21/02245/FULL | Redevelopment to create new film and TV studios, incorporating demolition, retention of 2no. existing sound stages, rehearsal building, backlot and ancillary offices on a permanent basis, construction of further new production facilities including sound stages, workshops, ancillary offices and other production facilities, use of Waterford House and Steading as ancillary accommodation, parking, landscaping and new vehicular access off Windsor Road. | Bray Studios Down Place Water Oakley Windsor SL4 5UG
Oakley Green & Fifield Residents Association (‘OGFRA’) has been in existence for nearly 50 years supporting the principle of protecting our local environment.
The subject application involves the previously separate Water Oakley and Bray Studios sites. OGFRA gave conditional support to the original plan for 44 dwellings at Water Oakley in 2013 (increased to 127 in 2018), subject to satisfaction with vehicle movements/traffic on the A308, access to the site from the A308, and a 100m ‘building line’ along the A308 agreed with the developer (Farmglade) to reduce the visual impact in the critical ‘green gap’ between Windsor and Maidenhead.
Farmglade subsequently acquired the Bray Studios site which had approval for 25 dwellings (including 10 in Down Place House) and brought the studios back into ‘temporary’ operation across both the Water Oakley and Bray Studios sites. A retrospective planning application was filed in December 2019 seeking permission for the retention of existing temporary buildings and erection of new temporary buildings and structures. OGFRA recognised the benefit the use of the studios brought to the local and wider economy and, subject to RBWM’s determination on whether ‘very special circumstances’ were deemed to apply to justify inappropriate development in the Green Belt, gave conditional support subject to the following comments/observations:
- appropriate land scaping/screening to be put in place, consistent with the 100m buffer agreed for the residential development.
- OGFRA noted that that the upgraded site access (including a right turn lane) required under the Water Oakley development was not part of the proposal. We also expressed scepticism that there would be minimal impact on traffic and requested that traffic flows should be carefully monitored and, if necessary, an upgraded site access put in place.
- more generally OGFRA repeated concerns over existing traffic levels on the A308, the plethora of development being contemplated along the A308 and RBWM’s tardiness in conducting a detailed study of the A308 corridor following the award of a central government grant in March 2018.
- OGFRA anticipated that further ‘temporary’ extensions might be sought and requested that any such applications should be subject to a full review of all aspects of the operation (traffic, access, location of buildings, A308 study etc).
Rather than further temporary extensions we are now presented with an application for permanent approval for expanded facilities. The proposed three production facility represents a significant expansion of activity with greater built footprint and volume than that proposed under the extant residential permissions. We are concerned at the scale of this development, although recognise the employment and economic benefits that the studios give. We again leave RBWM to determine whether the very special circumstances exist to allow what would otherwise be inappropriate development in the Green Belt, and give conditional support subject to the following comments/observations:
- the applicant considers that ‘much of the visual and landscape effects of the proposal can be satisfactorily mitigated within a reasonable period’. We are concerned that a ‘reasonable period’ is rather unclear and propose that (1) the landscape buffers should be put in place at the start of construction (note that proposed landscaping required under the existing temporary approval was not implemented) and (2) new planting should be with mature specimens along the external borders of the site to minimise the visual impact from the outset (rather than rely on planting that ‘as it matures will provide increasing visual integration’)
- we remain unconvinced with the argument that the proposed expansion in activities will have a minimal traffic impact. It highlights the need for RBWM to have completed the A308 corridor study and we are at a loss to understand why this study has not been given the priority it deserves. In relation to the emerging Borough Local Plan we have argued that any planned development of allocated sites along the A308 should be paused until the A308 study has been completed and its recommendations (and associated funding requirements) have been implemented/identified. It is hoped that the study will be completed soon and this should inform the best way to manage traffic along the A308 and whether a roundabout is the best option, particularly with 10 years’ of gravel extraction/infil about to start on land opposite the Bray Studios site
- the applicant argues that the proposed development will not result in the merging of Windsor and Maidenhead given the separation between them. This is in part true, but the risk is that this substantial development encourages further development on either side (either through a further expansion of Bray Studios or other development). It is essential that the remaining land in this crucial ‘green gap’ between Windsor and Maidenhead is not developed further and that should be a clear understanding of any approval granted
- the existing lighting close to the A308 is very obtrusive, and we are concerned about potential light pollution. However, we have been unable to find Section 6.0 (Landscape Proposal) of the Design & Access Statement on the RBWM website (all the other sections are there). For example, we note that two large car parking areas are located close to the A308 and it is important that these have low level lighting and are well screened by the proposed landscaping. More generally we assume that there will be restrictions on night time/weekend activity to limit disturbance (lighting or noise) to adjoining residential properties.
These comments are submitted on behalf of the Oakley Green & Fifield Residents Association. Contact by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Martin Hall, Chairman, Oakley Green & Fifield Residents Association, No Oaks, Oakley Green Road, Oakley Green SL4 4PZ.
7 September 2021