Wedding venue marquee plan for Green Belt site angers campaigners

February 04 2020

Graham New wants to put up a wedding marquee next to one of his barns. Image: Google Earth

Graham New wants to put up a wedding marquee next to one of his barns. Image: Google Earth

PLANS to install a white PVC marquee in the tranquil Hanham Green Belt have provoked fury from campaigners.
Graham New wants to turn Bickley Farm, in Abbots Road, into a wedding venue by putting up a 240sq m marquee for six months of the year.
But Friends of Hanham Abbots Conservation Area say it would be an eyesore and lead to late-night noise from party revellers.
Members argue the proposals will “fundamentally alter” the unique rural nature of Hanham Abbots Conservation Area and say it should be rejected.
The marquee had previously been put up without permission but was removed last year following an outcry from locals, including Hanham Abbots Parish Council.
Members of the Friends had hoped a planning application submitted last year would be rejected after an officer from South Gloucestershire Council described the marquee as “jarring” with its historical setting.
However, the application was withdrawn in September in wake of the opposition.
Now, following talks between the applicant and South Gloucestershire Council, revised plans were submitted in December.
Mr New's agent, Thornbury-based Stuart Rackham, says the new scheme “addresses concerns” over the previous application, saying the proposal, which includes 38 parking spaces, is now acceptable and should be granted planning permission.
The new scheme features hedging and fencing in a bid to reduce noise as well as the marquee's visual impact.
Mr New also now proposes to take the marquee down during the winter months and concentrate on events from April to September.
But the Friends say the revised plans contain little to make the scheme acceptable. Posting their concerns on Facebook, the group said: “The marquee is still large, highly visible (white) and made of light weight material, which opens along one side, so there can be no suitable noise control. It is still the same size so it will significantly impact upon the Conservation Area.
“Hedging and fencing have been proposed to reduce the marquee’s impact and noise, but these in themselves will jar with the open fields bounded by drystone walls, which define the Conservation Area to the south east of Bickley Farm.”
They go on to say: “Instead of the original eight events presented to the parish council, the owner proposes 26 events during the summer, equivalent to one per weekend! This means that local residents will be subjected to loud music and the noise of revellers leaving well into the early hours, every weekend between April and September. The peace and tranquillity which drew them to the Conservation Area will be shattered. There is no mention of a cut off time whereas before midnight was proposed. The transport issues remain, as does the environmental impact upon bats, birds and deer, due to light pollution and general increase in human activity at night.”
The latest plans have also failed to impress the council's conservation officer Rob Nicholson who says the marquee would still be “visually intrusive” from Abbots Road.
“I see little material difference between the proposed scheme and the previous one,” his report said.
“The views of the marquee and the resultant harm it has caused to the farmstead can also be considered to fail to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Hanham Abbot Conservation Area as it detracts from its rural, undeveloped character.”
But agent Stuart Rackham believes the new plans meet planning guidelines.
“This revised proposal has been submitted with a detailed Landscape Plan to ensure that the visual impact of the proposed marquee is minimised. This impact will also be reduced by virtue of it only being in place for half the year. This screening will also help to reduce the visual impact of the metal barn at other times of the year.  
“There will be no harm to the openness of the Green Belt, nor to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.”
The closing date for objections is January 31. South Gloucestershire Council is expected to make a decision by February 18.