There is yet another application to convert Valentine Farm in the Skirmett valley into something inappropriate. We have seen proposals for a stud farm, the horrible hippopolis of my earlier blog, rejected in 2012. Now we have an application for a five-bedroomed, two-storey house. It’s the wrong place for such development; this is an unspoilt valley criss-crossed by paths, in the heart of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Bucks.
The applicant, fund manager Neil Woodford, wants to build a pretentious ‘arts-and-craft’ type house, out of keeping with the Chiltern vernacular. His ‘design and access statement’ euphemistically and bizarrely calls it ‘a well-mannered dwelling’. It would be highly visible from the nearby paths. The access on Shogmoor Lane is narrow and difficult, endangering not only motorists but walkers, riders and cyclists who use it for quiet recreation.
Unfortunately Wycombe District Council does not have a consistent record in the AONB: witness this recently-approved eyesore at nearby Hatchet Wood near Frieth.
I have come across Mr Woodford before. In 2006 I wrote to him to object to the ugly new fencing he had erected alongside footpaths through the woods near Fingest, the sort of fencing that blocks out the light and makes you feel like you are walking through a prison. Fortunately it is now deteriorating.
Mr Woodford complained to my boss, the chairman of the Open Spaces Society, accusing me of adopting a tone which was ‘confrontational and pompous and ill informed.’ He went on to say: ‘When Andrew Hawes [his fencing contractor] met her in the woods where he was working, she refused to answer him on two occasions when he tried to speak to her in a friendly manner. She ignored him and proceeded to step through the fencing he was erecting and with her dog off the lead, trespassed on our land by walking up into the woodland away from the footpath.’
When I told him he had got the wrong person and that (a) I had never met Andrew Hawes and (b) I did not own a dog, he did not even apologise.