CROWDEN HILL PROJECT
ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESMENT
Julian Projects Ltd (The Applicant)
Julian Projects approached Landscape Architects and consultants in the
years preceding this application, with a view of obtaining an independent
consideration of the impact of our plans on the local environment, both
aesthetically and with respect to biodiversity, positive and negative.
During the meetings on site, the professionals concerned immediately went
into ideas of landscaping 50 acres, almost as if it were a country park,
something which had no correlation to the brief they were given. Fees that
they had in mind far exceeded those for the meticulous and extensive work
put in for the construction of the project development. Budgets spirally
wildly into many tens of thousands of pounds, and we rapidly realised that
such work would be completely against the ethos of what we are trying to
achieve. We decided that we should draw up an assessment ourselves,
which would be balanced by the independence of the FWAG report
(appendix attached to application). Having a consultant write the EIA,
would raise questions within the report about how we might achieve certain
objectives, which only we could answer. Writing it ourselves provides us the
opportunity to respond personally, rather than in the 3rd person.
The development is to place a farmhouse, Walled Kitchen garden,
Equipment Barn, Hay Barn, Stable Barn, and potentially a second Stable
Barn, at the top of Crowden Hill, which lies between Portfield Road (linking
Wilton to Bishopstone) and the Race Course at Netherhampton, immediately
south of Hare Warren Woods, and Old Shaftesbury Drove. In conjunction
with these buildings, the applicants have planted a species rich chalk
downland wildflower meadow, across most of the 50-acre field, to
encourage a greater variety of flora and fauna. The remaining land being
used for fodder crops (for consumption by the animals on the farm),
shelterbelt woodland highly suited to turtle doves, and the area of
construction, which itself is being made attractive to wildlife. This EIA seeks
to identify the impact on both the aesthetic impact, and that to the natural
environment, whether that impact be negative, or positive.
Setting the scene.
Our objectives and goals for the project in the long term, will need to flex
with the changing needs of the local natural environment and it’s
inhabitants, with the changing pressures on individual species. What we
plan for the near future seeks to give the best possible chance for the
indigenous flora and fauna to re-colonise and flourish. In the years to come,
the species we concentrate on and what we need to do may change many
times. Our ambitions is to anticipate and keep pace with those changes.
We shall approach the Aesthetic first, and then detail the Natural impact.
On occasion, the two may blur together but the project is a synergistic
blend of physical constructions, and the stimulation of the natural
environment, so separating the impact on those occasions would be to not
understand the environment at all.
The impact should not be seen purely within the area set by construction,
but the whole 50 acres of the land. This is because the land use has also
been changed from it’s arable production, to a chalk wildflower downland.
From immediate surroundings.
The curtilage of construction is entirely in the North East corner of the
field. This corner sits on a plateau at 140m above sea level. The
surrounding undulations shield the area of construction from all public
roadways in the immediate vicinity. The thicket of trees between Old
Shaftesbury Drove, and the field itself, although only 5 to 10 metres thick,
completely obscures the view to the south from the Byway, except at the
gated entrance, midway along the northern field boundary. The
construction ends well to the east of that gateway, and therefore the
wonderful views to the south from the gate are unaffected by the buildings.
The bunding around the Walled Kitchen Garden, together with the added
planting of herb shrubs of Lavender, Rosemary, and Savoury, at the top of
the bunding, with Savoury as a ground covering, will soften the boundary,
between the natural and the hard build.
To the immediate East is another field, some 350m wide, which then drops
down through a 2m high hedgerow, to the road between the Netherhampton
race Course, and Coombe Bissett. The height of this Hedgerow would
completely obscure the construction as proposed, perhaps with the
exception of the very top of the proposed 15KW wind Turbine, at the few
gate entrances which create gaps within the hedgerow, towards the top end
of the road.
To the South of the field, are agricultural arable fields, all the way down to
the Valley floor, some 2km away. Again, the undulations along the valley
sides, completely shield the area of construction from the properties in the
To the West, lies Windwhistle Farm. There are two properties visible from
Crowden Hill. One is an agricultural ‘cover-all’ Barn, of modern
construction, which is accessed via a concrete road from Portfield Road.
Only the top of the Barn is visible from Ground Level. It is estimated that
only the upper levels of our dwelling would be visible from that location.
The second property is the Farm house that serves Windwhistle Farm. It also
lies at the top of the hill. As a result of it’s own position in the landscape,
Windwhistle Farm is the only residential property that overlooks the entire
field, and thus all of the constructed elements of the Crowden Hill Project.
