Oil giant BP’s appeal to build a petrol station on the Udimore Road on the edge of Rye was reviewed by the Planning Inspectorate on September 25. BP is appealing against Rother District Council’s decision to turn down its application.
The decision of the appeal could take months and so Rye News examined the appeal application.
BP’s appeal, produced by planning consultants Aitchison Raffety, runs into more than 100 pages. The focus of the report doesn’t just dwell on Rother’s decision, but seems to be a thinly veiled attack on the draft Neighbourhood Plan and states: “We have found the draft Rye Neighbourhood Plan to be unsound and contrary to national planning policy and advice.”
The root of the clash is the location of the petrol station and proposed retail outlet. While the Neighbourhood Plan lists the need for another petrol station and more retail space in Rye, it feels that the Udimore Road location is not the right one. The Neighbourhood Plan team felt that it should be located somewhere along the busy A259 and offered up two possible locations: the former Freda Graham School on New Road; and, Winchelsea Road East, both of which had been earmarked for housing. BP have countered that both locations are unsuitable because they are on the flood plain and therefore it would not be appropriate for the storage of petrol.
BP’s case states that there are “no major obstacles to the development in technical or practical terms and no objection in respect of highways or parking; remediation; surface water drainage, site security; and archaeology…and there were no objections to the proposal from the Environment Agency; County Council Highway Authority; Southern Water; Sussex Police; or from the County Council Archaeology department.”
BP points out in its submission that Rye is heavily constrained by environmental issues, such as flood risk zones, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Special Protection Areas (SPA), and Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI). The company goes on to state that: “The site at Udimore Road lies outside of the AONB and importantly represents a safe location for the storage of fuel given it sits outside of an area of flood risk.”
The appeal concludes that the proposed development “will not conflict with national and local planning policy and meets an important need identified in Rye. The proposals can be achieved with no harm to the wider landscape and there are no other suitable locations for the proposed use”.
BP is adamant that the Neighbourhood Planners “are continuing, and incorrectly asserting, that there are more suitable sites for a second petrol filling station”.
In response, Colonel Anthony Kimber, Vice-Chair of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group said: “In the context of the Rye Neighbourhood Plan, the BP proposal does not fit with the community’s development allocation of sites for multiple reasons. Rother, in its justification for refusing the proposal draws on aspects of the Rye Neighbourhood Plan considerations, including: beyond the development boundary; adjacent to the AONB; up a B road likely to cause an unsustainable ‘destination outlet’; on visible high ground beyond the Aroncorps site agreed for housing development (Valley Park) because unlike the latter, BP’s prominent greenfield site cannot be seen as having only limited impact on the land and townscape.
“From the start, BP has dismissed the Rye Neighbourhood Plan (now in V11) which reflects a wide range of comments including from Statutory Bodies. We have addressed BP’s points in our handling of the last formal public consultation. BP’s planners have made light of development boundaries and indeed the whole concept of communities making Neighbourhood Plans. As in other places they have been criticised for not assessing all the available sites. In Rye they only looked selectively at those identified in the Neighbourhood Plan.”
Colonel Kimber goes on to clarify that: “BP has suggested that sites with higher flood risk were unsuitable for fuel storage despite the fact they have developed similar high-flood-risk sites elsewhere and that there are other fuel and chemical storage sites in and around Rye.”
“In short,” Colonel Kimber concludes, “after the withdrawal of the supermarkets, the Rye Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group maintains the view that this is the right proposal but in the wrong place.”
It’s worth bearing in mind that the neighbouring Valley Park development on Udimore Road went to appeal and the developers won. BP hasn’t held back in reminding the Planning Inspectorate of that fact.
Image Credits: Planning Application document.