The owners of a £42m country house should be forced to provide a footpath through the grounds as a payback for allowing a massive development, campaigners say.
The Ramblers’ Association and the Open Spaces Society are urging planners to insist on the path as part of consent for the building and conversion of new dwellings on the exclusive estate at Park Place, Remenham, in Berkshire. Wokingham Borough Council is meeting today to consider the application.
The estate, near Henley-on-Thames, runs for more than a mile in prime countryside. Park Place was described by the Sunday Times as ‘Britain’s most expensive country house’.
The new dwellings would constitute a departure from the local development plan and would therefore need the Government’s approval.
Spink Property has applied for outline planning permission for the historic house and estate.
Outdoor groups want a footpath established through the estate, to link Remenham and Wargrave. Wokingham’s head of development management, Jon Bishop, dismissed the RA and OSS proposal for a new footpath. In his report for the planning committee, he said: “This is not possible as the applicant is not willing to enter into a section 106 agreement [ie planning gain] to secure this footpath link as the estate will be in private ownership.”
However, Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the OSS said: “We see no reason why Wokingham cannot make it a condition of the planning permission that a footpath is created.
“This proposal was made some years ago by members of the RA and has been rejected out of hand in the past. We hoped it would receive serious consideration this time.
“This 2½-mile footpath would be a valuable addition to the network, with magnificent, sweeping views of the Thames valley and the fascinating mansion and grounds of Park Place. People walking between Remenham and Wargrave must risk their lives on the lethal A4130 road between Henley and Hurley and the adjoining lanes. This new footpath would provide a safe, off-road alternative.
“The proposed development affects an important mansion, set in a historic landscape registered as a grade II* park and garden. This is all land with a strong public interest but there is no public access here. It is entirely appropriate to dedicate a public footpath across the site, to enable the public to have sight of this wonderful place. And it would not intrude on anyone’s privacy.”
Park Place dates from 1719 when Lord Archibald Hamilton bought the estate and had a new mansion built. The grounds extend to 230ha (570 acres). For more than 40 years, it was a boarding school run by Middlesex County Council for children with ‘health or emotional problems’.
Ms Ashbrook concluded: “We hope that the councillors at Wednesday’s meeting will press for our proposal to have further consideration. We shall be writing to the Government Office for the South East to make our case.”