To counteract this, Lesley and I collected oak saplings from the field
boundary, and horse chestnuts, planted them up, and have ‘brought them
on’ in pots, ready to plant out across the line of sight, on the first ridge,
approximately 100m in from the western boundary of the field.
Faster growing Conifers will be grown to serve this purpose until the
hardwoods are tall enough, and strong enough, at which time the conifers
will be felled. These trees will break up the outline of the barns and the
There are no Public Footpaths on this side of the Valley that would overlook
the construction or the Micro generation Wind Turbine.
From Further Afield.
In the same way as the site looks over the north facing fields on the other
side of the Valley, so it is logical, that the construction is visible from all of
those locations. There were two questions to answer 1) whether the Public
has access to those points, and, 2) once there, how visible will it be. To
qualify the latter, we thought long the lines of ‘will it distract from the
appreciation of the view that exists today’.
In order to assess the most likely positions from where the public might see
the site, Lesley and I camped out on the land overnight, ready to note the
whereabouts of any lights that came on. Two sets of lights were seen,
though only on the one occasion (we have since camped out there about 10
times cataloguing the Flora and Fauna in the meadow) and we also noted
the points at which car headlights became visible. In this case, the only
points at which headlights became visible were way off to the two sides, at
the very crown of the hill on the other side of the valley some 4km from
In daylight, we reviewed whereabouts we had seen the lights from the night
before. We realised that the perspective of the view across the valley, was
deceiving. The scale of trees, and landscape features were such that,
without a ‘known’ object to ‘size’ them against, the eye made them appear
much closer. A Tractor in a field on the North facing side of the valley, was
a tiny spec in the distance, and only seen by chance, when scanning the
landscape through binoculars.
Given that the field was a mass of Ox-Eye Daisies at the time, a white field
in amongst green and yellow ones, it would be easy to identify our field
from across the valley. We drove across, noting the distance, and taking
photographs in the general direction of our holding, at numerous locations,
including from gateways, where we felt walkers might stop to see the view.
Except for a brief moment at the brow of the hill, where we had seen the
lights from the night before, we were not able to see the North East corner
of the field, though the south West section, in Wildflower, did get seen at
two points above Coombe Bissett, the field hedgerows which run along the
Eastern boundary, obscured all view of the North East, and South East areas
of the field.
At the two points where the field was visible, the height of Hare Warren, as
a Back-drop, together with the mixed finish of timber, brick, render and
slate, will combine with the maturing vines on the Pergola, and across the
tensioned zinc netting along the balcony(s) to break up the outline of the
dwelling. A few specimen trees, dotted across the field, to the south, and
south west, will further blend the construction into Hare Warren. Bunding
the Hay Barn on it’s southern face, to just short of the top of the rendered
section, in the same way as the Walled Kitchen Garden, will further reduce
the profile of the construction, as it will then leave only vertical timber and
slated roof visible, making it virtually impossible to see, unless specifically
looking for it.
Having the remaining render coloured in ‘earthy’ tones, will again soften
the outline of anything that remains.
We do see one drawback in assessing the impact. Whether it is a positive
impact or a negative one, is for the reader to perceive. Given that the vista
is almost entirely arable on the south facing side of the valley, the sight of
the ‘wildflower meadow’ amongst a sea of oil seed rape and wheat, is itself
a distraction, together with Belted cattle, and the sheep, the eye could
easily be drawn to that specific field. Distance being such that the
construction of the dwelling and the barns may only come into focus once
ones eye has already been drawn to the cattle, and sheep (as dots on the
landscape) within that vista of arable crops.
Right there in the field
Noting that we will establish a permissive Bridleway, open to non-motorised
transport (except electric disability transport), there will be people who use
old Shaftesbury Drove, who will be curious, and will step into the field, and
make use of the Bridleway. Firstly, let us be clear that without the
bridleway, they would not have access to the field, and thus they would not
have clear sight of the construction. However the bridleway
a) opens up views across the valley they would not normally enjoy,
b) It provides a free view of the wildflower meadow
c) Users of the Bridleway will be able to appreciate results which can
only be achieved using livestock that has a propensity for grazing
rough grasses and sometimes tough herbage.
d) It gives opportunity to witness heavy horses at work
Of course, there is no way we can hide the fact that the development puts a
farmhouse and several barns in one corner of the field, but again, the
vegetation we plant around the dwelling, up the pergola, and along the
balcony, will wrap the building in natural clothing.
