We are very lucky here that we are close to North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and have easy access to the Ridgeway.
To many of us the Ridgeway is a lot more than a walking trail – it is a historic monument, an archaeological treasure and over the pandemic has been a place where we could get out and exercise enjoying the unspoilt beauty of the countryside.
There is a distinct possibility that White Horse Hill, over which the Ridgeway passes and home of the iconic Uffington White Horse and more besides, could be despoiled with all year-round camping, where the proposed ‘camping’ could include static caravans and other permanent pitches located in fields visible from miles around, including from the upper slopes of White Horse Hill and the nearby Dragon Hill.
The area of concern is Britchcombe Farm, situated on the lower northern slopes of White Horse Hill in Uffington parish, overlooking the Vale of White Horse.
For many years this farm was family-owned, with low key, low impact, camping, mostly involving tents on grass surfaces.
Recently the farm was purchased by Lovat Park, a company that provides static caravans alongside luxury lodges for sale or holiday lets on holiday parks in several counties.
Earlier this year, a planning application was submitted for 10 glamping pods and a car park in open countryside approximately 1km west of West Hanney.
These pods would be permanently situated in the fields (although not proposed to be used in winter).
Hazel Osborne, Landscape Officer at the Vale commented;
“The proposed development would conflict with Core Policy 44 of the Local Plan which seeks to protect tranquillity and to ensure that any development is integrated into the landscape character and preserves and promotes local distinctiveness: neither would it conserve the rural nature of the landscape as recommended in the local landscape character area guidelines.”
“The NPPF paragraph 174 requires that planning decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural environment and recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.”
This application has been refused on the grounds that “there is little alternative for access to the site, or for occupants to access local services and facilities, other than by car travel, thereby not supporting sustainable travel modes. The proposal ... would introduce intrusion into an open rural landscape in the form of structures, vehicles, light, noise and motion".
Surely the same arguments apply to Britchcombe Farm.