Developer appeals housingplan opposed by film star

Wednesday 23rd March 2022 12:00 pm

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A DEVELOPER who wants to put self-build homes beside a village museum dedicated to a war heroine is appealing the scheme after planners turned it down.

Those opposing the development of the South Herefordshire Hunt Kennels grassland site in Wormelow, include BAFTA-winning film and stage star Virginia McKenna – who played Violette Szabo in the 1958 biopic Carve Her Name With Pride.

Charles O’Connor was refused “permission in principle’ by Herefordshire Council planners to develop the site, which also borders the cricket club and Millennium Green, after his application attracted 24 objection letters.

But his appeal to the planning inspector for between two and nine homes says the site is a sustainable location and sits “within the existing settlement of Wormelow”.

The Violette Szabo Museum, founded in honour of the SOE agent, whose relatives lived in the village, overlooks the site off Tump Lane.

Born Free star Ms McKenna, now aged 90, told planners: “Although I am not a resident of Wormelow, I have visited it for many years to attend the special day held in honour of Violette Szabo.

“She was a Special Forces agent who was captured in France during the Second World War, sent to Ravensbruck and executed.”

The actress, who attended the museum’s 2017 Violette Szabo day, added that she shared the fears of museum founder and owner Rosemary Rigby MBE and neighbours, who are “understandably deeply concerned” about the effects of the “significant and ill-conceived project”.

“I understand, of course, that houses have to be built. But that a development of this scale, in such an environment, could even be considered is extremely worrying. The peace and beauty of the surroundings are gone for ever…” she said.

“Surely Wormelow should be treasured and valued for what it is.”

Ms Rigby MBE also told planners that building on the “wonderful” pasture would be a “devastating blow” that would blight the neighbourhood and wildlife.

Cricket club life member and former fire service communications officer Richard Prime, who grew up on the lane, said the views from neighbouring properties would be “blighted”, while the site entrance would be “dangerous” and 999 vehicles would struggle to access it.

Neighbour Shirley Dalley said the narrow road was being “bombarded” with housing applications, turning it into a ‘rat run’.

And Much Birch Parish Council also objected, claiming the access and exit points for the proposed site were inadequate and the development could cause flooding.

Some backed the scheme, though, Alan Darfi telling planners: “There is certainly an issue in terms of housing opportunities. I would certainly be interested in a plot if the application is approved.”

Martyn Middlecote added that he had lived locally for many years and there was a need for local homes for family members priced out of the market.

Consultants on behalf of the application said self-build houses would provide a route into home ownership for people and groups who want to play a role in developing their own homes.

They also claim there is a need for homes in the county due to an under-supply of housing.

“The development of the site would accord with the existing settlement pattern of the village and round off development in this location, this would allow it to assimilate well with the existing residential built form in terms of both land use and development density,” the planning statement read.

However, council planning officers rejected the scheme, saying it would be harmful to the village’s character and the wider landscape.


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