The AONB has rated this part of the area as ‘in decline’. The biodiversity of
the area is dictated by what plants are available
The plants dictate the insects which utilise them for food and for breeding
The insect numbers and variety dictates which insectivores come to the
location, and so on, up the food chain.
Still today, almost the entire valley is sown to arable crops and grass leys,
with the remaining acreage as permanent pasture, or developed for housing.
Where chemical herbicides and insecticides have been used, the flora and
fauna have been repressed to relatively small numbers, of a few species.
This too, is now under threat, as set-aside and margin requirements are
removed, or adjusted to permit further plantation of oil seed rape and other
bio fuel crops, with previously permanent pasture also under threat of the
plough as a result.
Where chemical use has been kept to a minimum, the arable monoculture
still restricts the variety of insect life that can make use of it. With higher
and higher percentages of fields being turned to bio fuel production, the
‘monoculture’ will extend in vast tracts across the whole of the UK, not just
along the valley here.
Having Barns at this location, immediately adjacent to a Wildflower
meadow, which itself is under the management of the people in the
dwelling, will encourage swallows and barn owls to nest here. Field Mice, a
staple food for Owls and other predatory birds have already been discovered
(a nest was found under a large log). Each of the barns has been designed
with an entrance in the apex, for birds in flight, and nest boxes will be
provided at suitable locations inside, and outside, so that the birds and bats
do not interfere with the daily operations, and vice versa. FOUR different
UK Biodiversity Action Plan species have been found and catalogued in the
wildflower meadow (on more than one occasion)… namely Brown Hare, Grey
Partridge, Song Thrush, and Marsh Fritillary Butterfly
A Dung heap on the farm (in the far West of the field immediately below the
fodder crops will encourage insects, providing an ongoing food source for
successful breeding of nearby wildlife.
Managing the wildflower meadow, requires careful planning, rotating the
areas that are grazed, those that are cut for hay prior to seed drop, and
those left for hay after seed drop, to ensure the continuation of the
wildflowers long into the future. The selection of belted Galloway cattle,
Wiltshire horn Sheep, and Suffolk Punch Horses has been specifically with
this in mind. They THRIVE on this rough herbage, even preferring it.
Furthermore, once established in numbers, the cattle and sheep can be
used for conservation grazing elsewhere, which not only helps to benefit
other areas of the AONB, but brings the animals into contact with more
people… and makes the management of the wildflower meadow at Crowden
Hill, easier too.
With all too-frequent fly-tipping along the Old Shaftesbury Drove, the
occupation of Crowden Hill will reduce the opportunities for the
perpetrators to do this undetected.
Having a tractor in the immediate vicinity, will help to reduce the damage
caused by the off-road vehicles that use old Shaftesbury Drove, currently
leaving deep potholes through their inconsideration. Julian has mentioned
in the Design and Access Statement, that he is prepared to use a grader and
roller once a month, to keep the Old Shaftesbury Drove reasonably level
along this 1km section, thereby making it more attractive to walkers and
The dwelling can be seen, from a limited number of publicly accessible
locations, on the other side of the valley, though the public are likely to be
in a car travelling at speed, rather than on foot, admiring the view 4km
away across the valley (whilst cars whiz by them). However we believe this
is more than made up for, by the huge benefit to wildlife immediately
around the site, and the free access afforded to the members of the public
who want to enjoy the sight of the wildflower meadow at close quarters.
The buildings have been designed to not stand out from it’s surroundings,
but to sit harmoniously within it. The bunding of the Walled Kitchen
garden, and further bunding to the south of the hay barn together with the
planting of local tree species (25-30 are already being grown on) will break
up the outline of the buildings considerably, minimising any aesthetic
impact for those few that would otherwise have view of them.
The bunding itself also provides a ‘Beetle bank’ type habitat for even more
species of insect and small mammals.
The height of the surrounding trees in the hedgerow and Hare Warren, is
greater than the height of either the dwelling, or the Wind Turbine which
reduces their profile considerably, when viewed from a distance
The positioning of the Wind turbine conceals the mast component almost
entirely, leaving only the blades above the tree line in the hedgerow. The
mast itself can be painted to camouflage it further.
The dwelling, barns, and activities, combined, make a significantly POSITIVE
impact on the present environment, which will benefit further as time goes
on, the diversity continues to increase, and plantings mature.
Given that the impact of refusal, would likely be for this field to be sold
back into modern agriculture, it would be a detriment to the environment
to let circumstances cause the return of this field to it’s previous