proposed distillery.
It seems that this most recent ambitious application is likely to attract a range of comment : with undoubted (positive and potentially negative)impacts on neighbours, regular users of the Park, and the presence of the development in terms of views from near and far. However, the provision of a small artisan commercial venture providing local employment is considered positive as is the provision of accessible facilities for regular Park users as well as the wider public.
There may be a concern about the balance of activity between working distillery and a significant range of commercial visitor attractions, which no doubt the LPA will consider, but the proposals regarding the management of access by foot and public transport are obviously carefully considered, though
subject to the comments below.
OCS recommend that the scope of opening times for all aspects of the regular and special event use of visitor-related provision should be established in principle prior to decision, with regard to potential impacts (primarily noise and light) on immediate neighbours and wider East Oxford, when emanating from this elevated location.
OCS considers that the (17/00913) proposal will significantly alter the character of this Eastern fringe area of South Park. The presence of the development facing the main Western slopes of the Park will, despite the mature trees and the apparent desire to maintain some of the generally established and (partially) mature hedging along the West boundary of the existing depot perimeter, have an impact on views from part of South Park and beyond to the West.
Whilst elevation-based impressions are provided of the ‘South East Elevation’ and ‘South West Elevation’, given the sensitivity of the wider views, OCS suggest that at least one accurate eye-level perspective projection should be provided from a viewpoint on an axis perpendicular to the existing path at some distance towards the brow of the hill to the West, for consideration prior to decision.
In the current application this Western perimeter is effectively planned to be extended to the Eastern edge of the existing hoggin path which runs from Warneford Lane to Cheney Lane; it is unclear whether this proposal is intended to be realized by purchase of the additional land or by an agreement
with the City Council to permit the developer to provide and maintain the access paths.
Given the current context of concern regarding the sale of public (in this case, nominally protected) parkland, OCS suggest that this matter be clarified prior to decision.
OCS also suggest that the sensitivity and appropriateness of the signage proposed along this new boundary, but also at the entrances on Cheney Lane and Warneford Lane, will be vital, to maintain the parkland ambience at the boundary with a commercial visitor attraction. Likewise there is need for approval for any lighting proposals for the main pedestrian access route, which would need to minimise light pollution for neighbours and also from viewpoints within and beyond South Park to the West.
The documents include a comprehensive transport report which encompasses the ‘Transport Statement’ for the project, stating :
“3.2.1 Oxford has the walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure that could be expected of a sustainable city. The application benefits from a range of walking and cycling routes as well as a number of public transport services that would enable future employees and visitors of the proposed development to access the site without reliance on travel by private car.”
Yet the scheme includes 10 parking spaces, 8 of which are bookable for the use of “distillery tour visitors” (with two available for ‘blue badge’ parking) and two for distillery use.
OCS suggest that policy and best practice indicate that it is inappropriate to provide visitor or staff parking (other than limited ‘blue badge’ bays) on this well-connected site.
The proposed regular ‘shuttle bus’ service to the site appears to replicate both excellent primary and secondary public transport service routes and is planned to arrive at the vehicle entrance to the site, adding further pressure to the parking congestion, vehicle and pedestrian movements on Cheney Lane.
OCS suggest that this provision and the parking area to support it should not be approved.
The application is well supported with technical and explanatory material, with some exceptions and omissions noted here. In November of 2016, samples of materials to be used in the development were submitted for approval to the City Council (16/1480/FUL).