New plans by James Roberts of Arc Architects revealed for Chris Bulstrode-owned woodland on Jesmond Avenue
The “sword of Damocles” will be lifted from Highcliffe if residents back a new plan to build nine houses on controversial woodland, its architect has claimed.
The land on Jesmond Avenue has been at the centre of a bitter planning row, with owner and developer Chris Bulstrode currently appealing a refusal to allow him to erect 16 homes on it.
But now James Roberts, director of Arc Architecture, has come to an agreement with Mr Bulstrode that if his proposal gets a “positive pre-application response” from BCP Council and residents, his nine-house plan will be adopted instead, and the appeal withdrawn.
Mr Roberts said: “I got involved with this because, like most Highcliffe residents, I hated the plan for 16 houses there. I approached Chris with my plans, and he likes them.
“He has agreed to sell me 22.22% of the land on which to build the nine homes. The rest of the site will be given over to what residents of Highcliffe want.
“At present we have plans for a playpark, picnic site and cycle track but if residents would rather see something else, we will listen.
“The rest of the woodland will be opened up to the public and will never be built on.
“The truth is that this site will be built on one day. But with my plan the sword of Damocles will be lifted from Highcliffe for good.”
“If the appeal is withdrawn, residents will have a say on exactly what they want on that land.”
Mr Roberts has known Mr Bulstrode for more than 30 years and says the developer has “seen sense” and “realised that my plan for the woodland is much better for Highcliffe”.
He said: “I live in Highcliffe and I want what is best for the village.
“I want residents to be able to use the woodland which presently has no public access. I also want them to have a say in what goes on the land there.
“To that end we have set up a website where they can give feedback on our scheme and their own ideas. I very much want residents to get involved with this.”
Mr Roberts was speaking at a public consultation he hosted at Highcliffe Sports and Social Club last week, and at which artist impressions of what his plans were displayed.
He said he had invited local councillors to attend and was “very disappointed” that they had not, adding: “I have repeatedly asked them what they will do if Chris’s appeal is successful.
“They have refused to answer. The truth is that the woodland was sold to Chris on the basis it was for development. Something will get built there.”
As part of the plan, Mr Roberts has agreed to build 16 car parking spaces for the nearby medical centre and provide land for St Mark’s cemetery to expand.
Reaction to his proposal at the consultation was largely positive.
Highcliffe resident Dave Skinner said: “I think it is a very good scheme and he should get on and build it. We need housing, and Highcliffe has lost a lot of houses to flats.
“It would be nice to see some houses there. I much prefer this to Mr Bulstrode’s plans.”
Jenny Shore agreed: “I think the plan for the woods looks lovely and, to be honest, we need more of this in Highcliffe.”
But other residents were concerned about parking for those using the open spaces, and there were fears more houses could be built in future.
Mr Bulstrode confirmed to the A&T that he had agreed to sell the land to Mr Roberts if his pre-application is “well received” by the council and withdraw his appeal.
He said: “I like his plan, it looks good. Although I would still own nearly 80% of the land that would not be built on.”
Cllr Andy Martin, who has campaigned against Mr Bulstrode’s plans, said he found it “astonishing” that a local Highcliffe resident “would seek to build houses on what is a wildlife and ecological green corridor for the village”.
He said: “This is a distraction. What the parish councillors are focusing on is this land never being built on. It does not matter if it is 16, nine or one house, it will destroy the woodland.
“Mr Roberts is merely chancing his arm. He should know, living here, what the residents think – and that is ‘no houses on this site’.”
To see the new plan visit: https://jesmondavenue.clplanning.co.uk